3rd generation in Bama’s Million Dollar Band
Published 1:55 am Saturday, September 19, 2015
From the time he was a baby, Wynne Wilson Glenn hoped her oldest son would be a member of the University of Alabama’s Million Dollar Band.
That family dream came true this season, when Hampton Glenn became a third-generation band member. Hampton plays the cymbals – just as his father, Shannon Glenn, did his first year at the Capstone.
The family’s history with the UA band goes back to the 1960s. Jimmy Wilson graduated from Andalusia High School in 1964 and went on to UA, where he continued to play trumpet.
Sue Bass Wilson followed after her graduation in 1965.
“I had never been in the band because it conflicted with Glee Club,” she said. “But all of my friends were in the band. I went up there and begged my way into it.
“Col. Carlton Butler was the director,” she recalled. “I had to sit on his knee and talk him in to it. I told him, ‘All of my friends are in the band; I’m majoring in music. You tell me an instrument, and I’ll learn to play anything over the summer.”
Col. Butler said he was adding “bells.” In those days, it was a glockenspiel; these days, they use a xylophone.
“I had nightmares all summer,” Mrs. Wilson said. “But those other bell players taught me everything needed to know. We opened at Legion Field in front of a crowd of 70,000. The bells were on the front row.”
Asked what she remembered most, she immediately answered, “Shorty Price.”
Price was a Louisville, Ala., attorney and a perennial political candidate. He was a fixture at Alabama football games, where he would stomp on a stuffed Tiger.
“He always came in at third quarter,” Mrs. Wilson said. “And he would always come straight to the band. He would not leave until Colonel let him direct the band in ‘Yea Alabama.’ ”
Another vivid memory is that the band was divided into groups on the field, and each group knew the formations for numbers.
“We always told the time, temperature and the half-time score during the halftime show,” she said. “People were amazed, but we knew how to do it.”
The Wilsons often took their children to UA ballgames, and most always to homecoming.
“Wynne was born in July,” Mrs. Wilson said of her daughter. “I have moving pictures of her watching the Million Dollar Band when she was just a few months old.”
Wynne Wilson Glenn graduated from AHS in 1989. Like her father, she was a trumpet player. She also auditioned and earned a spot with the band. Bill Curry was coaching the Crimson Tide, but he was soon replaced by Gene Stallings.
“We had to audition, but it wasn’t like it is now,” Mrs. Glenn said. “It’s more competitive. There are more students, and we’ve had three national championships. Enrollment has doubled, but you can’t have a 600-member band. It just can’t be that big.”
But the 90s were grand days to march with the Million Dollar Band, too.
“We travelled a lot,” she said. “We went to all the bowl games. The first year, we went to the Sugar Bowl. The next year, it was the Fiesta Bowl, which was horrible because we lost to Louisville. The third year was the Blockbuster Bowl in Miami. The fourth year was the Sugar Bowl again and we won the national championship.”
And it was on the band field that she met her husband, Shannon Glenn, who played cymbals the first year they marched together, and later bass drum.
“Shannon was two years ahead of me, but he went to a junior college first. So it was the first year for both of us,” she said.
Shannon Glenn had already graduated and was working in a bank when he stopped by band practice one Thursday afternoon.
“He had already set it up with Ms. (Kathryn) Scott,” she said. “She told him to come on up on the tower and said he had an announcement to make.
“He said, ‘Wynne, will you marry me?’ ”
After band members spontaneously played “Here Comes the Bride,” there was only one answer.
“I didn’t know what to think,” she said. “I was just totally in love.”
This year, the Wilsons and Glenns are reliving their band days through their grandson and son.
“From the beginning, I hoped that he would march,” Wynne said, “especially after my parents were in it, too. He was born in November, and he’s been going to games since the next football season, and seeing the drums.”
Mrs. Wilson said her grandson participated in band camps at UA while in high school, had to submit a video of himself playing drums, and had an audition.
“I really thought I would burst into tears last Saturday,” she said of the first time she saw her grandson march. “It was really thrilling.”
Both the Wilsons and the Glenns plan to participate in a Million Dollar Band reunion in Tuscaloosa next weekend.
Hampton also has two younger brothers, Steadman and Tucker, both of whom also are drummers. Steadman marches with the AHS Sound Tradition.