The Million Dollar Band is the official name for the marching band for The University of Alabama, located in Tuscaloosa. The entire band performs at all home games, while varying in size for away games or games in neutral sites. In 2003, the band was awarded the Sudler Trophy, an honor which any band can only win once.
The band was formed in 1912 with just 14 members under director Dr. Gustav Wittig. Four years later, in 1917, the band became a military band and was student-led until 1927. The band earned its name during a football game between Alabama and Georgia Tech, a game which the Yellow Jackets won 33–7. The band struggled for funds, having to solicit money from local merchants, to travel to games off campus. An Alabama alumnus, W.C. Pickens, was asked "[...] what do you have at Alabama?" by an Atlanta-based sportswriter. Pickens replied only, "A million dollar band."
In 1936, Colonel Charleton K. Butler took over the band and led it to national prominence among collegiate marching bands. He remained director for the next 33 years until Mr. Earl Dunn took charge in 1969. After a one-year stint at the Capstone, Dr. James Ferguson was named director, where he remained until 1983. Legendary Alabama coach Paul "Bear" Bryant often voiced his support for the band during his tenure, giving them partial credit during victories. Dr. Kenneth Ozzello has been in charge of the band since 2002, taking over for Ms. Kathryn B. Scott. One year after he was named director, the band won the prestigious Sudler Trophy, awarded by the John Philip Sousa Foundation.
During the fall semester the Million Dollar Band rehearses Monday-Friday at their practice field, Butler Field. They also hold a Gameday rehearsal on Saturdays when the full band will be performing at the football game that day.
During rehearsals, the members wear nail pouches featuring the MDB logo and their drill number, which helps the directors point out certain members during practice. They also use these pouches to carry water bottles with them to stay hydrated during the hot Alabama summers.
Alma Mater - When Dr. Ozzello became director in 2003 the MDB began to sing the Alma Mater after every Friday and game day rehearsal, as well as after every game, win or lose.
Band Dismissal - At the end of every single rehearsal, game, etc. someone shouts "What do we say at Alabama?". The Leadership team responds with "Go Bama!" and then all members shout "Roll Tide!" This is similar to a scene from the 1995 movie Crimson Tide.
Elephant Stomp - Prior to every home game the MDB performs the elephant stomp. Each section warms up then meets on the steps of the Gorgas library. The MDB and cheerleaders lead the crowd in several cheers in a short pep rally, usually lasting less than 10 minutes. The MDB then lines up on Colonial Drive and marches to Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Basket Case - Beginning in the mid 1997 the Million Dollar Band began playing the Green Day song "Basket Case" in the break between the 3rd and 4th quarters. This continued until mid way through the 2006 season, when the Marketing Department decided to play "Sweet Home Alabama" over the PA system instead. The MDB continued to play the song, just at different points of the game. "Sweet Home Alabama" was still played during 2007 up to the Houston game. Since that game the MDB has played "Basketcase" during the 4th quarter break once again. Fred Chang arranged this piece.
Low Rider - Song played by the Trombone section in the fourth quarter of the football game. It is counted off with eight taps on a cow bell. It has been in existence since at least 1986, when it was recorded on an LP. Mark Foster wrote the arrangement from a similar version that was played at his high school. Bruce Chirrey was the first cow bell wielder.
Defense Cheer # 1 - Since 2001, the band has used the song "Look Down" from the musical Les Misérables as the main defense cheer. This arrangement was originally written for the 1996 and 2001 Les Misérables halftime shows. The band currently has six defense cheers.