Leckrone's Legacy at Camp Randall Stadium - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Leckrone's Legacy at Camp Randall Stadium

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MADISON (WKOW) -

Over the past 100 seasons at Camp Randall Stadium, few people have had as much of a lasting impact on the game day atmosphere as UW marching band director Mike Leckrone. After 49 years at the university, he has helped create traditions and familiar sights and sounds for Badgers fans attending a home football game.

Leckrone took over as the band director in the summer of 1969. Popular topics of conversation in the U.S. at that time were the Vietnam War and civil rights movements. Honoring a uniform of any kind wasn't an easy task during this time period. Interest in the band was at an all-time low. Where most saw a weakness, Leckrone saw opportunity.

"It wasn't a great time in our country's history to put on a uniform and march around, and that's what we were doing," said Leckrone during a sit-down interview with WKOW. "We tried to catch school spirit, and that's what we banked on. There was a school spirit here at Wisconsin that is still there," Leckrone added.

After he took over, interest in the band grew immediately, but the biggest change came with a new energizing, physical marching style he calls "Stop at the Top."  The band members point their toes, bringing their feet to a 45 degree angle. It was a new style for its day back in the 1970's that UW has perfected today.

"I noticed that I didn't get the energy that I felt I should out of the band so we put a little hesitation," said Leckrone. "As you bring the foot up and before you put it down, there is that hesitation. The stop at the top.  As I saw that happen, it sort of energized the band," Leckrone described.

Equipped with a new marching style, next came the music. Leckrone will be the first to tell you, he didn't create the popular songs played at Camp Randall Stadium, like On Wisconsin! or If You Want to be a Badger. He instead mastered how to have his band play the songs, and when to play them.

"A great Camp Randall tradition is after a touchdown, we don't play On Wisconsin, we play a tune called Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight, which predates On Wisconsin as a pep song," Leckrone described with a smile on his face. "It was originally called the Touchdown Song by locals. It's what people expect. That expectation is very important to what we do." 

Leckrone hasn't escaped Father Time completely. He had open heart surgery earlier this year, and lost his wife of 62 years, Phillys, to illness back in August. It's his other love for doing what he does, that keeps him coming back, even after 49 years.

"I don't look at what I've done as something as a completion," said Leckrone.  "There will be a point when it's complete, then maybe I can look back and say, I was pretty good in those days."

For more information of the UW Marching Band, visit their website by clicking here.

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