The Lane College Marching Band was organized in 1951 by O. W. Hewitt. He served as director from 1951-1958 and 1963-1967. The first band consisted of interested students who owned their own instruments or played borrowed instruments. From the bands of the 50's under professor Hewitt came several outstanding musicians who became teachers and professional musicians.
In 1959 Kenneth Martin was appointed director and served until 1962. During this period the band maintained its growth in keeping with trends of small colleges. After Martinís tenure, O.W. Hewitt resumed directorship until 1967.
The Lane College Band received its third director in the fall of 1967 when Kenneth C. Sampson was appointed. The 1967 marching band totaled 26 members and the concert band 19. The marching band gave one performance during the 1967 football season. This was its Homecoming debut under the new director. That single performance was impressive and enthusiastically received, giving rise to an optimistic 1968-69 school term.
The fall of 1968 saw an increase in the size of the marching band. Although no competitive scholarships were available for recruitment of select students, the freshman class attracted students that had band background. These students were motivated by opportunities to make a significant contribution to the growth of a developing band and institution, and make use of their talents and high school band experiences. Now, the marching band numbered fifty, highly motivated members who were not afraid of working hard. The band accepted the challenge of presenting half time performances at all football games and playing at basketball games. The uniforms used by previous bands being inadequate; bandsmen wore a makeshift uniform of blazers and trousers. During this period among bands, the blazer uniform was popular and timely for a band that could not afford regular, styled band uniforms. The enthusiastic 1968 band met its challenge to do creditable performances at all games and stimulated the fans to pose curious question, as to whether this band was authentic or would it be discontinued with the close of the football season. During the 1968 school year, the concert band showed the same enthusiasm and there was no doubt that the 1969 fall marching band would add a new dimension to the now unpredictable group. The means of securing equipment improved was somewhat primarily because students owned their own personal instruments; however, the problem of adequate instruments and sheet music prevailed.
The fall of 1969 may be considered the key year; it erased any doubt that more exciting things were inevitable for the Lane College Marching Band. Due to recruiting efforts the previous spring, the freshman class included more than forty new young musicians. The new students had a strong background in marching and playing, and they had no problem blending with the former members. The high level of spirit and performance seen in this unit, prompted attention from fans and, for the first time, the general public, though still on a small scale. In October of the same year, the band received a stylish set of band uniforms with a big ďLĒ in the front of the uniformís overlay and a spitfire dragon in the rear. The rest of the uniform read ďLane College Band of Jackson, Tennessee.Ē The blue, red, and white uniform now became symbolic to many throughout Jackson and the United States. At this time, the band, under Sampsonís direction, had not marched outside of Jackson. At this point it made its first trip to perform at halftime in Fort Valley, GA., during a game between Lane College and Fort Valley State College. At Fort Valley, the band marched with pride and dignity. The 1969 homecoming performance pleased alumni fans and suggested more spectacular occurrences in the future. The 1969 concert band increased in size and played its annual Christmas concert at Western State Hospital, Bolivar, Tennessee, and later in the year for Merry Junior high School and pep music at a tournament in the Jackson Coliseum. Before the close of the 1969-70 school term, the Green Bay Packers extended the band an invitation to perform at halftime during a game between the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings. To be televised nationally. This was the bandís first chance to meet the challenge of performing at a professional football game for 53,000 fans and an estimated 50 to 70 million or more on television. The band needed the challenge and accepted it enthusiastically.
The fall of 1970 was a historical period for Lane College and Jackson, Tennessee. For the first time a band from its community would perform at a professional football game half-time show and a national television audience where millions would hear for the first time the words Lane College and Jackson, Tennessee. The students returned to the practice field in late August with zest and vigor to meet a challenge, which required the highest standards of musicianship and performance. This meant at the same time students had to meet their academic obligations. While the band prepared its performances on the field, others made contributions in many different ways. The Lane College Alumni and citizens of Jackson responded financially. On Sunday, October 3, 1970, from County Stadium in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, over the CBS television network, the announcerís voice clearly and distinctly announced,
"The Lane College Marching Band of Jackson, Tennessee,"
-- that voice was heard in all fifty states of the United States,
including Alaska and, via satellite, Hawaii!"
For weeks after the performance, the mail poured in from throughout the nation hailing the bandís performance. A representative for a touring agency flew from Houston, Texas, to encourage the band to take its performance abroad. To the members, this served as an incentive to work harder and not to develop superior attitudes. One month following the Packer vs. Viking performance, the band again participated in a nationally televised event, which again told the nation of Lane College and Jackson, Tennessee. The event was the J. L. Hudson Parade, one of the largest parades in the nation, which is televised annually at Thanksgiving. This appearance brought similar responses from viewers throughout the country. Still another performance was the annual Memphis Blues Bowl Classic in honor of W. C. Handy, the father of the blues. The Blues Bowl appearance revealed new signs of maturity in the band as demonstrated by this superb performance near the rapidly approaching close of the marching season. Other invitation were received, but could not be accepted because of lack of finance. The latter included the Cotton Bowl Parade seen annually on New Year's Day.
The 1971 Lane College Marching Band, now numbering more that 100 members strong outdid and surpassed its previous season in the Orange Bowl Stadium during another professional football game between the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets. The bandís performance brought a rousing ovation from 76,000 spectators. The Jackson, Tennessee, band was seen regionally on NBC television, mostly on the Eastern coast of the United States. The season closed with a performance in Tiger Stadium in Detroit, Michigan, during a football game between Lane College and Fisk University, sponsored by the NAACP for their annual Black Charities Classic. The performance in sub-zero weather brought thunderous cheers from the audience as the announcer introduced the Lane College Marching Band of Jackson, Tennessee. The band performed as if it were on Tennessee soil and climate. As its performance concluded, the audience bubbling with pride and dignity, left no doubt of their conviction that the band was one that possessed rare qualities.
The credit for such outstanding performances goes to the hard working students of all the bands of the past who have exerted energy and hours of practice in the dust and mud to do the best job possible, under circumstances different from those of many bands of which will never reach the same height of performance.
The Lane College Marching Band is now in a rebuilding stage under the direction of Mr. Melvin Lewis. Under the leadership of our dynamic director, the Lane College Marching Band will once again flourish with musical talent and superb performances.