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Grambling’s ‘World Famed’ recreates Super Bowl I performance

Tigers band joins University of Arizona for redo of historic pregame show

Shirlee Bertolini remembers the day she performed with Grambling State University’s marching band at the first NFL Super Bowl game in 1967.

At Saturday night’s game between Grambling and the University of Arizona, Bertolini, Arizona’s twirling coach for 62 years, had the chance to see something she hadn’t seen in 49 years – her two favorite college marching bands performing together.

At the NFL game in Los Angeles, the Grambling’s World Famed Tiger Marching Band and the Arizona Pride performed the Star Spangled Banner together as they created a U.S. map on the football field.

Nearly 50 years later, the two bands re-created that pregame show with a joint performance on the Tucson, Arizona-based university campus in front of a crowd of thousands and a handful of the 1967 performers on hand, including Bertolini.

“Having this band and having the two bands together is awesome,” she said. “It’s like deja vu for me.”

Joining Bertolini at the Saturday night game was David Peyton, who played cymbals with the Arizona Pride at the first Super Bowl, and Maryann Nuckolls, a clarinet player with the Pride at the California game.

Grambling grad Freddie Colston, 69, of Forest Heights, Maryland, was unable to make the trip to Tucson for the special event and the game because he had to work the Washington Nationals games at home. But he remembers playing cymbals in Los Angeles that day as a sophomore.

He had never heard of the Arizona Pride, hadn’t seen them perform and hadn’t seen them on film. He was excited to make his first plane trip, to travel to Los Angeles and to perform in the Los Angeles Coliseum. “I would’ve loved to have been there and to have seen them and reminisce,” said Colston, a member of Grambling’s alumni band.

Chad Shoopman, director of athletic bands and associate director of bands at Arizona, said the combo performance was giving him goose bumps and meant a lot to him, his band and the entire Arizona and Tucson communities, “more than you may realize.” He said that with so many negative things going on across the nation these days, the joint appearance is a reminder that the races and good people can come together in unity.

Though he missed the 1967 Super Bowl by one year, Larry Pannell, Grambling’s director of bands, said this experience was important for his band, too, because he wants his band members to know that there are good people in the world despite the bad things happening to African-Americans in some communities recently.

Raven Catholic, 22, a senior music education major at Grambling, said the experience was “a blessing, because there’s a lot of stuff going on, and to see some positivity come through the arts and music with something we all enjoy … it’s a great experience to interact with them … and share.”

And for anyone interested in the actual football game, the Grambling Tigers put on galant effort before losing 31-21 to the Arizona Wildcats.

Will Sutton grew up in New Orleans, went to school at Hampton and taught there as Scripps Howard Endowed Professor. In 1976, he was the Hampton drum major and returned to the SWAC in 2012 as Reynolds Visiting Professor of Business Journalism and is now director of communications at Grambling. He loves original Nawlins gumbo, and really throws down with red beans and rice with hot sauce.