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Brussels or Bust

September 15, 2009
marching band and TV host

This is a story of Sputnik, Tivoli Gardens, Richard Nixon, and the famous 1950s TV game show, Truth or Consequences. It begins in January 1958, when the State Department invited the Cal Band to perform at the World’s Fair in Brussels, but offered no funding for the estimated $100,000 trip. A Night and Day (literally) “playathon” in San Francisco was a fundraising flop, as were a later concert at the Greek Theatre and a four-hour performance, in full uniforms, in the sun at the Hillsborough estate of Countess Remillard-Dandini—for four people. Fortunately, at the last minute, TV personality and former Cal yell leader Ralph Edwards ’35 came to the rescue. Unbeknnownst to the Band, Edwards offered free advertising on Truth or Consequences to Continental Trailways in exchange for transporting the Band to New York, and then he sprang the gift on them when three buses pull up in front of Wheeler Hall. Once in Brussels, the Band stole the show from the popular nearby Soviet Sputnik exhibit (and rescued the lackluster U.S. pavilion). The Soviets even filmed the performance for television. Then it was off to five free days in Europe, performances in Hamburg and at Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, and a triumphant return home to a Washington reception in the Band’s honor—thrown by Vice President Nixon.

For more pictures of the Brussels trip and other Band adventures, visit the Cal Band Alumni Association website

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