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The Bayou Classic: A Tale of Two Colleges

In this episode of GoNOLA Radio, the New Orleans alumni chapter presidents of Grambling and Southern talk about their age-old rivalry and the Bayou Classic.

One of the biggest games in college football is coming to New Orleans Saturday, November 24. It’s so big that with it follows a whole slew of events, including a parade, a battle between two of the country’s best marching bands, a golf tournament on the side and so much more. We’re of course referring to the 2012 Bayou Classic in New Orleans.

GoNOLA RadioSince it’s impossible to use brevity when discussing the history and tradition of Southern University and Grambling State, not to mention the actual football game and all that surrounds it, we asked the New Orleans chapter Alumni Association Presidents of both schools to explain it all to our hosts George Ingmire, Mikko and Lorin Gaudin. David Warren of Grambling and Barry Harrison of Southern joined us on this episode of GoNOLA Radio to talk about the two schools’ rivalry, how the Battle of the Bands winner is chosen and the heart pumping Greek Show. Plus the New Orleans Food Goddess tells us where we can enjoy the best brunch near the Superdome. Press play for the New Orleans authority on the 2012 Bayou Classic.

GoNOLA Radio is a free New Orleans podcast hosted by Sunpie Barnes, Lorin Gaudin, George Ingmire and Mikko about the food, music and culture of the Crescent City. Subscribe to GoNOLA Radio on iTunes or download to your mobile device on Stitcher. GoNOLA Radio features music by Cale Pellick.

Podcast Transcript:

Sanpa:  Welcome to GoNOLA Radio.  My name is Sanpa Barnes and I will be your host of hosts as we explore New Orleans to learn about the city’s rich cultural heritage, food and music.  We bring you experts, real deal experts, who will talk with you about the people who make New Orleans such a wonderful place to live and visit. It’s GoNOLARadio.

Mikko:  Welcome to the show, ya’ll.  We have Lorin Gaudin.  We have George Ingmire.  And I’m Mikko.  And today we’re talking about the Bayou Classic.  And we have a couple of gentlemen that know a lot about it.  We have the Presidents of the New Orleans chapters of the National Alumni Association of both Grambling University and Southern University.  Barry Harrison from Southern University, welcome.

Barry:  Thank you, glad to be here.

Mikko:  And David Warren from Grambling, welcome as well.

David:  Thank you.

Mikko:  Now, I appreciate that neither one of you have insulted each other or started any of this trash talking.  We appreciate that.  Are you feeling kind of calm now?

David:  We found that we knew the same group of people and everything, so we’re going to hold a truce for right now.

Mikko:  Okay, that’s good to hear.  I guess the thing that’s amazing to me about the Bayou Classic, and it’s been around . . .  The Bayou Classic got its name in 1977 or ’76.

David:  The first game was 1974 at Tulane Stadium.

Q:  Right.  But ya’ll have been playing each other since 1936.

David:  Correct.

Mikko:  So it is a well-established rivalry.  And it’s one that people look forward to.  And we might talk a little bit about football.  But there’s so much else going on, Lorin and George. Barry, you’re from Southern University.  Obviously, in Baton Rouge. It’s kind of a big school.
You come into New Orleans.  What do you personally look forward to when the Bayou Classic comes to town?

Barry:  Well, I’m a band guy.

Mikko:  Mm-hm.

Barry:  I was in The Human Jukebox.  So, I always look forward to the battle of the bands and just the heart-pumping sounds of hearing the two bands go at it.

Mikko:  The Human Jukebox, one of the best nicknames for a band ever.

Lorin:  Ever.

Mikko:  From Southern University.  And what did you play?

Barry:  I was on the drum line.  I played the snare drum.

George:  Where did that name come from, The Human Jukebox?  I always think of (?) when I think of The Human Jukebox.  But where did The Human Jukebox . . .

Barry:  I would venture to say it has a lot to do with the fact that through time we’ve always been a top band that could play just about any top song.  So, jukebox just kind of filled that void of a nickname.  We could play it.  You put it there, whatever it is, we’re playing it.  If it’s on the radio, we’re playing it.

George:  And who’s doing the arrangements?

Barry:  Well, we have one guy there now, Nathan Haymer.  He’s a 2000 grad.  We’ve had Terrell Jackson.  He was my arranger when I was in school back in ’79 and ’81.  Up until ’83 or so, Dr. Greggs was the head guy.  He’s the one who is the face of the band.  And now, Mr. Jackson is the head guy.

Lorin:  Do you think we can get you to divulge anything on the playlist?  I just thought it would be fun to ask.

Barry:  Just tune in to whatever’s on your radio.  You can hear it. We know it all.  We got it all.

George:  Song selection.  Who comes up with the songs?  What are the criteria for the songs that you guys are picking for your battle?

David:  With Grambling, it’s mostly like what’s the popular song that’s out during the time, that’s playing on the radio.  And the song that’s going to get the crowd up to moving, that the crowd’s going to feel.  Usually, that’s the selection process they go through.

Barry:  Yeah, it’s all about crowd approval.  Whoever can get the loudest cheers, if you will.  That’s pretty much how the battle is determined, anyway.  And I’m just hoping Grambling makes it worthwhile this year.

George:  Oh, boy!  Now, do you guys ever end up doing the same song? You’re just handling it differently?  Or do you bring completely different songs to the . . .

David:  My memory is that Southern was a foul.  Southern is used to, you know, they (?) being fouled.

Lorin:  He’s throwing it down.  He’s throwing it down.

David:  And so this year, to compete, it might be better that they foul with Grambling.

George:  I see.

Barry:  Every once in a while, they’ll attempt something that we’ve done.

Lorin:  And he’s throwing it back.

George:  And the football players themselves actually have to be very disciplined in order to get out there on the field.  But, it’s no different for the bands themselves.  I imagine they have a very long schedule.  Not only getting good grades, which is required, but having the ability to put this stuff together.  I know musicians work 28 hours a day.

Barry:  Well, when I was in the band, Dr. Greggs was notorious for telling us that we practice for results, not hours.  We’re not out there to see how long we can do it; we’re out there to see how great we can do it.

But, yeah, it does take some effort.  You have to know not only where you’re supposed to be, but the man to your right and your left, as well, when you’re performing.  Just to make certain that you get it 100 percent for those ten, fifteen minutes, or however long the show is on that Saturday.  But, yeah, some time goes into it.  And it shows.

Mikko:  And David Warren, what’s your attraction, specifically, to the Classic that weekend?

David:  Well, my attraction is really the camaraderie.  Just seeing all your old friends that you went to school with, your classmates. Of course, I like going to the football game.  Football was my thing. Just seeing the two teams compete in a very competitive way.  And the fact that this is the only black college that’s shown all over the nation during that time.  We add on television all over the 50 states.

Mikko:  Now, Grambling is an historic university, as Southern is. I’m sure you get students that come because maybe they saw the game when they were younger, right.  You get that kind of publicity push, would you say?

David:  Yeah, I think you get a lot of students come there because they saw Grambling on TV a long time ago when they were growing up as a kid.  They always wanted to go.  Of course, when Coach Eddie Rob was living that was a really, really big drawing factor for Grambling State University.  Because of Coach Eddie Rob and the way he coached and demeanor and stuff like that.

But still, Grambling has a large drawing power now because of all the academic stuff it offers.

Mikko:  That Eddie Robinson Museum y’all have up there is actually a compelling thing.  If you’re ever in the area where Grambling is, they have a museum of the great coach’s career.  It seems like 100 years, but it was over a 50 year career and a coaching legend.  And he helped put Grambling’s name on the map.

But, the game, and the weekend isn’t just the game.  The battle of the bands that you talked about . . .

Lorin:  And the Greek show.

Mikko:  The Greek show.

David:  Well, the Greek show is phenomenal.  It’s the show that the guys come up with.  And they practice all throughout the year.  The person that represents at the Greek show, they have picked from the school, you understand.  Which fraternity/sorority is going to go there and represent them at the Bayou Classic.

Lorin:  And they stomp.

David:   Right.

Lorin:  Like wild.

David:  Right.  And they practice . . .

Lorin:  It’s fabulous.

David:  They practice probably all year long to get that show down to perfection and to come out the winner.

Lorin:  It’s like dance and percussion all at once.  And it’s so incredible.  I love to see that.

Mikko:  Let’s get to the meat of this stuff.   Really, what we’re talking about here.  Why Southern versus Grambling?  What’s the root of the rivalry and is it really still . . .  Would you characterize it like a vicious rivalry or more of a friendly one?  Either one of you can answer here.

Barry:  Let me jump in.

Mikko:  Okay, Barry.

David:  All right, Barry.  You know I jumped in the last . . .

Mikko:  All right, it’s starting.  It’s starting!

Lorin:  Uh-oh, here it comes.

Barry:  Yeah, it’s bound to come out.  It was actually Coach Rob’s brain trust.  He had the vision for the Bayou Classic.  At the time, we were playing in home and home games and they basically outgrew those stadiums on those campuses.  And he had the vision to say, “Let’s take this to a bigger stage.  Let’s get together.”  Because the early games were basically put on by the schools.  And then marketing companies and consultants and production companies all became involved.  But it was Coach Rob who had the vision.  And the first one was at Tulane Stadium in 1974 and it was standing room only.  And it just went on from there.

But, as far as the rivalry is concerned, it has a whole lot to do with how much celebrating you do on Thanksgiving Day.

Lorin:  You’re right.

Barry:  Because you’ll run into some people you can converse with. And then you run into some people you might have to come to blows with.  It depends on how those last two days were to him.

Mikko:  Governor Warren, would you like to respond?

David:  What Barry said is true, how the game originated and stuff. But, part of the camaraderie is many in the household family, the household is split up.  Some kids go to Grambling.  Some kids go to Southern, especially New Orleans kids.  You may have a kid who wanted to stay close at home.  They didn’t want to go far away.  They’ll go off to Southern.  One of the kids, they didn’t mind going off to college.  And one of the rivals to Southern was Grambling and they’ll go off to Grambling.  So, in many households, you have a split household.  Some of the folks graduated from Grambling.  Some of the folks . . .  My wife is a Southern graduate.  I’m a Grambling graduate.

Lorin:  Wow.  We’ve kind of got the Tulane/LSU thing rocking at our house.

Barry:  I have two Grambling siblings in my family.

Lorin:  Oh, wow!

Mikko:  Do you speak with them?

Barry:  Oh, yeah.

Mikko:  Okay.  So, Okay.   We talked a little bit about the battle of the bands which cannot be overstated and the Greek show.

Lorin:  Right, then there’s the Golf Classic.

Mikko:  The Golf Classic.  And then that whole Friday, almost as soon as you wake up from Thanksgiving, there’s something going on.   We were talking before the show, there’s the job fair.  There’s something later on in the day.  You were going through it, Barry. That Friday, it goes all day.  What sorts of things are on tap for the Classic?

Barry:  Well, as you said, we do have the job fair that basically runs pretty much the entire day, at least until about 3:00.  There are lots of employers coming in.  That’s a big deal, particularly for our seniors at our respective schools who will be coming out and looking for jobs.

The coaches luncheon.  I went to my first coaches luncheon last year. It was interesting because that’s where the trash talk starts on Friday at lunchtime.  Coaches are thumping their chests and bragging about what they’re going to do.  Then you also have a few other speakers from the different schools.  And they are going to thump their chests.  And then it goes back and forth across the dining room.  You’ll be lucky to get out of there alive.

And then the battle of the bands.  See, when I was in school, we actually had the parade that Friday afternoon.

Mikko:  Mm-hm.

Barry:  And it brought us to the battle of the bands.  So, now we have the parade on Thursday.

Lorin:  The day before.

Barry:  Which is the second year that the parade has been back.  But, it’s still . . .  It was phenomenal last year.  I wasn’t expecting that large of a crowd.  It was like Zulu and Rex all rolled into one on a Thanksgiving Day.

And then there are just all sorts of other things going on around the city.  Private parties and Greek parties and house parties and party parties.

Lorin:  Right, and then you hit Saturday.

Barry:  And then you hit Saturday.

Lorin:  And you drag your behind out of bed.

Barry:  No, you’re already up.  You’re already up.

Lorin:  Or you don’t go to bed and you just keep rolling.

David:  You’re already up.

Lorin:  Then you’ve got the fan festival that happens.  Of course, then the game itself.

Mikko:  Yeah.  David, you said you were a player?

David:  As a kid.

Mikko:  You were a football player.  What did you play?

David:  I didn’t actually start.  I played linebacker.

Mikko:  You were a linebacker?

David:  Right.

Mikko:    And is it hard for the coaches to keep the players from doing too much on Friday so they’ll be in shape to play on Saturday? I mean, are they going to all these party parties?

David:  No.  When I was in school, Coach Rob had a strict, strict . . .  I mean, he was really, really strict.  A player didn’t go out and party or anything like that.  They really were geared up for the game.  It wasn’t about the publicity.   It was just a chance to play in front of your home’s team, where you came from.  Most of the guys that were recruited were recruited from this area.  So, now they’re coming home and they’re playing in front of their family and friends. And so those were exciting moments for most of the guys.

Lorin:  Absolutely.  And then they play that game.

David:  Right.

Lorin:  And then they can go out that night if they want to.

David:  Right.

Lorin:  And then there’s recovery because Sunday morning is the big Gospel brunch at House of Blues.  And that is amazing.  Have you done the Gospel brunch before at House of Blues?

David:  No, I haven’t done the Sunday brunch.  But I’ll make sure I do it this year.

Lorin:  Definitely.  Not only is the experience just really uplifting in a myriad of ways.  The food is fantastic, all the classics that you want to eat.  Gravy and biscuits, grits, eggs.  It’s just magnificent.

Mikko:  Boatloads of shrimp.

Lorin:  Boiled seafood.  Right.  Most definitely, it’s my favorite part.  Unlimited Mimosas.  Just saying!  And that . . .

David:  My wife would love that.

Lorin:  A little of the hair of the dog that bit you.  I’m going to work it on Sunday.  And there are all kinds of restaurants.  I’m sure everybody goes out and hits the town and hits all the restaurants. But, if you’re looking around the Dome area for brunch and you don’t feel like hitting the House of Blues, there are so many great restaurants really close to the Dome and, of course, the downtown area.  And I think of places like Walk-On’s and St. Marie’s and Reginelli’s and there’s a Jamba Juice if you’re feeling particularly healthy or inspired to be healthy.

As that area explodes, it’s just amazing.  There’s plenty of food and fun to recover on that Sunday following the Saturday night before.

Mikko:  So, absolutely.  So, basically you have to eat Thanksgiving dinner, run out of your house, come straight to New Orleans.

Anyway, thank you very much, Lorin, George.

Lorin:  Thank you.

George:  Thank you.

Mikko:  Barry Harrison from Southern, David Warren from Grambling, we appreciate the time. Good luck to you both.

Barry:  Thanks for having us.

David:  Thank you.

Sanpa:  GoNOLARadio is a production of New Orleans Tourism and Marketing Corporation in conjunction with FSC Interactive.  Music by Cale Pellick.  My name is Sanpa.  Tune in next week by subscribing to GoNOLARadio on iTunes or

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