There are many bands in the world and the Hardin-Simmons University Cowboy Band is one of the most unique. It acquired the name "World Famous" after its European tour in 1930. Since then, it has performed in 40 states, eight capitals of the world, eleven foreign countries, and as far north as ten miles from the artic circle.
Marion B. McClure was the dreamer, designer, drummer, and driver to fulfill the opportunities available for a small Baptist university from west Texas. "Prof" was born in Sayre, Oklahoma on July 16, 1909. His family moved to Amarillo and Marion took up the drums, eventually leaving high school to go on the road. His father set down some very strict rules and Marion returned to attend West Texas Teachers Academy in 1928, but the "call of the road" prevailed. Leaving, to once again become a "roadie", Marion stopped in Abilene to see a friend. He attended one rehearsal as a spectator, and became a college student so he could play in D.O. Wiley's Cowboy Band. His entrance exam was verbal ... One question!
After graduation in 1933, he taught band in Albany one year, and then returned to Hardin-Simmons as Director of the Cowboy Band for 40 years. On May 30, 1942, "Prof" McClure enlisted in the armed forces, reporting to Camp Wolters at Mineral Wells, Texas, for basic training. From there he was sent to Officers' Candidate School at Fort Benning, Georgia, where he was commissioned January 11, 1943, and immediately sent to Guadalcanal as music officer in the Special Service Division, American Service Forces. The war brought other changes to the Cowboy Band. With "Prof" leaving for the army, the band was without a director. Merle Evans, band director of the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus, was selected as interim director for the Cowboy Band, but with enrollment down because of the war, Evans stayed only seven months, and the Cowboy Band discontinued operations for the duration of the war. Captain Marion B. McClure returned to the Hardin-Simmons campus March 7, 1946, after 31 months in the southwest Pacific. "Prof" finished his Master of Music degree the summer of '46 at Vandercook School of Music in Chicago, and in September 1946, was named director of university bands.
The Cowboy Band traveled extensively playing for American Legion, Jaycees, and V.F.W. national conventions. The band is known to rodeo fans all over the United States, and they have also participated in five presidential inaugural parades; Hoover, Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Nixon, and Carter.
Many band directors and professional musicians played under "Prof" McClure including Francis McBeth, Clarence Gates, Bryan Shelburne, Jack Grogan, Pat Patterson, Dub Crain, James Mallow, Bill Woods, and Don Hanna. TBA selected "Prof" Bandmaster of the Year in 1971.
Marion B. McClure died on June 20, 1973. He is survived by his wife, Dorothy Mae McClure, who wrote a book detailing the Cowboy Band from 1923 to 1973, and a son, Bill, of Dallas.