Saturday, May 09, 2009

Indianapolis Gordon Pipers: The Official Band of the Indianapolis 500

Most people think I'm weird, but I love the bagpipes. There's something about the shrill nasally tone with the wheezing background drone that just stirs my blood.

So I was really excited to bump into the Gordon Pipers, the "official band of the Indianapolis 500."

The Indianapolis 500 Gordon Pipers were started by Dr. Wallace "Doc" Gordon Diehl in 1962 and a few fellow Highlanders to have a "unrestricted civilian bagpipe band." Doc Diehl and his band were invited by Tony Hulman to perform at the 1963 Indianapolis 500, and they've been here ever since.

"We play during yellows, we play in the Parade, and on Race Day, of course," said Soupy Diehl Cardwell, Doc Diehl's daughter. "We also have four pipers in the winner's circle, one for each wheel. We play Scotland the Brave and Mary's Wedding for Mary Hulman George. It's been our tradition since 1963."

The great thing about the Indy 500 is that it's steeped in tradition. So much so, that even the band, which only makes a brief appearance, has their own traditions.

"We also have two dogs," said Soupy. "Mr. MacGregor is 4 months old — this is his rookie year — and he's a black Scottish Terrier. Dorey is the white Western Highland Terrier. We always have black and white dogs to represent the checkered flag."

See what I mean?

There are three generations of Diehls in the band. Doc Diehl still plays, Soupy, and three of Soupy's kids.

Throughout the year, the band plays in other parades and Highlander and Celtic festivals around the country, including the Minster, Ohio Oktoberfest.

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