Marching 101: Truly best band in the land?

This is going to be serious, so you’ll want to take out your smartphones, your iPhones, Blackberries, and Androids. Call your next of kin and tell them that the often imitated, though never duplicated, Marching 101 Bulldogs are in the house. Straight from Orangeburg, South Carolina, the entertainment has been brought to you.

You’ll always hear South Carolina State’s announcer boom a variation of his proud and boastful statement when the Bulldogs step off of the football field, because that means it’s time for the other pride of South Carolina State to rise to their own occasion.

We’ve all seen the movies. We’ve all seen the stories. We’ve all had a friend who has been among the ranks of a marching band. At an HBCU, halftime isn’t a break in the action. It’s just the beginning. While the football players demonstrate agility with high-flying catches, spectacular runs and hard-hitting tackles, marching band members work tirelessly to perfect their craft of high-flying drum majors, spectacular blends of passion through music, and the hard-hitting but unique and unmistakable sound of the Marching 101 band.

The 101 started humbly in 1918, a simple regimental band performing military drills and assisting with music at Sunday schools and wherever else it was needed. As the directors who took charge of the program foresaw a bigger picture for the program, the band slowly but steadily evolved from a service band to a part of the school’s Department of Music, to a prominent band whose name rings from coast to coast.

The 101 makes appearances across the country, from its representation of South Carolina State to bowl parades to NFL games, and the band has made its mark, winning Atlanta’s annual Honda Battle of the Bands competition in 2011 and 2014. So acclaimed is the band’s reputation, the 101 was featured last October in the VH1 movie “Drumline: A New Beat.” The character Dr. James Lee from the original film was inspired by former South Carolina State band directors.

What makes the Marching 101 different from the rest isn’t the notoriety. Every band has its heart and inspiration. For the 101, that inspiration is Eddie “Eddie Moe” Moore Jr.

Moore, who was known and loved throughout Orangeburg, was a man whose life was a testament to how the Marching 101 could bring together an entire city of people. He was a man who loved South Carolina State, a man who attended every South Carolina State football game for decades and stood every week at the front of the crowd, leading the cheers and the roar of the crowd, both for the football team and when 101 came to play.

His life was tragically lost in December 2014, as he stood on his usual corner, waving hello to every car that drove past. He was fatally struck by a vehicle that had lost control. Moore was 58 years old.

When Moore would appear, the crowd had always gone berserk. The football team saw him as one of their own and the 101 saw him as their inspiration. Moore would run onto the field and dance his heart away to the sounds of the 101. The fans would feel a thrill so powerful it would move them to their feet. They would shake their hips and rhythmically jerk their feet to the entertainment only Moore and the 101 could provide. It was unique, powerful, and it was heart. And it still will be as Moore’s spirit dances on within each member of the 101 and each South Carolina State supporter, whether in the crowd or watching the program on television.

At the 11th annual MEAC/SWAC Challenge presented by Disney, members of the 101 will wear patches on their uniforms commemorating Moore, one of Orangeburg’s legends and a true embodiment of the spirit of the 101.

That’s how you know that the Marching 101 is more than a band, more than a myth and more than a legend. The members are moved by generations of 101 bands previous to them, driven by the urge to exceed expectations week after week, inspired by those who are lost to us but still live through the music of the band. It’s what makes them who they are.

It’s what makes them the best band in the land.

Robert S. Blue II is a senior Journalism major at South Carolina State University.