Ohio's Oldest High School Football Band - Since 1914

Tiger Swing Band

History of the Massillon Tiger Swing Band

And now, from the shores of the Bahamas to the soccer fields of England; from the Rose Bowl in Pasadena to the Cotton Bowl of Dallas; from main street in Disneyland to main street in Disney World; from the canyons of New York City to the Islands of Hawaii, and all across the land, presenting: Ohio's Ambassadors of Music: The Massillon Tiger Swing Band!

“We knew that during football season, we were in show biz.”
George “Red” Bird

The lead-in paragraph on this page is the introduction that will be used to set the tone for the performance of the 1991 Edition of an American institution known locally as the Washington High School "Tiger Swing Band." A lot of seasons, faces, sweat, and tears are summed up in that tiny paragraph, but oh the volumes that can be written from what is missing "Between the lines!" This then is an attempt to place together for posterity some of those missing lines as we remember and commemorate our high school band.

A conglomeration of noise, which began to emit from the Morrison Music Store early in the summer of 1938 was Massillon's first introduction to its new band director and the musical organization, which was to bring national publicity to the city. The director was George "Red" Bird, who was born in Fayette, Ohio and began at an early age to play a horn so that by the time he was 18, he was playing in the Dodge Symphony Orchestra in Detroit. He would later be in the Ohio State Marching Band before his graduation from the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music in 1931. Other stops in his career would include Xavier high schools in Cincinnati as well as Dayton's Trotwood and Steel high schools.

George "Red" Bird (1938 - 1945)

But now he arrived in Massillon and this is where the legends would begin. He immediately went to work arranging for practices for his pupils and soon word spread to the pages of the Massillon Evening Independent that the Washington High Band would go swing. (Swing is the word used to describe the style of popular music in this era just as Rock and Roll would be used in the 1950's and 1960's as well as Heavy Metal for the 1980's.)

Although the rumors spread through town, it is believed that very few of the die-hard Tiger football crowd was really ready for what was to come. In addition to the musical changes, the legendary football coach, Paul Brown, had a notion to add a student dressed in a real tiger skin, much the same as the University of Pittsburgh had a panther. The superintendent, L. J. Smith, as well as the board of education, went along with the idea and thus was born Obie -- "O" for orange and "bie" for black. For $400, a lot of money in 1938, a skin was secured from the Metro-Goldwin Mayer studio costume supply company in Denver, Colorado. Add too a drum major with four majorettes, bright orange and black uniforms and all the pieces were in place for marching band history to be made.

Up to this point in time, high school and college bands would parade across the field at half time playing school songs and marches, forming letters, and generally filling time. The music and tempo could almost be described as somber at times. But on the night of September 16, 1938, the Tiger Swing Band took to the field with a new, snappy cadence and literally lit up the night air with its Fanfare. Then off they went down the field to Tiger Rag in double quick time finally forming a company front that stretched in a single line across the width of the field as they made the return trip up field to Carry On. The novelty stunts, dance steps, and amazing music were topped off with the playing of the Alma Mater in a block "M" formation. Throughout the remainder of the first year, the word was spread so that by the McKinley game, it could be argued as to how many fans were there for the game and how many were there for the band show.

Notoriety spread so that by the summer of 1939, invitations to perform were pouring in from all over and only a few could be accepted. No one thought that they could out-do the previous year, but the second edition seemed equally adept to the comedy skits, "Hot", numbers, patriotic spectacles, and every show was another revelation in "Show Biz."

For the opening of Tiger Stadium in that second season, Obie, as personified by Paul Paulson, popped out of a paper mache miniature of the structure. At first, director Bird wasn't quite sure what to do with Obie, but it didn't take long to add him as part of the show from dancing with life-sized dolls, to donning a latex bubble, steps with a majorette from the visiting band. The antics were a popular part of the band's performance and everyone looked forward to it. Even as early as this, though, Obie had to be escorted by security guards and police officers wherever he went.

Besides the many, many national newspaper accounts of the band, 1939 found the swingsters pictured amid the pages of Life magazine and in 1940, American magazine pictured them. The original drum major, Clayton Bergdorf, returned after his graduation to assist Bird in the coaching of the majorette line, a job he would hold for almost 30 years. At this time, the majorettes appeared in white satin uniforms with matching boot and hat, a style which would become an adopted Massillon tradition for years to come.

Improvements to the Massillon High "Floor Show," as it would become known as, were topped off by the erection of several colored flood lights on the roof of the stadium, which were used to bathe the swingsters' performances for effect. Small lights were also attached to the band's hats and instruments.

The season of 1941 saw the fourth edition reach the pinnacle of fame as it performed before an estimated 327,000 fans. A return trip to Cleveland's Municipal Stadium and an appearance at the Cleveland Rams, now of Los Angeles, All-Star Game garnered the band a huge specially designed trophy by the game sponsors.

Later in that season of ‘41 came an appearance that remains as one of the hallmarks of the band's success. The University of Wisconsin's Badger football team was then coached by one of Massillon's own and former stars, Harry Stuhldreher. Due to travel restrictions as a result of World War II, the Wisconsin band was grounded in Madison for their game against Ohio State in Columbus. The Massillon band was grounded in Madison for their place. It is said that roar of the 59,000 fans was one of the loudest, cheering standing ovations ever afforded a band. Even George Bird, who had a habit of being reserved in reference to his group, admitted that his "Rampart Street" routine really wowed 'em. This performance remained the first and only high school band at the storied horseshoe in Columbus until 1983, when the university awarded the winner of its first annual marching band competition an appearance at a Buckeye's game. A stage show at the Paramount Theater in Toledo capped off that incredible 1941 season.

1942 saw the advent of another band tradition, the Three Star Ring. It was designed by Bird and Rudolf Sutter and was priced at $30. It was an annual award 100 percent for attendance at performance and successful participation in band for a students three years.

The 1942 Edition was the subject of an unusual creation of a three-dimensional miniature production of photographs and masonite. Each member was photographed in his uniform and then mounted and cut out of the masonite board. Then each of the ten inch figures were erected on a miniature field and placed in a block marching formation. This really illustrated the community's infatuation with its band as the creators of this labor of love were a childless couple, Russell and Hazel Stoner, and the band embodied as their adoptive children.

Throughout the war years, the band became noted for their patriotic themes and the community of Massillon was noted for their war bond sales efforts, which culminated with a Flying Fortress bomber being christened as "The Spirit of Ohio's Massillon High School." The band donned copper plated World War I battle helmets as their hats, which were extremely heavy.

Practically all of the band's shows called for many properties and many volunteer stage-hands were used. Trucks had to be used on occasions to accompany the entourage and Massillon schools attendance officer, Vern Howard, became the first stage manager. A Massillon councilman named Robert Smith was the first announcer.

Up to now, all was joy in Tiger town and nothing could be seen that could rain on Maestro Bird's parade, so to speak, nothing but the hand of God.

It was during a rehearsal in the band room that tragedy struck in the summer of 1944. A tall, lanky popular saxophone player named Maurice Luckner, nicknamed "Doc" by his pals, was suddenly stricken with chest pains. His sax crashed to the floor causing an instant stop to practice and admirded his peers he died. Doc was escorted by bandsmen to his grave at the Massillon Cemetery. For years afterwards, bandsmen had to have physicals in order to participate in marching band.

Normalcy returned and the '44 season went on. The highlight of Bird's years at Massillon came during the 1945 campaign. The 8th Edition of the Massillon Tiger Swing Band put on the famous Transportation Show. Props built by the auto mechanics department of W.H.S. were used to accompany the shows tunes. A walking horse personified the Old Grey Mare, a horseless carriage went with "In My Merry Oldsmobile," a steam engine with cars to "I've Been Working on the Railroad" and even a moving "Showboat."

At the conclusion of the 1945 season, it was more than apparent that Paul Brown was going to start a professional football team in Cleveland to replace the Rams who vacated. What better way to make money on the professional level than to have professional entertainment, and with that he offered George Bird a job. Bird would go on to Cleveland and organize an all-girls band called The Musical Majorettes. This troupe would win for him even more honors as a musician and innovated band leader.

Although it is the marching band of Washington High that he is mostly remembered for, he himself considered the concert hall his greatest accomplishment. When he arrived, the concert band played before a half-filled auditorium and by his farewell concert in 1946, he had two sold out matinees and two sold out evening performances. "Music is a language of many idioms," he would say, and high school students should be afforded the opportunity to explore the language of music.” As best as he tried to install these serious reflections, seldom would a concert end without someone in the crowd yelling out, "Hey you guys, play Tiger Rag now!"

There is no doubt that Bird's cornerstone to success was anchored in discipline. Often is retold the story of the year he cut his standard 64 piece squad to 48 and still maintained the quality he required. In order for the success of the Tiger Swing Band to continue, Bird would have to be replaced by someone who could equally carry through with what had already been established, and that man was Orin Ford.

Orin "Dykae" Ford (1946 - 1967)

Orin Ford

Director Ford, by keeping the opening routine intact established a precedent for years to come. He was also enough of a showman himself to build on the style that had become synonymous with the band. He retained the "Military review" for several years after the war, which was a way to honor on the field any serviceman home on leave. He also kept on with the Memorial Day tradition of playing military music to the Massillon Cemetery, but on the way back at just about Oberlin Street, the band would break into their spirited rendition of "South Rampart Street" and play it all the way back to the high school.

Clayton Bergdorf would remain throughout the Ford years as the majorette coach and the unofficial watchman over the kids. Freda Kent would continue to be the seamstress, while Bernie Harmelink would take over as the announcer and Wally Schallenberger and Harold Studer as the main properties managers.

"Dykae," as would he become known as, developed a formula for his band shows that he would generally follow for the next 22 years. He built each of his shows around general themes and kept them timely to whatever was going on that week (ie; Halloween, Armistice Day, Elections). Then once his shows were written, he would throw in a generous use of props mixed with leg lights, hat lights, black lights; whatever he would figure as appropriate. If some article in the news tripped his imagination, he'd try to work in into the shows. An example of this came during the 1948 election year when President Truman's campaign train accidentally backed into a crowd, not hurting anyone, just causing presidential embarrassment. Sure enough, by that Friday's game, a train caboose had been constructed and the event re-enacted by the swingsters to the delight of the crowd.

The high school welding and mechanics classes were kept busy building his props that were constructed with old surplus bicycle tires for easy wheeling on and off the field. Whether it be a Dutch Garden complete with giant wooden shoes and hundreds of tulips, to a giant moon with a canoe sailing by, to balloons and bubbles made from gallons and gallons of bubble liquid, nothing could be considered beyond the reach of Dykae Ford and his crew. It is then during these years that the band became known as the World's Greatest Show Band.

The 1950 Philadelphia Music Festival became the bands first major trip. It was quite an honor for this was a high school group performing along side the likes of some of America's most noted musicians such as Dinah Shore, Alee Templeton, Phil Spitalney's all girl orchestra, and the Harry James Band. Considered Massillon's finest hour in its twelve year history, the band placed second by popular acclaim after performing for reported crowd of 87,214! Rounding out this momentous trip were stops at Washington, D.C., and Gettysburg. The band would return to this event one other year.

The 1951 Edition was filmed for a movie theater featurette called Sportscope. This film clip was then shown in over 7,000 theaters nationwide. (This was before television had taken total control and most of the people still attended theaters for their entertainment).

Band size would fluctuate under Ford from 64 to 100 and then settle back to around 84 pieces, which is what he was most comfortable with. The uniforms were changed for their first major overhauling in 1948. Up to now, the design had remained relatively constant from the Bird days. Occasionally, the band would still gear up in the metal helmets. Uniform maintenance was still the responsibility of each individual and a full inspection was administered by Ford himself prior to every performance, if you weren't 100 percent prepared, be it dress or music, you simply did not march, and there were plenty of alternates ready to step right in.

The 18th Edition of the Massillon Tiger Swing Band participated in the 1956 "Tournament of Roses" parade in Pasadena, California. For the community, this was indeed a focal point of immense pride and honor. The band departed for the four day, three night trip in train coaches via the Union Pacific Railroad, (some still swear that their hotel rooms in California swayed after the train ride). Meanwhile, back home in Ohio, everyone was glued to their televisions anxiously awaiting to see the band. After a fleeting glimpse and introduction, the entire performance was missed due to an orange juice commercial, needless to say that brand did not sell well in Massillon for years!

The Chicago All-Star game from Soldiers Field, a nationally televised event that pitted pro-footballs' best team against a team of college stars, became a showcase for the band for several years. A specialty show of "Marching Vs" with leg lights and black lights was impressive in the huge 100,000-seat stadium.

In the early 1960's, McDonalds wanted to sponsor the Swingsters in the famous Macy Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City. (This was before they developed their now famous "McDonalds' All American High School Band"). The only hitch with Ford was that they wanted the Massillon Band to wear "McDonalds" overlays. The final decision was that either we went as ourselves, or not at all. We watched the parade on T.V.

From the early 1940's to 1963, the main support group for the band and its projects came from the "Band Mother's Club." This diligent group that worked the concession stands as well as supported the band in all other facets expanded in 1964 to include the fathers as well and become the Massillon Band Parents.

Another innovation under "Dykae" Ford appeared in the fall of 1956 and that is the annual "Tiger Band Review," which featured the Massillon band and guested several other high school bands from the area.

Other performances during the Ford years included trips to Detroit, the Cherry Blossom Parade in Washington D.C., and literally hundreds of small festivals throughout the state. At one such festival, the Corn Festival, the townspeople wanted the band to do a field show at their high school stadium after the parade. But one look at the knee-high grass ended the possibility. Much to the Massillon Band's amazement, the local people gathered with their lawn mowers and cleared the field, and the impromtu performance went on!

Orin Ford maintained the quality of his concert program and enjoyed a great feeder system at the junior high levels. He continued with Bird's practice of bringing in musicians to do workshops with the band and concerts. Ford established the policy of not performing for any political rallies or campaign (still adhered to today). He also would perform several times throughout his career with the choir, the usual selection would be the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" and the combination would be yet another favorite of the football crowd.

In 1968, after 22 years in the limelight, Orin Ford changed gears and took an administration job with one of the junior highs. There is no doubt that George Bird's program was "carried on" and established as a national institution under "Dykae" Ford!

In August of 1968, the immensely popular Robert Hofstetter arrived and picked up where Ford left off. After 19 seasons at the helm of the all-brass Barberton Magics band, Mr. Hofstetter was well capable and familiar with the demands. He continued with the use of props now built and designed by former bandsman, John Smith, and his majorettes were coached for two years by Bergdorf before Shirley McCauley took over.

Robert Hofstetter (1968-1969)

Robert Hofstetter

Although the band executed and marched as precise as ever, it suffered from the marching band packaging "system" of the late '60s. In other words, Mr. Hofstetter prescribed to the "patterns in motion" and many "Bill Moffet" arrangements, which were quality in themselves, but massed produced and it became not uncommon to see many other bands doing and playing identical routines.

"Mr. H." however, did come up with his share of originals. No one will forget the night "Obie" made his singing debut with "Tiptoe Through the Tulips," or when the band saluted the space program with "Fly Me to the Moon," (the latter memorable mostly for the giant spaceship that didn't quite make it off the ground when the guide wire got caught on several plumes), or his 1969 version of "The Horse" during which each rank "did its own thing" during a drum chorus. Another interesting show featured a "rock band" composed of band members playing guitars and a trap drum set.

A highlight of the 1969 season was a combined performance with the Jackson High School Marching Polar Bears for a Cleveland Browns game, this effort produced a band of over 200, unique at that time.

During the summer of 1968, the Obie face used on the bass drum heads grew legs, arms, and a body and picked up a tuba and became the official caricature of the Tiger Swing Band. This artwork was done by Esther Carter Wenzel, a band alumni who was then active in the band parents.

Also during the Hofstetter tenure, the cloth towel calendar would debut and' remain a popular item for sale. The band uniform, which had consisted of an orange jacket with tail and black backing fronted with a block "M" on a white overlay and completed with white pants with strip. During his final year of 1969-70, funds were raised for a new uniform of black pants with strip, an orange jacket with black backing and a multiple front of three choices of looks; one was black with brass buttons and miniature Obie with Tuba, one was orange with English block "M," and the third was white with a full length Obie with Tuba.

Unfortunately for "Mr. H.," he would not see his band in these new uniforms. For whatever the reasons, he was caught up in "the times" which saw a housecleaning in the Massillon City Schools of a football coach in '69, and a principal of W.H.S., superintendent of schools, and a band director in 1970. He was very popular with the adults and his kids remained fiercely loyal to him, flooded the newspaper with letters of protest, but no avail. Mr. Hofstetter went on to Lodi Cloverleaf as band director.

Many changes were to befall the Tiger Swing Band with the arrival of James Billingsiey in 1970. Not necessarily because he wanted to, but he literally had to. For whatever the reason, the band director's office at Washington High School had been cleaned out and Billingsiey had to start from scratch with the opening routine. Gone were the slots with the band marking time prior to field entry and new were the dual turnarounds. Gone was the traditional fanfare and new was a moving down field fanfare entitled the "Cotton Bowl Fanfare." Added to Tiger Rag was a trombone chorus where there used to be just clarinet chorus. Gone were the props and new was the idea of continuing for the duration of the show. And how was this met? Skeptical by band alumni is an understatement, but well received by the Tiger faithful!

James Billingsley (1970 - 1980)

James Billingsley

"Mr. B," was no stranger to the show band ways, he had taken both his Saegertown, Pennsylvania and Oberlin, Ohio bands to the same Chicago All-Star game that our own band had been so proud of participating in. He was educated at DePauw University and received his masters from Indiana State University. While in the service in World War II, he received both the Purple Heart and the Silver Star. Jim Billingsiey first saw the Massillon band while growing up in Erie, Pennsylvania and he knew that someday he wanted to be here.

The 1970 Edition continued to be both familiar and different. The routines were full of intricate dance steps, shuffles, and slashes with the continuous motion themes. After the McKinley game, the band took to the field that year for their usual post game parade across the gridiron to Tiger Rag when just in time for the growls, the band went into a No. I formation much to the pleasure of the crowd, and it was evident that Mr. Billingsiey had survived his first year.

The 1971 band saw a rank of eight fiberglass tubas replace the brass ones and a return of Bird's Fanfare in a standing formation. Tiger Rag now sported diagonal marching and musical highlights included an outstanding rendition of "Block Band Jazz" for the pro football Hall of Fame game. "A Taste of Honey" and "25 or 6 to 4" were other favorites that marked the band's return to performance distinction. This year also concluded Bernie Harmelink's stint as the "Voice of the Tiger Band," a position held for some 25 years. Fred Berens would become the next "voice."

The 1972 band enjoyed a surprise encore performance after the Upper Arlington game. In addition to its half time, the band took to the field and gave an entire show after the game and the tune, The Beat Goes On. In November, Hudson Parade in Detroit.

It was during these early years that the band developed a sense of brotherhood with the Cuyahoga Falls Black Tiger Band. We would start a string of exchanges to each other at band shows that would continue for nearly 20 years.

The 1973 Edition found itself on the first trip in several years as it traveled in the spring of 1974 to the Tulip Festival in Holland, Michigan.

The early '70s saw the band grow from its standard 84 pieces of the '60s to bands of 128 to 144 to the peak of 170 in the mid decade. The majorettes would change numbers as well. Long gone were the days of just four majorettes, the standard of eight would eventually go as high as 14 before coming back down. More changes found the percussion and tuba ranks donning orange "tarns" on their heads and the majorettes' outfits alternating to other styles and colors along with the traditional white satin.

The 1974 Edition of the Tiger Swing Band arrived at another hallmark performance when it took to the streets of New York City and Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Its dancing and constant motion to the Sounds of Philadelphia impressed parade emcee David Hartman to acclaim the band as "the greatest high school band in the nation" on national television.

In 1976, a similar response was received, again on national T.V. at the Gimbel's Thanksgiving Day Parade and this time the band was playing Tiger Rag.

Under Mr. Billingsiey, the band had started taking trips yearly. The spring of '76 found the swingsters at the "Cherry Blossom Parade" in Washington D.C., the fall of '76 in Philadelphia, and the spring of '78 at the Indianapolis 500 Festival parade. Professional football games became a regular for the band as well. In addition to almost yearly performances in Cleveland for the Browns and in Pittsburg for the Steelers. Other occasional shows included Buffalo, Cincinnati, and Detroit. In addition to our own yearly band show, the band was in heavy demand at many, many area shows.

In a rare coincident, the 1976 band found itself in a battle of the bands when at the Steubenville game, the Big Red Band and ours both did the theme from Swat. The crowd was into it and pressure was on, and when the smoke cleared, we won.

For 1977, Bob Wenzel became the "away" announcer and Fred Berens continued to announce at home events.

The 1977 Tiger Swing Band marked its 40th year with a huge birthday cake and the first of what was to become known as the "big show" - the Disney Spectacular! All of the bandsmen wore Mickey Mouse ears and some dressed as certain characters, and many of Walt Disney's favorite songs were enacted across the field.

New uniforms were to debut in 1978. Full orange jacket with the Tuba Obie on the back, a white front with small block "M" and half sash, and black pants.
The annual "spectaculars" would become a heavily anticipated event and were usually put on against whoever was considered the toughest competition of the visiting bands during the football season. The 1978 "Big Show" would be the "Circus," in 1979, "The Wizard of 0Z," for 1980, "Cartoon Favorites," each having lots of specialty numbers, costumes, balloons, and fireworks! The other bands never had a chance.

For the 1978 McKinley game, Mr. Billingsiey produced a somewhat surprising theme show with his "Sounds of Christmas." The medley of Christmas songs used in the annual city merchants parade was used as a down field drill topped off with the "March of the Toy Soldier." The show was a hit!

It was also this same 41st Edition of the swingsters that did a salute to "Elvis" complete with taps. Then etched its spot in history as the first edition to compete in the ever increasingly popular band competitions. "Corps" style bands were becoming the critically accepted trend and many participating bands sought to spend their money on trips that would take them to competitions throughout the country. So, in the spring of 1979, the Tiger Swing Band strutted and promoted its style amist the heart of "Corps country," the deep South, Atlanta, Georgia. The band would take first place in their class and the majorettes were awarded the outstanding line trophy.

The 1979-80 group would have the distinction as becoming the internationally known Tiger Swing Band for they would travel to England. The little street shows and soccer field performances came off without a hitch, but when it came time to perform at the Harrogate International Music Festival inside a hall on a stage, nerves were a flutter and thoughts of "What are we doing here?" came to mind. The band was on the same program as chamber choirs, orchestras and various ensembles. So how was our Tiger Rag received? With whistles, foot stomping and cry of "Morel Morel" The Yanks were a hit, again.

The 1980 Edition would be Mr. Billingsiey's final one as his health was catching up to him after years of standing in front of bands, his hearing was failing. This group took a Broadway hit in "One" and stretched a "Tiger town Chorus Line" from goal line to goal line. What better way to cap off "Mr. B's" musical career then in the spring of "81, during a tour of Virginia, playing on the steps of the Capitol in Washington, D.C. and playing for President Carter in Columbus.

The band survived Billingsiey's changes and grew in acclaim with their travels. His innovations such as the "Dump M" in pre game and having a band large enough to spell out "MASSILLON" will be remembered. It was also during his tenure that the W.H.S. Jazz Ensemble was formed and took off under Assistant Director, Ric Tissot, and the fledgling "Alumni Band" first took to the field (1973). He was funny, creative, sometimes a little "off the wall" but always genuinely cared for his swingsters.

A 1973 graduate of W.H.S., Ric Tissot would become the first alumni to head the band. A graduate of the University of Akron, . "Mr. T" worked along side of Mr. Billingsiey first as an associate director, then as an assistant in 1977. Mr. Tissot would continue using the themes of "Continuous motion," "Spectacular shows," and throw in a modified corps style, blending it with traditional show band themes.

Rick Tissot

Rick Tissot (1981-1989)

The 1981-82 band again took to the field of competition at the "Great American Music Festival" in Orlando, Florida and received an Excellent rating. More impressive than the competition was the crowd that gathered at Oscala High one evening just to watch the practice. The judges were looking for points; the crowd was entertained! A romp through Disney World finished off the trip.

At this point another first, from 1981 to 1983. In addition to Tissot, majorette instructor McCauley and announcer Wenzel, Chris Smith joined as the assistant director and the top four posts were filled with Washington High grads.

The 1982-83 Edition perfected the "Power Block" formation with a rousing rendition of "It Don't Mean a Thing if it Ain't Got That Swing." During the football season, which lead to the state championship game in Columbus, the "Eye of the Tiger" was adopted as a new school song. In the spring of 1983, Tissot entered the band into the "Festival of the Bahamas" marking the second international performance. Using the Massillon competition show of "Tocata," "Pagliacci," and "March of the Toy Soldier," the swingsters received a Silver Medal rating.

New York City and the St. Patrick Day Parade before a million spectators was the highlight for the 1983-84 contingent. The day was chilly and the seven high school bands ahead of Massillon all played the somber, "Danny Boy." When the swinging Tiger Band hit it in front of St. Patrick's Cathedral, they got the Irish cheering again with a rousing version of "MacNamara's Band."

January 1, 1985 found Ohio's Ambassadors of Music in Dallas, Texas for the nationally televised "Cotton Bowl Parade."

A planned trip through Europe in 1986 was thwarted because of international unrest and the troupe ended up in Southern California for several performances including Disneyland, making them perhaps the only band to have marched in both American Disney theme parks. (There's one in Japan and soon one in France).
At the conclusion of the 1985-86 season, Shirley McCauley ended her 17-year association as the majorette instructor, nurse, part-time mother, taxi, referee, and friend to the hundreds of girls that performed for her. Shirley and her husband Lee were some of the best community advocates a band could have, going to bat many times when community support was uncertain during lean years in the Massillon football program. To replace Shirley was yet another alumni, Mrs. Linda Dobbins.

Once again in 1987, Director Tissot was set to invade the deep South and another competition. Using the Massillon competition show with some alterations, the band received a Superior rating for both show and parade, and the majorettes were also judged as Outstanding Line. To say that the Tiger Swing Band and staff were absolutely thrilled over this is no joke! The next day they lead the way for the Walt Disney World Electric Light Parade and lit up the park with that Tiger Rag. Anyone there from Ohio was in instant association with us as even workers in the park marvelled at this mere high school band. It was another hallmark trip.

Director Tissot has a unique ability to come up with the right show at the right time. The band has been an established crowd pleaser, but when at our own band review show in 1986, the swingsters performed the theme from St. Elmo's Fire with the power block formation, even the other bands knew that we were something else. Dance band? In '87 we walked like an Egyptian to "Walk Like an Egyptian," and in '88, we did the "Grapevine" with a Russian kick-dance to "Those Were the Days, My Friend." Making an entrance? This has been perfected under "Mr. T" whether it is a band show or a Tiger game. The Tiger Swing Band graciously moves in and takes over the stadium. Once, when the band was the guest of the Ohio University Marching Band and performed for a Halloween-weekend football crowd, they were unceremoniously booed when they tried to line up for the half time performance. But from the first snap-turn of the slots to the high-kicking finale of New York, New York, the Massillon Swing Band was given thunderous standing ovations from one of the hardest crowds to please, a college crowd! (1981)

The 50th Anniversary Show is still a fresh memory for us. The block-busting sound of a 200 piece band doing the Fanfare and opening routine, the cracking of the fireworks, the pagentry of the white balloons floating skyward, the applause, oh the applause! The stuff legends are made of!

The spring of 1989 found the Massillon Tiger Swing Band on its farthest journey from home, the Hawaiian Islands. Once again, Ohians were all claiming us as their own, and local newscasts per-empted their plans for us because we were "The News." The 26th annual Merrie Monarch Parade was made even merrier!
The "Deep South" would again become the focus point of a band trip as the 1989 crew took to downtown Atlanta for the Annual Peach Bowl Parade and then performed in mass with several other high school bands at the Peach Bowl game. During practices for this event, other directors chided Mr. Tissot for the band's horn swinging and body movements, often telling him that they were "out of place" - however, the main director of the mass performance interrupted the rehersal and over the public address system complimented "that band over there (Massillon's)" for it's enthusiasm! This trip was capped off royally when the band was one of only three to receive “highest honors" for their parade performance.

In March of 1990, Mr. Tissot resigned as the director. Later it would come to light that it was a "forced" resignation due to a lack of confidence In the direction the band was headed as expressed by the Massillon Board of Education. The Tissot era would be best summed up as and remembered for its fun and enthusiasm.

Clarence Crum (1990)

Clarence Crum

When Clarence Crum took over the reigns as the W.H.S. band leader, he brought with him an impressive resume from neighboring Fairless high school. Mr. Crum first saw the Swingsters perform when he was in high school and knew he was witnessing one of the best!

That was 1973, now in 1990, he found himself at the helm of the "Eye of the Tiger" which quickly transformed Into the eye of a hurricane! A disgruntled band of adults were trying to get Mr. Tissot reinstated admidst little, if any, community support. While everything that Mr. Crum did was based on sound educational practices, he was constantly criticized.

He eased some of the passages of "Tiger Rag" simply because the majority could not play them. He worked on music and simplified the marching routines so that the students could learn to play. He was definitely a disciplinarian. In spite of it all, the band was received with a standing ovation at the Wayne High band show in Toledo, did a memorable and moving version of “Wind Beneath My Wings” with yellow ribbons donning the various instruments honoring the Desert Storm compaign and performed the first full halftime show to the East stands to an appreciative crowd of Tiger faithful.

The Editor of the Massillon Evening Independent would call it the culmination of a "six month temper tantrum", others would refer to the tying of an airplane over Tiger Stadium during the 1990 McKinley game as the worse thing they had ever witnessed the trailing banner calling to "Save Our Swingsters". Mr. Crum would just call it ''quits" after only a year.

The year of the "Black Eye of the Tiger" would end with the Board's official nonrecognition of the Massillon Tiger Swing Band Parents, Inc. The staff had witnessed too many confrontations between the officers of the organization and the directors, indeed, the parents failure to clean their own house of those who sought to interfere would ultimately bring about the end to the greatest high school band booster club in the nation.

Chris Smith (1991-1999)

Chris Smith

The "Tradition Continues" is the theme for 1991 as Swingster alumni Chris Smith takes on the challenge of directing this storied institution. With a new booster club in tow and sporting new fall and summer uniforms, and the first full four class city high school, the 54th. Edition of the Tiger Swing Band is ready to move onwards and upwards towards the 21st Century with new inovations and exciting themes built on the now age-old traditions of dediction and commitment. Mr. Smith moved into an administration position with in the Massillon City School District.

Kristy May (2000-2001)

Scott & Kristy May

Chris Smith (2002-2003)

Chris Smith

In 2002, Mr. Smith returns to take the reins of the band after the resignation of the Mays.

Dana Hire (2004-2005)

Dana Hire

... and yes Mr. Bird, every time we take to the field, it's still "Show Time!"

Jason Neel (2006-present)

Jason Neel

Jason Neel has been head director of the Massillon Tiger Swing Band since 2006.

As a 1994 graduate of GlenOak High School, he was a member of the Golden Eagle marching, jazz, and symphonic bands.

Mr. Neel attended The Ohio State University and marched with the OSU Marching Band for four years (1994-1997). He was also a member of the OSU concert band, symphony orchestra and jazz ensemble. He earned his Bachelor of Music Education degree and had been a band director in the Green Local School District for 8 years before coming to Massillon.

While attending Ohio State, he worked two summer internships under director Chris Smith, gaining valuable insight into the Greatest Show in High School Football.