Faye Phillips is a fountain of information and stories about LSU and Louisiana history. She’s already published several books on local history. She’s not a Louisiana native but has made Baton Rouge her home for the past 30 years, and has decided to stick around even after retirement, where she last held the office of Associate Dean of LSU Libraries. We sat down with Faye to discuss her latest book about the history of the LSU band.
DIG: How did you get involved in the project?
FP: Frank Wickes, who had been band director for thirty years, wanted to do a book about the band. Well, Frank soon decided that he was the great band director and he loved doing that work, but he was not going to write a book (laughs).That’s why Frank has written the foreword. Anyway, Margaret Lovecraft of LSU Press and Tom came to the same idea at the same time. Tom had a huge background in LSU history plus having been a member of the band. He had a lot of friends, and a lot of stories, and a lot of photographs, just a lot of stuff to start with the research. Tom is a storyteller. He’s not a historian (laughs). He’d write these great stories and Margaret would go “Now Tom, did you check?” So she called me and asked, “Faye, what are you working on right now?” I told her I’m kind of between books right now and she said “Well, would you help us?”
DIG: One aspect I found interesting was how the scope of the history went well beyond just the band.
FP: That’s the approach we wanted to take. There’s so much history about LSU. And so many people are interested in different facets. So we wanted to set it in proper context. We could have done just a photograph book, which I think would have been well-received, but we wanted it to be a true history.
DIG: And the pictures! The pictures are so great. How did y’all go about finding and selecting them?
FP: Well I have several hundred more that we didn’t use. When you take a historical timeline you look for stories that are going to fit. In World War II, the university archives just had nothing. They’re tons and tons of military organization papers but no photographs. So I went to families of band members. I knew that somebody in this town had to have some WWII photographs that are of the band. Thank goodness, they did. Otherwise that would have been a blank chapter. It was an important turning point because that’s when women got to be in the band.
DIG: What was the most challenging part?
FP: Well two things. What photographs to leave out. That was hard. The other hard part was pulling together the three elements: the history, the photographs, and the stories, and making it real.
DIG: Now, what aspect of the process did you enjoy the most?
FP: Now. Seeing the book. Having that finished product. You know how that feels? You see your article and it’s like ‘Hey, I did that!’ Tom and I did that. I mean we had a lot of help, don’t get me wrong.
DIG: Could you tell us more about your roles as co-writers?
FP: One thing Tom brings to the storytelling is that he understands what bands do and how they do it. I’m still totally confused about how you’re supposed to learn to march. My brain doesn’t do that. Tom understood all that. We could argue and disagree but in a good way. There were times when I wish I had said no. You know how work is? You wake up in the middle of the night and say ‘I cannot do this.’ Tom had the same experiences. We both would call each other and say ‘Why did we say we would do this? This is too much work.’ But we had great help with fantastic history in the archives.
DIG: For a lot of people I think the first thing that comes to mind about the band is the famous notes ‘Da–Da-Da-DA!’ Isn’t that called “Hold That Tiger?”
FP: Well, yeah it’s called that. But it’s also ‘Pregame March.’ It has a whole bunch of different names. It’s the most recognizable of their beginnings. In Fall Fest, during fall break, they have a big get together at the quadrangle. All the student activities – it’s sort of like welcome back. And the band comes. You’ll just have all this noise, and when you hear da–da-da-da! Dead. Silence. It’s amazing because you have 20,000 people out there. It has an interesting effect on people.
DIG: And who wrote it?
FP: Huey Long and Castro Carazo. It evolved from their song “Touchdown for LSU.”
DIG: How can we get the book?
FP: Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Cottonwood Books, Foundation of Historical Louisiana at the old Governor’s Mansion. Some of the other local bookshops may have it and it can be ordered directly from the LSU Press online.
Top photo: DIG file.