Marching Band in the era of Oregon’s Kamikaze Kids

Talk to John Billingsley for a bit and you’ll quickly learn that the 1976 UO graduate has a lot of strong opinions, and an even stronger passion for his Ducks and the OMB.

“I spent a great 4 years at UO and even though I wasn’t a music major I did play the trombone some. Some guys I knew, knew I was trying to pick up an extra credit, and someone told me they were putting together the marching band again,” Billingsley said.

In 1961, the United States entered the Vietnam War. Students at the UO, like many universities across the country, held strong ideas about the military and the war. Many felt the marching band was too militaristic, and pressured the administration to disband the group.

In 1972, as the was U.S. involvement wound down, there was less ire on campus, and some students decided it was time to bring marching band back to the UO.

“They mustered less than 100 people. It was pretty pathetic, but we did have new uniforms. So, that was the start of a four year—well—party,” Billingsley said. “I was willing to play, but I hated the term ‘pep band’, and I was a pretty outspoken person, so, I suggested that they change the name to something catchier, so we became the Dick Harter Green Garter Band, it had a nice ring to it, and we all wore green garters on our sleeves.”

This was the era of Oregon’s Kamikaze Kids the notorious 1972-73 men’s basketball team coached by Dick Harter.

“It was just a unique period of time. It’s kind of like what we went through with football recently, though the Harter era was in a way more compressed time period,” Billingsley said. “And in the stands, we had this rag-tag group of kids who just wanted to put a band together. It was literally mayhem half the time. We had no idea what we were doing, but we had a marvelous time doing it.”

The 1975 University of Oregon Duck Pep Band, directed by John Schuberg, performing House in the Country with vocal intro.