Larry Harmon, entertainment pioneer and former three time drum major, passed away on July 3, 2008, at the age of 83 from congenital heart failure.
Harmon was best known for his reinvention, portrayal and licensing of the beloved children’s character Bozo the Clown.
As a young boy in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, Harmon dreamed of becoming drum major at the University of Southern California. Against all odds, he insisted he be allowed to audition as a freshman with a broken leg for high school drum major and was selected. After being drafted in World War II, his persistence got him a job as drum major of the U.S. Army Cavalry Division Band, which never had a drum major before him.
After the war, Harmon ended up at USC and followed the band director around, begging for a drum major audition, though he was only a freshman. The director finally conceded and allowed him to audition.
Harmon created an elaborate setup that involved the band surrounding him as he threw his baton over the goal post, caught it, then gave the down beat to the fight song and marched them across the field. “It was one of the greatest moments of my life,” he said. “The baton went up so high, you couldn’t even see it in the sun.”
Bozo has brought joy and laughter to millions of people over the years, yet Harmon still credits his time in band as the most important thing in his life.
“Music’s been a big part of my life, maybe the biggest part,” Harmon says. “Everything in my life, including Bozo, stems from my love of music.”
Harmon is survived by his wife Susan and his four children. Halftime Magazine and the marching community remember him fondly, and he will be greatly missed.
Harmon was featured in the May/June 2008 issue of Halftime Magazine in the story “Life After Band: Famous Band Alumni.” To read the article, click here.