Every Rose Has Its Horn
Larry Bechler performed in three Rose Bowls with ‘The Best Damn Band in the Land’
Published in 2018 Wisconsin Super Lawyers Magazine on November 15, 2018
My father was a trumpeter in big bands from the mid-’30s through the mid-’40s, so we had a nice silver trumpet in the house. I picked it up and started playing in about the fourth grade. I took public lessons at Wells Street Junior High School, then participated in a summer youth band called the Milwaukee Elks Cadets Band. We performed at competitions in South Milwaukee and the Bratwurst Festival in Sheboygan, and such things. Our theme song was “(Won’t You Come Home) Bill Bailey.”
I played in our band at Shorewood High School and, after graduating, I went out for the marching band at Ohio State, in 1968. I was very nervous, because most of the kids were from Ohio and already knew the songs and style of marching. I barely became an alternate—by the skin of my teeth. You had to challenge players in the regular band, and I successfully challenged in for the last regular season game and stayed in for the Rose Bowl. I was pronounced by the director as the most improved bandsman. Now nobody remembers it, but I do!
That first game, I was scared to death. When you’re out there, you think everybody is watching you. The band had a very distinct and physically demanding way of marching, so that when you were on the field, your steps were supposed to be the same size no matter where you were. We also played very fast, so you had to march very quickly.
Candidly, I was not the best trumpet player; I never played the hardest parts. We had to not only memorize our halftime shows, but our music as well. We didn’t carry music on the field, so you’d have to learn new shows and memorize all that music at the same time. And, once school started, it was a rather large challenge. But you did what you had to do. I spent probably 20 hours per week in the fall on marching band.
People in Columbus used to claim the marching band was almost as well conditioned as the football team. Before our first time at the Rose Bowl, we were instructed to run 2 miles per day. I’d never run over 1 mile ever, but that ignited my interest in running, and I run to this day. I performed in three Rose Parades, and the first one was memorable in a bad way. I wore through the bottom of my left shoe, and stepped on a piece of wood on the parade route. It went right into my foot, but I had to march the rest of the 5-mile parade, plus perform at the game.
It was very exciting to be on national TV. In those days, they showed the halftime performances—they didn’t cut away for commercials. My freshman year, Ohio State played against USC, who had Heisman Trophy-winner O.J. Simpson. He had 140 yards and scored a touchdown in the first half, but Ohio State ground USC into the dirt in the second.
I played through the 1972 season, my freshman year of grad school, which is not unusual. There were guys who would play eight years, taking a few credits just so they could continue to be in the band. One of the things we did was play the first inauguration parade for President Nixon. By the time of the second inauguration, he was rather unpopular with most people—including me. I refused to go.
I enjoyed being so deeply involved in an activity that was so highly esteemed. At halftime, when we were performing, people wouldn’t leave. They’d stay until we did our show. They applauded loudly; it’s a special kind of atmosphere. I never stopped appreciating the chance to be on the field, and I tried my hardest every single time.
Pride of the Buckeyes | By the Numbers
1965: year they first played “Hang On, Sloopy!”
440: estimated hours spent practicing during a football season
228: members in the band
6: hours before gametime when band members typically arrive
4: songs to memorize for a tryout