In the 1970s, Darell Blue worked for WCIA-TV in Champaign. His experience producing remote telecasts led the University of Illinois' WILL-TV station to hire him to produce the program "From the Hearts of Men." The University's Office of the President commissioned the project as a patriotic musical salute as one of America's Bicentennial broadcast programs.
Blue worked with Dr. Harry Begian, Director of Bands at the University, to produce the show. While the original concept for this broadcast included only music selections by John Philip Sousa music; Begian suggested the performance should include other American omposers' music that would be performed by the University Symphonic Band.
The show was produced in the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts under the direction of Darrell Blue, Harry Begian, and Karl Volkers of the University's School of Music who did the recording. The original production plan was record both the video and audio together in Krannert's Foelinger Great Hall, but while the space was perfect for recording audio, it did not provide the best venue to record the video footage. As a result Blue and Volker convinced Begian to pre-record the music in the Great Hall, and then videotape the band's performance without audio in Krannert's Colwell Playhouse to accompany the audio recording that was made in the Great Hall.
Blue produced the program at the end of the 1976 Spring Semester during the two days that the band had free between their touring committment and final exams. The numbers in the program were: Mortin Gould's American Salute, David Wallis Reeves' Second Connecticut Regiment March, Jerry Belkirk's Civil War Fantasy, Karl King's A Night in June, John Philip Sousa's Semper Fidelis and The Stars and Stripes Forever; and Katherine Lee Bates' America the Beautiful. William Warfield, who served on the University's voice faculty, served as the narrator for this performance.
Following the final edit of the program, the University's Office of the President offered copies of this special Bicentennial program to TV stations around the country, and eventually broadcast by more than 250 television stations across the country as well as the Armed Forces Network.