Big MO is the newest addition to the Missouri Student Unions collection of art and Mizzou artifacts! After a long career on the Mizzou football field, Big MO has retired above the Student Center entrance by Mort's Cafe:
Big MO, 1981, 72” bass drum, Graciously donated by Marching Mizzou (originally donated to MU by the Mizzou Tiger Club - St. Louis).
A loud and proud tradition at Mizzou from 1981 through today, the Big MO bass drum merrily and raucously signals MU touchdowns at football games. Before coming to MU, the inaugural Big MO (1981-2011, on display here) built up a rather a lively pedigree, including carnival appearances and theatrical productions around the Chicago area. After receiving a tip about the large drum and its whereabouts, Mizzou Quarterback Club - St. Louis (now Mizzou Tiger Club - St. Louis) generously purchased it as a gift for Marching Mizzou. Standing at six-foot tall and weighing approximately 150 lbs., the original Big MO was the third largest drum in the nation at the time of its procurement.
Big MO was so large, in fact, that transporting the drum to its new home proved no easy task. Dr. Joe “Jay” Joern (alumnus, former band member, and Mizzou Quarterback Club Board Member) helped to drive the large drum from Chicago to Columbia in the back of a small pickup truck and recalls battling the wind, stopping multiple times to refasten the drum’s restraints. Happily, the trip was successful and both Dr. Joern and Ed Travis (alumnus, famed Mizzou football player, and President of the Mizzou Quarterback Club - St. Louis at the time) returned to the field to strike the giant drum at its debut, along with other several other members of the organization.
Ed Travis, famed Mizzou football player and President of the Mizzou Quarterback Club - St. Louis, wheels the giant drum out for its debut (November 1981 Missouri Alumnus, courtesy of University Archives).
In the 1980s, Big MO was cared for by Marching Mizzou and pushed around the field after touchdowns by two to three students from the band. The band leaders had initially hoped that Big MO would be part of the drum line; however, it was ultimately never used in marching formations due to its unwieldy size. By the 1990s, the expense of the drum’s upkeep became too demanding for Marching Mizzou’s limited funds, and care of Big MO was transferred to Kappa Kappa Psi and Tau Beta Sigma, honorary band-service organizations. From then on, the two organizations have paid for all needed repairs and have manned the drum with alumni during football games. Today, although the original Big MO has retired to its new home in the Student Center, the tradition continues—in 2012, the university unveiled a new 9-foot bass drum, making the new Big MO the largest college football drum in the world.
Members of Marching Mizzou relax after pushing Big MO around the field (1987 Savitar, courtesy of University Archives).
Interview with Dr. Joe “Jay” Joern conducted by author.
Missouri Alumnus, Nov. 1981 and Winter 1991.