Sunday, November 30, 2008

Remembering the McDonald's All American Band

Another Thanksgiving has come and gone. It is hard to think about Thanksgiving without thinking about the McDonald's All American High School Band that was a regular staple of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Well, the McDonald's band seems to have given way to the McDonald's All-American basketball team. It seems that basketball is cheaper than picking and transporting two stellar musicians from each of the 50 states to a central location and having them perform in a parade.

From 1980-1992 this all-star group of musicians were under the direction of the FAMU Marching 100 Band staff, led by legendary director William P. Foster.

Dr. Foster's handling of the McDonald's All-American High School Band got the best out of this group of strangers each and every year. Their sound was always exceptionally strong and solid, which started with Lindsey B. Sarjeant's arrangements and Foster's attention to detail. According to accounts, Julian White's moving drills worked well for the group.

Sadly, there isn't much footage on youtube of this group, but here's what we found (fast forward to the 7:14 mark). Notice that distinct "Marching 100" sound.

(pictured above: William P. Foster (director ), Vanessa Williams (Miss America), Lindsey Sarjeant, unnamed drum major, and the late Charles S. Bing.)

Special thanks to Elliott Seagraves, Marching 100 (1971), who inspired this article and contributed.


Anonymous said...


If those kids in the All American Band had popped 90s marching down the street I think I would have just been floored!!! Thanks for this.

Anonymous said...

This is a desperately missed program. Hubba Doc!

* said...

Watched the parade this year, as usual and thought I missed the band. This is tragic for the young musicians of today.

Brett Cripe, McDonald's All American Band, 1980

Christopher said...

I was in the McDonald's band in 1981-82. It was one of the best things, if not the best thing I did in high school. So sad it disappeared.

Chris Flynn

jimmyd said...

Hi! I was in the McDonald's All American Band in 72 & 73. I was in the drum line playing the bass drum. I've been trying to find any kind of footage of the Macy's Thanksgiving parade, they zoomed in on me playing and would love to have a copy to show kids & grandkids. If anyone would know where to find something like that email me at
jimmy was a pretty cool time in my life

Anonymous said...

I was a member in 1979. I got to play in Carnegie Hall at age 17, an amazing experience I will always remember.

Anonymous said...

I was a member in 82/83 school year. It was a great experience and I'll echo the earlier comment in that it was the best part of my high school. I had the privilege of being there under Dr. Foster; he sure worked us hard but it was the best sounding high school band I have ever heard; and, with only a week's worth of preparation.


trumpetscott said...

I was a member of the band 77-78 and it was one of the great experiences of my life. I would love to hear from others from that year. I would love it if someone were to put up a website tribute too.. maybe posting old photos and memories. Thanks again.

Serge said...

Dr. Foster was great, but he was a character. Our year ('83-84) took to calling him "Doctor Dee" because that's what he used to say when he wanted a strong, confident sound. I also remember him encouraging people to apply tannic acid to their mouths to mask the pain that comes from playing all day.

Anonymous said...

I was a member of the band back in '86 and fondly look back on it as a highlight of my adolescence. The experience helped my with many decisions that came down the line as I progressed from teen to adult over the next few years to follow.

Anonymous said...

I was a Snare Drummer in what I believe was the second year of the band in 1969. The conductor was Paul LaValle who had been the conductor of Radio City Music Hall. The rehearsal conductor was from Purdue University. Name escapes me.
Great experience.

Anonymous said...

Back in the late '70s or early '80s or so, my father used to attend the auctions for various "personal storage companys" in and around Atlanta GA., where in his bidding sprees, he came into possession of an old-style, mechanical "McDONALDS ALL AMERICAN HIGH SCHOOL BAND" watch that was made in "W. GERMANY."

It easily runs and seems to have hardly been used. Wind it and it runs smooth and true.

Does anybody reading this think that there may be a market for it? Right now, I could use the cash.


jimmyd said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jimmyd said...

Hey DanD! I still have my Ronald McDonald watch, and it still runs. It might only be valuable to someone that was in the band. :)

Anonymous said...

I was in the McBand in 1984, on trumpet. It was great. I do remember Dr. Foster and the whole tannic acid thing. We would keep running around telling each other "here's a little Tannic for your lips". "Tanic....for your lips?"

Nothing like playing that medley music.