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Grambling State University’s ‘World Famed’ band honors legendary Southern University band leader

Lawrence Jackson, longtime director of the ‘Human Jukebox,’ named honorary member

Lawrence Jackson led the creative and powerful sound of the Southern University Human Jukebox for many years as director of bands.

Whether cranking up the Human Jukebox volume during the 2013 Super Bowl or for the introduction of boxer Floyd Mayweather at Las Vegas’ MGM Grand Garden Arena for “The Fight of The Century” in 2015, Jackson established a pattern of discipline and commitment that made the Southern band what it has become today.

In an unusual gesture between rivals last Saturday night, the Grambling State University World Famed Tiger Marching Band welcomed Jackson as an honorary band director.

At Grambling State’s game against Alcorn State University, Larry Pannell, Grambling State’s director of bands, honored and inducted Jackson, his longtime friend, band and music rival.

After the pregame recognition, Jackson, a Crowley, Louisiana, native, sat with the Grambling State band during pregame, the halftime show and a special “fifth-quarter” performance as if he’d always been a part of the World Famed band. Jackson, who retired in 2014, played tuba in Southern’s band from 1971-75.

“This is classy,” Jackson said moments after the induction ceremony on the football field. “This is one classy institution.”

Jackson’s brother, Leron Jackson, a 1971-75 World Famed member, presented the retired Southern band director with an honorary black and gold Grambling State band jacket. He also received a Grambling State blanket, hat and ring. An 8-by-10-inch photo of Jackson will be placed in the Conrad Hutchinson Jr. Performing Arts Center museum along with a summary of Jackson’s historic tenure at Southern.

The two band directors may have battled during football games and the annual Battle of the Bands the night before the Bayou Classic in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome each November, but off the field, they have been friends for more than two decades.

“I felt truly blessed to have had the legendary World Famed Grambling State Tiger Marching Band see fit [to honor] somebody from the Human Jukebox marching band as an honorary band director,” Jackson said. “After all, the World Famed had a lot of firsts. They were first to be chosen to do a halftime show at the first Super Bowl ever, first HBCU band I know to play on live television with the great Dr. Conrad Hutchinson, because the Grambling Tigers were hard at work in the ’60s. So I was truly honored to be recognized.”

Leron Jackson, who lives in Dallas, said he would not have missed his brother’s special moment.

“My brother is a remarkable person because he went to Grambling, played with the Tiger band, traveled the world,” said Lawrence Jackson about Leron. “He was so glad I was able to come to his university … For him, to put the Tiger jacket on me, I think was more special to him than anything else. I was honored, but he had joy and excitement in his eyes. He was so enthused that his brother would put on the same jacket he wore for years.”

Jackson and Pannell met in 1990 at the Bayou Classic in New Orleans when both were assistant band directors at their respective schools. Throughout the years, the friends discussed much more than music: academic success, students lacking finances and preventing undercover initiations as they handled hazing.

Pannell and Jackson worked together to discuss how to put on a great Battle of the Bands show and halftime performances that were nationally televised. The two would call each other and pray for a good show. They would pray the most that they would please their fan bases.

Pannell knew he was doing something special for someone from a historic rival, but he said friendship and professionalism top what’s done on the field.

“It was a great honor to honor Jackson,” Pannell said. “A lot of the time when we do our work, at the end of your career, you’re forgotten.”

“What we try to do is honor those who have done a lot for music education,” Pannell added, “and for students who leave the band and not just to be musicians, but to be successful citizens for our country – and Lawrence Jackson meets those qualities.”