50 Years of Music

Thursday, October 18, 2007 | 10:21 p.m. CDT; updated 1:37 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008
Saturday’s game will be 50 years since J. Bruce Anderson’s first homecoming.

J. Bruce Anderson was born to perform.

A self-proclaimed “show-off,” Anderson, 68, is a musician and actor who, along with his wife Reva, works with about seven different theater programs around Missouri. Anderson estimates he has performed in about 70 different musicals over the course of his theater career.


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“You name the musical, I’ve probably been in it,” J.B. Anderson said. “I’m used to being in front of people. I don’t get nervous; I just get excited. That’s a good thing when you’re in front of 70,000 people.”

Anderson’s true passion is Marching Mizzou. This weekend at Mizzou Homecoming 2007, he will celebrate the 50th anniversary of his first homecoming performance with MU’s marching band. He will also, for the 27th consecutive year, lead the MU Alumni Band’s traditional pre-game performance.

“He’s happiest when he’s out there representing the university, the music and the longevity of the band,” Reva Anderson said. “He’s really dedicated to getting people to come back to enjoy the camaraderie that they had back when they were in band.”

Anderson, whose friends call him J.B., joined Marching Mizzou as a piccolo player in 1957, when he was a freshman. In 1961, he began his interlude as drum major, which lasted for two years.

Described by his long-time friend John Patterson, another former drum major from Marching Mizzou, as agile and enthusiastic, Anderson’s most famous field stunt was learning to ride the unicycle and cycling out on to the field at the beginning of a show.

“They loved it,” said Patterson, director the Columbia Community Band. “He was a real hit in those days. He’s always strived for the unusual.”

In 1980, when Alex Pickard, a retired professor from the School of Music, helped form the Alumni Band, Anderson was ready to jump back in for a refrain.

“He’s made it to every Alumni Band performance,” said Pickard, who still helps organize the Alumni Band. “He never misses. He’s a boss type; he likes to tell people what to do. And that’s what a drum major is supposed to do.”

The Alumni Band only performs once a year, at homecoming. About 120 former band members and MU alumni rehearse for three hours before the big game, then march to the national anthem as part of their pregame show.

Some years, other former drum majors have come back to help Anderson direct the ensemble. But Anderson is the only one who has never missed a game.

Reva Anderson says homecoming has always been one of her husband’s favorite events, and “one of the first weekends he marks off on the calendar.”

However, to the long-time drum major, one note in this year’s performance is just a bit out of tune. The price of admission to the game for Alumni Band members has risen to $30. Anderson says he is concerned about the effect the higher fee will have on some of the members of his band, especially those coming in from out of town who have to pay for food and accommodations in addition to game tickets for members of their families.

“We’re playing because the big band is just getting through with the parade,” J.B. Anderson said. “So we take the pressure off them. But if they price us out, we won’t be able to play anymore.”

Nonetheless, Anderson sounds upbeat about this weekend’s performance. And he has no plans of cutting his band career off any time soon.

“I don’t think he ever will,” Pickard said. “I don’t know what I’d do if he weren’t there. We’ll try to do it together for the rest of our lives, I guess.”

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James Emerson October 19, 2007 | 11:41 a.m.

Speaking of Marching Mizzou...whatever happened to former baton master Warren Bass?

(Report Comment)
Phyllis Richardson January 3, 2010 | 12:41 a.m.

The Late Great Warren Bass, an International Model, performer, music composer as well as musician. For example, as an advertising model, you probably looked in his face and did not recognize him.

Kindest Regards,

Phyllis M Richardson, MLIS, Archivist in Private Practice

"An Archive Search for Warren Bass" by Phyllis M Richardson

Warren Bass Foundation's Blog:

(Report Comment)
Phyllis Richardson January 10, 2010 | 8:05 p.m.

The ability to arm-chair research is limited and cause for the pause of the blog at this time. For starters, I have to retrieve letters, photos and music Warren sent my mother, Elnora Allen Richardson. This archive search is to document, honor and celebrate Warren Bass and Elnora Allen Richardson. I want to know exactly his letter to her means. Will I be able to trace history? Why was it important to him to find my mother after all those years? Why did he allow me to call him yet not a chance to say a last good-bye? Thanks for reading. Phyllis Macia Richardson

(Report Comment)
Phyllis Macia Richardson July 29, 2010 | 5:26 p.m.

I found a handwritten thank you letter from Warren to my mother. Also enclosed were audio tapes and photographs.

I'm wish to learn more of the "Marching Mizzou Baton Twirler, Warren Bass, 1961-1965" years, as well as his campus civil rights activities.

It would be very interesting if any Westside Missionary Church, classmates, or locals were available for audio, oral history, print for a collection of works?

Good idea for research papers of an alumnus of Mizzou producing various subject topics for any department of learning. Check with your Librarian and Missouri History Archive.

(Report Comment)

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