Grambling State University’s World Famed Tiger Marching Band is no stranger to publicity, so when a recent phone call came from ESPN, Larry Pannell considered it normal.
“We’re no strangers to ESPN,” said Pannell, the director of the bands. “For me, it was just another typical telephone call. They knock on this door so much.”
The week before Grambling State University’s December graduation, Pannell received a phone call from ESPN. They needed 10 band members to travel to New Orleans on Dec. 23 for turnaround photo shoot at a famous and popular club called Tipitina’s. ESPN provided band members and two faculty members with their own tour bus. The bus was equipped with a living room, 12 beds inside, each with its own DVD player, and more. Pannell and band members said they felt like celebrities.
New Orleans musician Trombone Shorty, whose birth name is Troy Andrews, is featured in the photograph with New Orleans Saints wide receiver Kenny Stills and defensive end Cameron Jordan. It’s a part of the magazine’s fantasy halftime show package, providing readers with seven musical choices to see which act they would love to see during a Super Bowl halftime show. (See http://espn.go.com/sportsnation/post/_/id/10332154/espn-magazine-fantasy-acts)
This is not the first time the band has received national attention, and not the first time they’ve been featured by sports media.
ESPN, the world leader in sports and sports entertainment, needed a band that would complete ESPN The Magazine’s music issue, which hit the stands Feb. 3. When the 48th Super Bowl played Sunday night, ESPN reached out to GSU’s marching band to make the issue complete.
Grambling has played a central role with the Super Bowl’s halftime history and the magazine’s music issue “had to tell that story,” said Rob King, ESPN’s senior vice president for editorial, print and digital media.
“We did research into the history of Super Bowl halftimes,” said King, “It became clear that anything we did had to include the robust presence of the Grambling State Band.”
After receiving the news from Pannell, senior Zachary Turner said he treasured the opportunity before it happened. “It means a lot knowing that this is my last year here with the band to represent the World Famed,” said Turner, who is seen holding his saxophone with his hand pointed in the air in the two-page photo spread feature in the magazine. “It is a lot of good exposure for our university, and HBCUs in general.”
In 1967, GSU’s marching band performed at the first Super Bowl after the American Football League played the National Football League in the championship game before there was a single professional football league. All together, the World Famed has performed at six Super Bowl half time shows. The last Super Bowl half time performance that the band performed in was in 1998 at the Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, Calif.
“When you first walked on the bus, there was a living room,” said TÃ¨sia Thomas. “It made you feel like a celebrity going on a tour because, it was much better than riding a charter bus.”
In the ESPN magazine photograph, Thomas, a sophomore majoring in social work, is standing adjacent to New Orleans Saints wide receiver Kenny Stills, holding her saxophone. “We were able to network with Trombone Shorty, and he also exchanged numbers with us.”
Though this wasn’t anything new for Pannell, he said “for the students, GSU, the State of Louisiana it was indeed a joy and we have an appreciation for being chosen.”