Here is a short history of the Indianapolis 500 Gordon Pipers/Horseshoe Pipes and Drums.
Early in 1962, Dr. Wallace Gordon Diehl and a few fellow Highlanders (John Hudgins, Bill Cochran and Bill Simpson) conceived the idea of an unrestricted civilian bagpipe band. With the assistance of columnists Lowell Nussbaum of the "Indianapolis Star" and Irvan Leibowitz of the "Indianapolis Times", the general public was notified of an organizational meeting at the Indianapolis Athletic Club. Twenty-two people attended the March 9th meeting. The evening was a very productive one. The name, Gordon Pipers, was chosen and to honor the founder and Pipe Major of the new band, it was decided that the pipers would wear the Dress Gordon tartan and the drummers would wear the Wallace tartan.
The band landed its first big performance in June of 1962 at the Hoosier Grand Prix. That performance entertained and impressed the crowd at Indianapolis Raceway Park. Tony Hulman, owner of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was in attendance that day. He enjoyed the pipes and drums so much that he invited the band to entertain for the WFBM Antique Auto Tour. In 1963 we began a 10 year affiliation with WFBM radio (now WIBC) as our sponsor.
In May of 1963, the Gordon Pipers became known as the "Gasoline Alley Gordon Pipers". This was the beginning of many performances by the Band that have become a tradition at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The performances by the Band on Opening Day, Qualification Days, the "500 Festival Parade" and Race Day have become part of the tradition that is the Indianapolis 500 mile race.
The association with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway led to the adoption by the band of white tunics for the bagpipers and black tunics for the drummers to match the traditional checkered flag signalled to the winner at the end of the Worlds Greatest One-Day Sporting Event. Each year four bagpipers greet the winner of the Memorial Day Classic in Victory Lane for the traditional drink of milk and the Borg-Warner trophy presentation. These four pipers signify the winning car coming to Victory Lane on four wheels. Another tradition that also started in 1963 was the West Highland Terrier Breeders Association presented the band with a male West Highland Terrier to march along with our female Scottish Terrier as mascots for the band. Thus keeping with the black and white theme of the Speedway. With our many ties to the Speedway, Tony Hulman requested that the band become known as the "Indianapolis 500 Gordon Pipers". On May 8, 1963, Anton "Tony" Hulman was named our first Honorary Member.
Since those early years, the band has performed before millions of spectators. In addition to the annual activities at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the band has performed at several National and International events. In 1970 and again in 1972 the band made three week playing tours of Scotland and enjoyed the camaraderie of many other Pipe Bands from throughout the British Isles and Europe.
While on our 1970 tour we were visiting with the famous Gordon Highlanders of the British Army when they heard of the loss of our Pipe Sergeant, William Diehl, to an airplane accident. They suggested we wear black buttons on our spats in honor of our fallen comrade.
Other Internationally known racing events where the band has performed include the Daytona 500 and the U.S. Grand Prix in Indianapolis.
St. Patrick's Day would not be the same without the Indianapolis 500 Gordon Pipers piping in the St. Patty's Day Parade. Nearly twenty businesses and radio stations enjoy an annual performance of the pipes and drums on this special day.
We have had great pleasure performing in our community, and also other communities across the United States and Canada. Our Band played at the National Soap Box Derby 1965 and 1966. We have participated in the World Bagpipe Games Competition, in Toronto, Canada. With our many appearances in Canada have developed long lasting relationships with other bagpipe bands. For example, the Ingersoll Pipe Band from Ingersoll, Ontario, Canada has on many occasions joined us at our performances at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway during the month of May.
In addition to our activities at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and our performances at various parades and festivals throughout the Midwest, we have participated in many charity events including the "Race for Life" campaign. This is sponsored by David Hasselhoff of Baywatch fame and Newman/Haas Racing. We play for terminally ill children and their families in this special event. We also entertained at the recent Indianapolis "Race For The Races" event and participated in the "Veterans Healing Field Ceremonies" honoring U.S. Service members who lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In 1989, 1990, 1991 and 1992 we were the lead act for rock star Rod Stewart. In 1991 we made him an Honorary Member of the Band.
In 1992 "Doc" Diehl was honored by the City Council of Indianapolis for years of continued service to the community by the Indianapolis 500 Gordon Pipers.
On May 9th, 1996 a step was dedicated on the Soldier's and Sailor's Monument by the Indianapolis 500 Gordon Pipers to honor our founder, Dr. Wallace Gordon Diehl. The band was featured at the ceremony. The step dedicated is number 162 to represent our founding in 1962.