For most young kids growing up in Jackson our first memory of Jackson State University is the marching band affectionately known as “The Sonic Boom of the South” or “The Boom” as we like to call them. We generally run across them for the first time at one of the annual parades held in Jackson (Homecoming Parade, Christmas Parade, Martin Luther King Jr. Parade) or at a Jackson State home football game. There’s no way to describe the way one feels when you first hear them play their adopted theme song “Get Ready”1. Fans rise to their feet and wave “shakers” in unison, little kids dance, clap and mimic movements of the drum majors, and the gentlemen…I’ll just say they have their binoculars in hand. I love JSU football with all of my heart (just ask anyone that’s seen me at a game) but today I’m paying homage to “the summa cum laude of bands”. This is the first of three posts in which I’m going to give a few personal memories, a little history of The Boom and also interviews from former members of the band.
The reason I wanted to do the interviews is because I have great respect and admiration for The Boom. I love music but I’ve never marched in a band or played an instrument a day in my life. But growing up in West Jackson and attending many JSU football games I was well aware of the time and commitment that members of the band put forth. I wanted to hear from a few former members what it was like to march in the band and for them to give some insight on their experiences. Before we get into our first interview I want to share a few more personal memories. My mom loves telling a story about the first time I attended a JSU football game. She said that I couldn’t have been more than 3 months old. So I’m thinking my first game was a JSU-Alcorn game. While my dad was determined to take me to the game, my mom feared my ears would be damaged. Thankfully they weren’t. The highlight of the story is that as my dad held me walking up the bleachers I spit up on his back and shoulder. My mom got a real kick out of that. Of course I don’t remember any of that or what The Boom played that day. My first distinct memory of The Boom did occur at a football game and there were two things that stuck out. I already mentioned “Get Ready” and the band but there was also the greatest mascot ever “Wavy Dave” (Dave Chambers rest in peace)! Wavy Dave did it all! He danced, he flipped, he rode a unicycle, he interacted with the fans, and of course he outdid the opposing mascot every time. The next thing I remembered was “the voice” of the band, Dr. Jimmie James Jr2. during the halftime performance. Dr. James would put together some interesting quotes with the best of those being his recognition of The Boom as ‘the summa cum laude of bands’. Man those were some good times. I think that’s enough reminiscing for today. After the interview be sure to check out the videos at the end.
Saeed M. was the first interviewee for my look into the Jackson State University Marching Band. While in The Boom, Saeed played saxophone. He was also in Birmingham, AL on December 15, 2007 when JSU defeated Grambling to win the SWAC Championship.
What is your earliest or first memory of the Sonic Boom Of The South?
I had to be about 6 or 7. My family and I were visiting Jackson and my mom (who’s a JSU alum) took my sister and I to a game. I remember getting out of our van and hear this booming(no pun lol). As we got closer to the entrance I saw the Boom warming up getting ready to march into the stadium. By the time we got to our seats they had already made it to the ramp and I watched in amazement until the last person got to their seat. Never thought then I would be one of those people.
Were you always interested in music? If so, where did it come from?
I’d say so. Growing up, every Saturday morning my mom would wake my sister and I up and we’d clean the house. While we were doing that my dad usually had some music playing, usually some Maze, OJay’s, etc. That’s where I believe my love for music came about.
Can you take me through what it was like deciding to join The Boom?
Joining the Boom was the easy part. Deciding what school I wanted to go to was the problem. I knew no matter what school I went to I was going to be in their band. Whether it was UAPB, Texas Southern, MSU(yeah I know) or Jackson State the band was a part of the plan. So I knew once I chose JSU I was going to be in the Boom.
Can you give some insight on what your first band camp with The Boom was like? What instrument did you play?
Man the first band camp was cool and rough. I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t expect to be in practice that long. I had never played my saxophone that much in one week EVER. The early mornings for PT were the worst. I’m not a morning person and the waking up sucked. I didn’t stay on campus either so I had to wake up that much earlier just to make sure I was there on time because I wasn’t about that running laps life.
After classes and the fall semester started…what was it like balancing the band, your studies, social life, etc.?
It was rough on me. I didn’t know how to balance them at all. It took me a little while to learn how balance them all because it was a different monster compared to high school.
Practice? Yeah we gotta talk about practice…what were they like and WHY were ya’ll keeping the entire campus and West Jackson woke all night? Lol
Practices were cool. They were long and repetitive most times but the people made it fun. Can’t lie some of the best times of practice was when we were marching back from the Dust Bowl we’d stop on the side of Alexander and blow the roof off for a couple songs.
You mentioned “the people” when you spoke about practice. Can you touch on the camaraderie and friendships formed?
Being around the same people from 6:00 to sometimes 12:00-1:00 in the morning you couldn’t help but build friendships. Most of the guys I had in my wedding were in the Boom or I was introduced to by someone in the Boom. The only 2 that weren’t were my brother and cousin. I think most people that were in the Boom are the same way as far as the friendships go. Like I said earlier, when you are around people for that long you can’t help but to build a friendship with them. Some people I marched with I truly look at them like a brother or sister.
The first time you marched into “The Vet” what was that like? And how did you manage to stay calm? And what was the typical game day like for you?
Honestly I don’t remember my first time marching in. After 4 years they all start running together. Game days were the best. Well, outside of the football team being trash my 1st two years and sometimes performing in front of, literally, a couple hundred people they were great. Being able to get the crowd hype during games was great to see.
If you have one, what was your favorite game/event that you marched in?
Easily the 2006 games vs Southern. It was the first time we had a “zero quarter” with them in my tenure. The stadium was packed from corner to corner. The game was great and the battle was just as good.
The last time that you marched with The Boom and what it was like?
2007 SWAC Championship. We won. That was a great day. Nothing else needs to be said really lol we enjoyed that night.
What is it like now seeing The Boom when you attend events?
It’s cool. The difference from watching them when I was in high school to now is crazy. In high school I didn’t understand all the hard work it took to put the product on the field and in the stands. Now that I’m out I appreciate it even more seeing the younger kids keeping up the proud tradition.
Could you sense the “tradition” from the beginning or was it something that developed over time and after leaving the band?
You could sense the tradition from day one! The first piece of music that was passed out at band camp outside of the marches was “Get Ready”. Growing up in Jackson I had played the song before but I had never played it the “Boom” way so to speak lol. That’s when it hit me. The ultimate sense of tradition came Homecoming week, though. That’s the week it seems every “old head” comes out the woodworks. The entire sideline is full of old band members. That’s when you realize this is a family. A huge, crazy family but a family nonetheless.
Any words of encouragement or advice for young musicians?
Practice, practice, practice! Stay focused on your task and be an inspiration for the younger kids that are looking at you. DO THE PROGRAM RIGHT! Most of all, Love Da Boom!