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Still leading the band after 50 years

JB Anderson

J. Bruce "J.B." joined Marching Mizzou 54 years ago and still leads the alumni band as drum major each Homecoming. Photo courtesy of J. Bruce Anderson

Mizzou Homecoming anniversaries are nothing new to J. Bruce "J.B." Anderson. In 1961, he led Marching Mizzou as drum major for the university's 50th Homecoming anniversary. And he'll certainly be back as the alumni band drum major this fall for Mizzou's Homecoming Centennial.

Anderson, who started as a piccolo player in 1957, has reprised his role as the Marching Mizzou Alumni Band drum major for more than 30 Homecoming pregame shows. The 72-year-old doesn’t plan on stopping soon, and if he did, he thinks people would surely ask, “What happened to the old man?”

“I don’t strut and kick like I used to, but other than that, things haven’t changed a whole lot,” says Anderson, A&S ’63. “We have a good time. Most of the folks are a whole lot younger than me, but two or three folks from my era come back.”

JB Anderson

Anderson performs during halftime of the 2007 Homecoming game.

When Anderson served as Marching Mizzou drum major from 1961 to 1963, he not only led the band but also performed stunts. Before cheerleaders became known for their athletic acrobatics, Anderson and Roger Heins, BS Ag ’61, MS ’65, did a two-man tumbling routine in front of the band and even took their act on the road, performing at a Kansas City Chiefs game. But Anderson was most well known for his unicycle, which he rode onto the field to start pregame shows.

“I was the only one on campus who had a unicycle,” Anderson recalls. “It fit into the trunk of my sports car, and riding the unicycle across campus was a lot quicker than walking.”

After his Mizzou days, Anderson, a former Feline Conservation Federation director, owned jaguars (both the cat and car varieties). Now, the retired businessman of Ashland, Mo., remains active as a substitute teacher, state capitol tour guide and snow leopard owner. And he makes a concerted effort to continue leading the Marching Mizzou Alumni Band each fall.

“I used to try to march and get in a little bit of shape before Homecoming, but I never really did,” he says. “I know I will get stiff and sore, but it doesn’t terribly wear you out. It’s fun to meet the gang each year. Not too many folks can say they’re still performing with the band 50 years later.”

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