Who has the best band among HBCU schools?

Editor’s Note: Due to such great response to this blog, another forum has been set up. You can join the conversation by clicking here.

This is a question that I hear all the time, and it picked up more steam after last Saturday – Who has the best band among HBCU schools?

After watching FAMU and Tennessee State in the Atlanta Football Classic over the weekend, I would be hard-pressed to pick one or the other. And if you think I’m taking the easy way out by not picking someone, well ….. you are right. I’m not falling into the trap! (Although I must admit that FAM’s melody of Michael Jackson’s songs was pretty smooth).

Who has the best HBCU band?

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That’s why the Battle of the Bands is so popular. HBCU bands from all over meet up (usually in the ATL) and put it all out there for everyone to see. So, let me throw some names out there and you let me know who has the best band – and why.

This isn’t a ranking, just a list. (And you should scroll all the way to the end of the conversation to check out the most recent entry.  Folks are weighing in with some interesting choices — and that’s a good thing!)

And if you think my list is ‘out of tune’, put up your own list and feel free to rank them. It wouldn’t be the first time – or the last – that I’ve been proven wrong.

Here’s a look back at photos from last Saturday’s Classic and last Friday’s Allstate HBCU Step Showdown.


Alabama A&M Marching Maroon and White

Bethune-Cookman University Marching Wildcats

Clark Atlanta University Marching Panthers

Florida A&M Marching 100

Grambling State Tiger Marching Band

Jackson State Sonic Boom of the South

Langston University Marching Pride band

Morehouse College House of Funk

N.C. Central University Marching Sound Machine

Prairie View A&M University Marching Storm

Savannah State Coastal Empire Sound Explosion

Southern University Human Jukebox Marching Band

Tennessee State Aristocrat of Bands

Tuskegee University  Marching Crimson Piper Band

Virginia State University Trojan Explosion Marching Band

270 comments Add your comment

Miss Hip hop

October 1st, 2009
11:32 am

Morris Brown College has the best band.


October 1st, 2009
11:34 am

South Carolina State University’s Marching 101. I’m a little biased since this is my Alma Mater!!

Erik B.

October 1st, 2009
11:37 am

#1 Florida A&M University
#2 Jackson State University
#3 Bethune-Cookman University


October 1st, 2009
11:40 am

This should be interesting.

1. FLORIDA A&M MARCHING 100 – There is not other band that toaches then….
2. Bethune Cookman is good
3. Southern – Juke
4. Jackson State – Sonic Boom
5. South Carolina State University – Marching 101 even though they are not very original.

The others are just mediocre…

Cool Cash

October 1st, 2009
11:42 am

Like my daddy always said, ‘If you know and I know, why discuss it?”
Which band here is the only one to cover the WHOLE field? The Rattlers will Strike, and strike and strike again!!


October 1st, 2009
11:46 am

Morgan State

E. Brown

October 1st, 2009
11:47 am

Enter your comments here Alabama A&M Marching Maroon & White

read a book

October 1st, 2009
11:48 am

OMG. This list is far from accurate…While I agree, Southern, BCC, FAMU, AA&M, Jackson State and Gramblin belong – where in the HEEZE did these AUC schools come from? I mean for REALS?!?! Where is JCSU, Hampton, SC State and NC A&T? Wow. I cannot wait for the Battle to Begin!


October 1st, 2009
11:50 am

SOUTHERN UNIV. HUMAN JUKEBOX always on top of their game, the precision marching, the drills at halftime, and they always have some of the best arrangements!!!

BC Tigerette c/o '04

October 1st, 2009
11:50 am

I’m an alumna of an HBCU that didn’t make the list so I’m unbiased. But during my glory days, no one topped FAM, Norfolk State and Texas Southern. I will never forget when they came to Cali for the Gold Coast Classic, it was my first exposure to HBCUs and I’ve been hooked ever since. Can’t wait for the Battle in Jan!


October 1st, 2009
11:53 am

wow, times sure have changed! i was always told that the debate used to be between grambling and southern for marching band supremacy. the other schools wouldn’t even rate in the discussion.


October 1st, 2009
11:54 am

Mo Brown was good in the 80’s but I have to give it to SC State 101…good sound and good music. FAMU is over rated! Southern and Grambling and TSU are all the same!!!!!


October 1st, 2009
11:55 am

This pole is TOTALLY invalid since you do NOT have the World Famous Grambling State University Marching Band on the list!!! No contest, hands down, the VERY BEST EVER!!!

Skee Wee90

October 1st, 2009
11:56 am

I’m also an alumna of an HBCU and Florida A&M has the best band go rattlers shout out to all the graduates of 1990 and my sisters of Alpha Kappa Alpha Inc…


October 1st, 2009
11:56 am

Southern University……marching drills are spectacular !!!! Ohh, and that sound, WOW!

read a book

October 1st, 2009
11:57 am

HAHAHAHAHAHAH! Did someone actually say Morris Brown?!?!?!? HAAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAHAHAHA!


October 1st, 2009
12:01 pm

Can’t believe the Spartan Legion, NC A&T. or Howard are not mentioned but this topic is discussed ad nausem on http://www.5thquarter.com also can see and hear all of these bands there. Bands above NC get very little publicity.


October 1st, 2009
12:01 pm

SOUTHERN UNIV!!! Most on the east coast rarely get to see them, but they’re the truth!

Will J.

October 1st, 2009
12:03 pm

North Carolina Central University!


October 1st, 2009
12:04 pm

Finally a question worth posting for–no doubt about it FAMU’s Marching 100 is the best band in the land. Or should I say Marching 1000!


October 1st, 2009
12:09 pm

North Carolina Central University is the best! Nothing but the Maroon and Gray!

Leo Willingham

October 1st, 2009
12:10 pm

Glad to see so many lively, passionate responses.

LegionFannatic, who would you rank as your top five or 10?

T, who would you rank behind Grambling?


October 1st, 2009
12:10 pm

This poll is an absolute joke. I’ve been to a few classics in my day and FAMU has the best marching band HANDS DOWN!!! Who else gets invited to play during the Obama Inauguaration and Super Bowls? As Katt Williams will say, “Don’t worry….I’ll wait”


October 1st, 2009
12:20 pm


AAMU 1906

October 1st, 2009
12:23 pm

Alabama A&M University Marching Maroon and White tops all. Having the AUC bands on the list is a joke!
SU and Grambling are close along with JSU.


October 1st, 2009
12:31 pm

The Legion is in the top 5. Behold the Green and the Gold. Norfolk State Spartans

8 Wonders of the World

October 1st, 2009
12:37 pm

“Marching 100″. The most imitated band in America. The most televised band in America. The Incomparable.


October 1st, 2009
12:39 pm

Prairie View!!!!


October 1st, 2009
12:39 pm

The list has to be created by a novice of bands. From the Meac alone, you should have FAMU, BCC, NC A&T, Norfolk State and maybe SC State. TSU should rank for the independent.
Swac –Southern Jackson, Alabama A&M
ciaa—FSU, Shaw, nccu maybe


October 1st, 2009
12:40 pm

I would have to say Atlanta A & T.

(sound of crickets chirping here)


October 1st, 2009
12:47 pm

BOOOM hands down


October 1st, 2009
12:48 pm

Mo’ House all day!!!

Papa was a rollin stone!!!!


October 1st, 2009
12:50 pm

2009 Best HBCU Marching Band List

1. South Carolina State University Marching “101″ Band
2. Florida A & M University Marching “100″ Band
3. Bethune Cookman University “Marching Pride”
4. Southern University
5. Norfolk State University

Melissa Hogan

October 1st, 2009
12:56 pm

SU All the Way!!!! I’m looking at the list and I’m perplexed. Leo, what planet are you from?????:-) Your list is WAY OFF!!! Maybe you need to take a trip to the Bayou Classic!!!

Leo Willingham

October 1st, 2009
1:03 pm


I’ve been accused of being from a different planet for many years. As I mentioned earlier, this is just a list (not a ranking) and the list is in alphabetical order. And I will be in Nawlins next month!


That’s an interesting list. I wonder what others have to say about it.

Billy Ray Valentine

October 1st, 2009
1:04 pm

I thought Atlanta A&T had the baddest band in the land. No?


October 1st, 2009
1:11 pm

The Sonic Boooom……………..Jackson State……..


October 1st, 2009
1:16 pm

Easy…FAMU. They set the standard others emulate today. And their size alone is enough to overwhelm anyone else. It’s symphony when they play and the rattle march is unmatched.


October 1st, 2009
1:18 pm

You should know by my name alone that I’m reppin’ the Marching 100 (a misnomer since we have over 400 members)!!


October 1st, 2009
1:21 pm

@Miss Hip hop Morris Brown HAD the best band in like 2003

SCSU 1908

October 1st, 2009
1:26 pm

Ummmmm Hello, SCSU BULLDOG Marching 101…

They may not be first on the list, but how dare you not even make them an option…..


October 1st, 2009
1:31 pm

Hands down FLORIDA A&M MARCHING 100!!!!!!

Young Chico

October 1st, 2009
1:32 pm

Southern is the best band in the land!!!!! They don’t need to put a 1000 people on the field in order to create a full sound. As Doc Greggs would say “Often imitated, never duplicated.”


October 1st, 2009
1:37 pm

You forgot out of SWAC those marching Hornets Alabama State University


October 1st, 2009
1:42 pm

Top 15-Insert your own Number 1. These bands have their own distinct styles and sound but you can hear them CLEARLY 12 city blocks away.

150+ Big Bands
Norfolk ST

Smll Bands Sound like 150+
Morgan St
Edward Waters
TX Southern
Ala AM


October 1st, 2009
1:44 pm

Umm… Just look at the resumes’. No one mentioned above touches the accomplishments of the Florida A&M University Marching 100, nationally or internationally. Being the most sought after band in the land should be a clue for you all. From inaugurations to Super Bowls to Hollywood award shows, there is no question, argument, or debate about it. We ARE simply…the best…


October 1st, 2009
1:46 pm



October 1st, 2009
1:46 pm

@ Leo, behind Grambling I would rank FAMU, who was actually my third choice when considering where to attend. A dear friend of mine would say SC State,but nah…


October 1st, 2009
1:50 pm

Come on bruh…how do you have any discussion of best HBCU bands and leave off SC State? That is just unexcusable. To determine the BEST is subjective, but anyone who has seen them will agree they at least deserve to be in the conversation.


October 1st, 2009
1:52 pm

FAMU has the rep, but I give BCC the edge. FAMU will slack on some shows, have yet to see BCC slack anywhere at any time. Plus they do different things and moves throughout their shows…its easy to get bored with entrance, school song, dancing girls, dance routine, finish everytime. I like how BCC changes it up and “lets go wildcats” is probably the most often borrowed collegiate piece out there……….and I love to hear it played well live. By the way I went to Howard lol…so no alma mater bias there.

The Legion (NSU) is tight but I cant put them over many SWAC bands, certainly not Southern and JSU.

Ive been more and more impressed with Texas Southern….the Ocean definitely deserves to be in the discussion.

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