Where Are They Now?: Catching Up with Doug Cheney
By Brad McDavid
Aside from Ralph Mutchler, no one has arranged more tunes for the Husky Band over the years than former HMB Assistant Director Doug Cheney. However, what most people don’t know is that Doug was arranging music for the Husky Band as well as many other university marching bands long before he became an assistant to former director Bill Bissell from 1988-91 and the man who will forever be known in Husky Band lore as the arranger of such popular HMB versions of Everybody’s Everything, Louie-Louie, Celebration and Vict’ry for Washington II. With the help of current arranger, Alec Wilmart, I tracked down Doug and found out what he’s been up to since his years here in Seattle. I’m sure all of you will enjoy catching up with him as much as I did.
Q: When did you first begin arranging for bands?
A: I started arranging for band when I was in high school in the late '60s. Back then there weren't computer programs to spit back arranging attempts in order to learn the skills needed to be successful. You learned by trial and error, getting someone to play your stuff (generally your own band) and listening to recordings and studying scoring/composition techniques of the best arrangers of that era (i.e., University of Houston Director Bill Moffitt and University of Michigan Arranger Jerry Bilik).
I continued through undergrad at Michigan State and had several arrangements played by the Spartan Brass basketball band. I wrote arrangements during my first three years as a high school director in Michigan and was granted a two-year graduate assistantship at Wichita State University
in 1975 writing an average of 40 tunes a season for marching band, pep band and concert band, while learning traditional drill writing from one the best Cassavant step-two, block drill writers of
the time, Dave Catron. I really had the marching band bug! Dave Catron was at Wichita State but returned to Michigan State as associate director (he had been marching band director during my undergrad days) and I wrote for him at MSU as principal arranger starting in 1979 and continued writing for MSU through the 1999 season. My last count was around 250 titles there.
Q: When did you first begin arranging music for the Husky Band?
A: My folks moved to Seattle in the early '70s and in the summer of 1980 I knocked on Bill Bissell's office door (an old quonset-style barracks building behind the Husky Stadium affectionately known as "the shack") with a briefcase full of arrangements I'd written for my own high school bands including some I had done for Wichita State and Michigan State. I guess he liked what he saw because I immediately started writing for the band that summer. The first tune I ever arranged specifically for the HMB was Louie-Louie which I brought him the next day after our initial meeting
on penciled-in score paper.
Q: How was it that you came to write Everybody’s Everything for the Husky Band?
A: Actually, I wrote Everybody's Everything for a very large high school band program I directed
in Michigan and had the score in the briefcase when I first met Bill Bissell. I also had a tape of it
from one of the halftime shows I had written previously for my high school. We marched 180 and they played very well with a big sound. Bill bought it from me on the spot along with Celebration, which I had written several seasons earlier for Michigan State. My agreement with MSU was that I could sell any of my arrangements after they played them first. Most of the bands I wrote for in those days (eight universities in all) followed that same professional courtesy. Hence started my connection with UW!
Q: Since you had already been arranging music for the Husky Band, how was it that you came
to ultimately become the band’s assistant director under Bill Bissell?
A: Mike Lude (UW athletic director at the time) came to Orlando, in May 1988 as NCAA Bowl selection committee chairman to oversee the Citrus Bowl. After I had already turned Bill Bissell down twice to be his assistant, he called me again to set up a meeting at the Orlando International Airport with Mr. Lude to discuss being the new assistant director. Mr. Lude talked about what he wanted as an assistant director of the Husky Marching Band which was, as he put it, to help Bill spice up the look and sound of the band. Mike convinced me to fly out to Seattle on his dime. I met with Bill, visited my folks and rest of the UW gig was history!
Q: What are some of your fondest memories from your years as assistant director of the HMB?
A: Mike Lude was a great mentor, a consummate professional and a true "leader" in every aspect of the word during my stay at the UW (and even after his retirement). My best memories of my stay at the University of Washington come from the support for my work he gave, his administration of a great athletic department, and his TOTAL package concept, which included the Husky Band as the entertainment part of the formula, my experiences as part of the band’s travel throughout the PAC-10, and of course being a part (if only a small part) of a big-time winning college football program! The Husky Band and the high levels of intelligence and character of the students in it are also very much a part of my best memories.The music rehearsals, teaching them new and different drill concepts and being a part of their high energy and enthusiasm for performance was also a real high point in my career. (It should be noted that Doug says he still has "mixed emotions" regarding his vivid memoriesof rehearsing in the rain on "Pneumonia Flats.")
Doug Cheney resides in Ocala, Fla., with his wife Bette, and is looking forward to his impending retirement from a 35-year band directing career. Doug spends his spare time doing lawn work and gardening around the house, along with cruise-ship and time-share travelling (favorites are the Bahamas, the Caribbean and Mexico), golfing and riding his Harley with Bette to the coast to enjoy the Florida beaches. Doug’s parting words—"Go DAWGS!"