Agoura Band Helps Hail the Former Chief

Times Staff Writer

Former President Ronald Reagan probably wasn’t humming “California Here I Come” when the last strains of “Hail to the Chief” faded Friday and he departed Washington with a round of emotional goodbys.

But a group of Agoura teen-agers helped make certain Reagan heard the California tune after he arrived in Los Angeles to start his retirement.

The Agoura High School band got last-minute marching orders to help welcome Reagan back to California by serenading him with the tune and several other songs in welcoming ceremonies as he and his wife, Nancy, arrived at Los Angeles International Airport. Also on hand were the USC Marching Band, a Salvation Army band and a Mexican-style mariachi band.


The 100 excited musicians, flag twirlers and pompon girls hastily learned on Thursday afternoon and Friday morning how to perform the Marine and Navy hymns and the “Eagle Squadron Parade March.”

They said the fact that Reagan once owned a ranch a few miles from their school had nothing to do with their invitation; neither was the fact that Reagan started his political career by winning a post on the soil conservation district that serves the Agoura area.

It turned out that a coordinator of the welcoming ceremonies, producer Jerry Naylor, lives in Agoura and has heard the band play, said Agoura High bandmaster John Mosley.

“It was a unique situation,” Mosley said. “They were going to just have college bands, but somebody said, ‘Why not have a high school band?’ ” The invitation was extended Sunday, he said, but the band did not receive a music list until Thursday.

Naylor, a former rock ‘n’ roller who became the lead singer of The Crickets after Buddy Holly died in a 1959 plane crash, is a veteran Republican Party campaign worker.

About 700 invited guests attended the airport reception. After meeting with Mayor Tom Bradley, actor Robert Stack and others, the Reagans where whisked by motorcade to their new home in exclusive Bel-Air.

“It has been a bittersweet several hours this day,” Reagan told the crowd.

Before landing, Reagan told reporters aboard an Air Force plane that “it was hard to say goodby” after eight years as president.

It wasn’t hard for the USC band to say goodby to the Agoura High Band after the ceremonies, however. USC musicians were jolted when the Agoura band played its fight song--which also happens to be the UCLA fight song.