1. University of Arizona Symphonic Marching Band (Super Bowl I)
College marching bands, not big-time musical acts, headlined the first Super Bowl halftime shows. At Super Bowl I in Los Angeles, the University of Arizona Symphonic Marching Band performed “a musical visit to the four corners of the United States”—albeit one kicked off with a tune evocative of the Alps, the title song of “The Sound of Music”—as they formed American icons such as the Liberty Bell, complete with its crack. The Grambling State University Marching Band joined along to form an outline of the United States while members of the Anaheim High School Drill Team—dressed in colonial wigs, tricorn hats, frock coats and white boots—dotted the map with banners emblazoned with team names and logos.
2. Battle of New Orleans (Super Bowl IV)
Organizers of the first Super Bowl held in New Orleans brought local color to a halftime show that featured Southern belles promenading on a paddleboat, a Mardi Gras parade and a re-enactment of the biggest American victory over the British in the War of 1812. The Redcoats, who took the field as 7-point favorites, exchanged musket fire with a motley collection of American troops and frontiersmen. Fallen soldiers were strewn across the gridiron as the Southern University Marching Band high-stepped over the wounded. Not all went as planned, however. The roaring cannons were so loud that it spooked General Andrew Jackson’s white stallion, who bolted toward the exits rather than at the enemy, and as the thick blanket of smoke dissipated, it appeared that the British had altered history by winning the battle.
3. Anita Bryant (Super Bowl V)
When the National Football League (NFL) finally recruited star power for the Super Bowl halftime show, it came up with Anita Bryant, a former Miss Oklahoma who had a handful of Top 40 hits in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Introduced as “the voice of America,” the Florida orange juice spokeswoman belted out “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” atop a towering stage that looked like a lime green Jell-O mold. The NFL didn’t totally kick the marching band habit, however, as the band from Southeast Missouri State performed alongside Bryant.
4. Carol Channing (Super Bowl VI)
Broadway and the NFL may seem like strange bedfellows, but the league turned to the Great White Way for one of the headliners of the Super Bowl VI halftime show, which saluted the late Louis Armstrong. Dressed in a bright white coat that matched the color of her hair, Carol Channing rode onto the field on a float while belting out “Hello, Dolly!” in her distinctive throaty voice. Jazz legends Ella Fitzgerald and Al Hirt also joined in the performance.
5. Up with People (Super Bowls X, XIV, XVI, XX)
Along with the Pittsburgh Steelers and San Francisco 49ers, Up with People was a Super Bowl dynasty in the 1970s and 1980s. The group of clean-cut teens and twenty-somethings headlined four halftime shows in an 11-year span, essentially becoming the Super Bowl’s house band. With hundreds of performers from dozens of countries, the aggressively happy group looked like a walking toothpaste ad with just a slight cult-like whiff that led them to be easily parodied, including on “The Simpsons.” Up with People sang sanitized medleys honoring themes such as Motown, the big-band era and the American bicentennial along with their signature theme song that included the lines: “Up, up with people. You meet them wherever you go. Up, up with people. They’re the best kind of folks we know.” According to Bleacher Report, NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle, like most of America, had his fill of the group by 1986, commenting after their Super Bowl XX performance, “I never want to see Up with People again.”
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6. The New Mouseketeers (Super Bowl XI)
The Super Bowl halftime show became a Mickey Mouse operation when the NFL turned to the only outfit that could make Up with People seem edgy—Walt Disney Productions. With a theme of “peace, joy and love,” the Super Bowl XI halftime show opened with the 250-piece Los Angeles All-City Marching Band striking up “It’s a Small World.” Disney used the show to introduce the members of its newly revived Mickey Mouse Club. Wearing their mouse ears, the new cast waved to the crowd as Mickey Mouse-shaped balloons soared to the skies and vocalists wearing sweater vests emblazoned with images of the cartoon rodent sang the familiar “Mickey Mouse Club March.”
7. Elvis Presto (Super Bowl XXIII)
In search of some hocus-pocus to revive the halftime show’s flagging fortunes, the NFL turned in 1989 to an “elaborate music and magic spectacular” in what was billed as the first 3-D network television broadcast. Millions of Americans donned special 3-D glasses that were included in Coca-Cola products to watch an Elvis Presley impersonator perform an audience-participation card trick while lip-syncing tunes from the 1950s. Former “Solid Gold” dancer Alex Cole, who played the part of the heavily sequined Elvis Presto, got the starring role just three days before the big game when the original lead dropped out after being cast in a jeans commercial. It turned out, though, that the real magician of Super Bowl XXIII wasn’t Elvis Presto but 49ers quarterback Joe Montana who led his team to a last-minute comeback victory.
8. Dorothy Hamill and Brian Boitano (Super Bowl XXVI)
When the Super Bowl came to Minneapolis for the first time, the NFL threw a “Winter Magic” festival at halftime. The crowd inside the climate-controlled Metrodome, comfortably protected from the weather they were celebrating, was serenaded by a medley of songs including “Winter Wonderland” and a rap number with kids in MC Hammer-inspired parachute pants busting rhymes in honor of Frosty the Snowman. With the 1992 Winter Olympics only weeks away, the show featured the 1980 gold medal-winning U.S. hockey team holding pyrotechnic torches while Olympic figure skating champions Dorothy Hamill and Brian Boitano twirled and spun on faux snowflake-shaped rinks before riding away on snowmobiles. The show came to an incongruent climax with Gloria Estefan, a singer associated with more tropical climates as a member of the Miami Sound Machine.
9. Indiana Jones (Super Bowl XXIX)
“I got a bad feeling about this,” muttered Indiana Jones at the start of Disney’s Super Bowl XXIX halftime show. Turns out Indy’s instincts were correct. Intended to promote the opening of a new Indiana Jones attraction at Disneyland, the elaborate stage show opened with stunt actors portraying the whip-wielding archaeologist and sidekick Marion Ravenwood parachuting into Miami’s Joe Robbie Stadium to storm the Temple of the Forbidden Eye, where a primitive tribe had absconded with the NFL’s Vince Lombardi Trophy. After fighting the natives, setting a tribesmen on fire and recovering the trophy, the heroes find themselves—naturally—in a nightclub where Tony Bennett is performing. After Indiana Jones pledged to give the trophy to the Super Bowl winner, Patti LaBelle, dressed as a high priestess, responded, “Well, that’s the right attitude, baby,” before launching into her hit “New Attitude” and a duet of “Can You Feel The Love Tonight,” from the 1994 Disney animated film “The Lion King,” with Bennett.
10. Jim Belushi (Super Bowl XXXI)
Fifteen years after the death of John Belushi, the Blues Brothers headlined the Super Bowl with a show that began with real “fake news”—a faux Fox News Channel special report announcing that Elwood Blues had escaped from prison to perform in New Orleans. Belushi’s brother Jim handled the lead vocals alongside actors Dan Aykroyd and John Goodman in trademark black fedoras, suits and sunglasses. Not even the appearance of James Brown, the “Godfather of Soul” himself, could save the widely panned performance that was more comparable to the “Blues Brothers 2000” than “The Blues Brothers.”