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1971 AL Rules Congress & Circus Show


At the 1971 American Legion Rules Congress held in Indianapolis, there was an attempt to eliminate the drum general effect judge and the tick system. It was led by Don Angelica, a former Holy Name Cadet soprano and future DCI judges coordinator and Larry McCormick, arranger for the Cavaliers.  If not for the actions of New York stalwarts, the great arrangements and drumming lines of the 1970’s never would have occurred, swept away by quick money and “caption bleed” to diffuse objectivity.  The drums would have lost their importance just when the technical mastery of pipe band interpretations, buzz roll rudiments, more complex Swiss flam work and visuals were hitting the field with eight snares, when Olympic training techniques were beginning to mature large numbers of drummers quickly.


Doug Kleinhans (Hawthorne Caballeros): “I got a phone call that said we had better get down to Indianapolis and bring as many people as possible. They want to do away with the tick system!  Don Angelica and Larry McCormick were behind this. They were angry when we showed up and defeated their "New Judging Concept". With no tick system, why would anyone bother with execution? They presented it as a more fair system, but we assumed it was designed as "ease of control" for the outcome of contests. I was really mad!  You know where this was going!  A contest is a contest. Everybody had to be associated in 1971 with the American Legion.  At that time I was teaching eight Legion corps!  McCormick was there.  I said to him, “You know Larry, without a percussion judge in the box, if you judged every week I’d be OK with it.  Who else can I trust?  We will be getting people who don’t drum. This is the best you can do?”  There were 25 or 30 of us in the room and we were steamed! They were using the drummers as a sounding board on the tick system. We lobbied the American Legion before the Convention and were able to postpone this non-tick system.  We swung the vote!”    

Sal Ferrera (Cavaliers Brass Arranger): ”Angelica was into dropping tick judging.  It infested all of DCI.  It was pre-DCI - the Combine with Cavies, Troopers, Blue Star, Madison and Santa Clara.  Angelica was a music educator in New Jersey, a protégé of Dr. Bernard Baggs.  Angelica ruined my kind of drum corps.  There was a political crusade.  Corps shouldn’t function any different than what they did years ago.  Precision must still win.”

Bobby Craig (Blessed Sacrament): “I influenced the sheets they used for percussion analysis. It was 1971 at Indianapolis and I presented 21 proposals and new sheets to John Therion because the judges were doing crazy things.  He finally asked who it was that was putting all these things out there.  I was 22 years old, not on the committee and a nobody, but got backing for my ideas from Larry Darch, instructor for St Joe’s of Batavia; they were fabulous. The East and Midwest had different points of view.  If we were out east, we won. If not, we lost. All styles should be valued. There should not have been a geographical bias. I went back the next two years to DCI. I had a big mouth and was a headache to them. I wasn’t going to give in.  I remember telling Don Angelica that his ideas wouldn’t work.”

Joe Wormworth (Syracuse Brigadiers): “A good judging tick system gets you a fair score.  You can’t play any games that way.  The right guy ends up winning.  If the judges or score sheets are not competent, it does not give you an honest score.  There had to be a consistency and tolerance to be competent. The discipline was have any drumline come into New York and get a competent score.

“Don Angelica’s goal was minimizing drumming effect at the shows.  It should have stayed the way it was – to rank and rate. They wouldn’t put this on paper.  People said drumming was costing them shows.  McCormick was with them on this.  Sanford was for the tick system at the time.  The voting meeting was mostly horn guys. I was caption head for the New York Federation of Contest Judges a few years. There were proposals and white papers.  We went at it.”

Marcia Fattey: “Joe Wormworth, Larry Darch, Len Carey, Doug Reynolds, Doug Kleinhands and Ray Bennett; all the upper New York people saved the day.  Angelica came in to ask why we hadn’t passed their proposal.  The other two captions had agreed to it. Everyone had passed it but percussion.  Doug stood up and went into a rage for some minutes.”    


Doug Reynolds: “I stood up and went into a rage. HOW DARE THEY!” 


Round one went to the drummers.  But it wasn't over. 


The 1971 Cavaliers "Circus Show" shocked knowledgeable corps audiences.  It was Larry McCormick's child, something way out of the main military tent with ring master, clown, juggler, and tumbler - all in costume – next to the corps traditional white, black and green.  The author was at Marion, Ohio finals and saw the corps booed mercilessly at every kick of the ring master’s pants. This was the Cavaliers?  Why would a corps that good need cheap silly tricks? Many in the audience wanted them off the field. 


Bob Schreffler (Cavaliers): "The audience reaction was polarized to say the least.  The judges reaction, unfortunately, wasn't.  Looking at that show now, it appears not only tame, but very tasteful for the times. The attention went to the "gimmicks" and not the corps.  It [1971] was one of the better corps we ever had.  Many people believed that the show was about five years ahead of its time, and the facts later bore this out.  Five years later, in 1976, the new Bridgemen corps appeared. Timing really is everything."        

Paul Milano (Cavaliers): "Larry was the driving force behind the infamous 1971 "Clown Show".  It was an overreaction to the judges allowing Troopers to beat us in 1970 with hoedown dancing and Boston Crusaders beating our drumline even though they basically didn't play during half their show, all simple ride parts and a few meaty "show-off" riffs.  He was itching to break out of the old military mold anyway, and the judges gave him the excuse.

            " Unfortunately, people got so mad seeing a guy in a clown outfit on the sacred drum corps field that they never listened to the incredible stuff being played.  The horns played the whole opener basically one-handed (back in the days of piston rotor!).  The snare parts in the show were the toughest we ever had during all my years.  The tenor parts were all authentic, extremely complex Scottish patterns in the opener that Arsenault taught us for hours and hours."    


Sal Ferrera (Cavaliers Brass Arranger): “Larry was a transitional guy.  He used rudimental drumming very well. McCormick wanted to do the circus show. To me it blew the personality of corps. He talked Don Warren into doing it.  We had low GE scores even with the dancing and whatever else.”  


The advanced techniques in place and sheer numbers of experienced rudimental judges and players had weight. There was still a transfer of players between fife and drum and drum and bugle because basics were still taught both in the same manner.  It would be another decade and a half before there were not enough trained drummers remaining to politically hold off McCormick, orchestral percussionists wanting judges assignments having no experience but a college pedegree and socialist Outcome-Based educators that became involved with DCI that ruined both objective judging criteria and the competitions.  

©  All Rights Reserved  "The Perfectionists - A History of Competitive Rudimental Snare Drumming"

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