“Gentlemen, it’s been an honor to share the field of battle with you”

Quarterback, Washington Sentinels, from the movie  “The Replacements”

 

“Greatness, no matter how brief, stays with a man.  These men earned it.”

Coach, Washington Sentinels, from the movie “The Replacements”

1979 Phantom 10 Snares In Competition 98

Have you ever been on a bus in the hills of Pennsylvania?

With a 90 year old bus driver at 4 in the morning?

As he burns out the clutch going up a big hill?

And freezes at the wheel as the bus catches fire?

And you tell everyone on the bus to jump out the windows.

Have you ever gone 30 miles an hour backwards into traffic?

Have you ever seen 3 fire engines, 8 police cars, 2 helicopters and who knows what else all in one place? 

Have you ever opened the door for the bass drummer - a mechanic who saw the fire, stopped his bus and ran back barely catching yours, then helped pull that frozen bus driver out from behind the wheel?

Have you ever seen said bus driver pick up small pebbles one at a time to stop your bus from rolling back down the hill?

Have you ever wondered why the Toledo Glassmen folded?

You haven't lived until you have marched drum corps.

The Glassmen corps director would buy two dozen donuts for the corps for breakfast.  We marched 110. I would get up and eat two donuts, leave one for whoever could find it and take the other 21 donuts for the drumline. Drum corps teaches you to survive at all costs.

I have a confession to make. Chris Toney, the 14 year old rookie who marched next to me in Phantom Regiment, asked me one time if I was playing 32nd paradiddles during longer rolls in our practice. No Chris I never did it in practice. Well, almost never. I did it all the time on the field with judges directly in front of us. Sometimes, you need a little bit more of a challenge. I was glad you learned to hear that little difference in sound. I also did 32nd singles a few times but that was with the judges backs turned. :o)

My first corps performance was using an old 1930s, pre-World War II drum in a long parade without a leg rest.  They had tied the drum to my leg with a rope which quickly came undone. Block after block that drum hit my leg, sometimes sharply with the rim. Afterwards I changed into my swim suit to go swimming and shocked my parents with a totally black and blue and yellow left leg all the way to the knee.  "Are you ok?" It didn't hurt- just looked bad. It somewhat healed and by the new Saturday was back on the street.  They bought me a leg rest.

I warned everyone. I did. This begins with a corps losing half its members to another corps and voting to play one last contest.

The Diplomats of Roseville, Michigan were down to 20 horns, 10 guard and 4 drums - snare, horizontal double bass, bass drum and cymbal.  The corps voted to perform a late season contest anyway. The other drummers wanted to switch instruments. Drum Major and probably acting corps director Sue Henshaw said, "Why don't you want anyone to switch instruments Ken?" "Because the judge for the contest is a slasher. He will kill those other lines.  Their score sheets will be black by the end of concert. I know what this guy does. Wha's he gonna tick on us? We will win drums." Sue walked away perturbed but no one switched instruments.

I was able to catch a few minutes of some of the corps that night. As expected Mark Petty was writing up a storm. We met for the first time face to face on the starting line. I played extra hard stuff adding flams and backsticking to increase our demand score. I still remember playing concert on the field. Petty gave ua a "0" in demand. But he judged execution like I knew he would.  Sue Henshaw walked by me after the show and stated, "Well, you won drums." The "slasher" had done his job.

Someone handed me the score sheet. A "0" in demand? I mean - the mistakes on the sheet were because of demand. There was ensemble! We played something! The score was 8.7, two points up on everyone. On my way to critique a member from the Mauraders who stole our members - possibly John Oshinski - saw me heading to critique and said, "Ken you don't want to go back there." "Why not? What's with this zero in demand?" "Ken don't go back there. They are all over Petty. There might be a fight. It's really bad. Don't go back there."  I heeded the warning and as I walked back to my bus dropped the score sheet right into a big batch of mud. I tried to pick it up and a bus from another corps ran it over with both sets of wheels - front and back. I couldn't find it. (I'm still bummed about that.}

Mark Petty: "I remember judging you when you were the only snare in Diplomats and couldn't believe what you were playing. Unfortunately, Roger (Roger Leis an All American Assoc. Judge) had taught me that if there was only one snare drum, I should tick anything that moved. So, I did!"  We still won.

The corps that was berating the drum judge and asking how a 4 man line could beat one with 28 was the corps I joined.

Jay Tuomey of Son's of Liberty was there and it was only four miles from home. That line was very inexperienced but large.

At the American Legion State Championships, we made finals taking 8th out of 20. We needed to eat after prelims so they took us to some diner by the highway near Kalamazoo Michigan, owned by some AL honcho. I walked in to see staff ripping large white bags off the walls. The top row had the bigger bags. Having been in corps already for 7 years my radar went up. I screamed to anyone who would listen, "DON'T EAT THIS CRAP! IT'S POWDERED EGGS AND MILK!" Everyone looked at me. "There is a Piggly Wiggly Grocery store across the street. We pool our money and buy baloney, bread and ketchup - some bottles of Coke. Let's get out of here."  One girl, Lianne a soprano player, went to the candy machine, pulled the lever and bought herself a Snickers bar. Lunch. She wouldn't go across the street. Annie would though. So me and another soprano went to the old wooden floor Piggly Wiggly.  They didn't have any sandwiches but I bought two Nutty Buddy Ice Creams and wolfed those down. Annie didn't buy anything. Why? Who the hell knows? Strange time to start a diet but she never ate at the restaurant. Wise decision.

We played finals and went out to a parade rest retreat to get our scores. It was a long retreat. They used mimeograph sheets back then; there were no computers. The scores were not ready and the MC asked each corps to play a tune for the audience. We couldn't put our drums down because the field was a muddy mess. So at parade rest, the girl next to me - the corps slut - begins to wobble.  Back and forth she goes till I half-heartedly grabbed her uniform and she fell face first into the mud - drum and all. She gurgled, her hair soon a cake of wet brown mud. The tick machine would tick no more!   I looked over at the guy next to me and shrugged "I don't know!" Five minutes later two of our soprano horn players are on their backs in the mud. Food poisoning! Great! I told these idiots not to eat the crap! Told them. Yelled at them. Screamed at them. Soon two more horns are down. Since we had taken last in finals (8th), we were first to leave. I remember playing a song then our drum major turning to salute the winning corps and realizing the contra-bass voice was missing. Odd. Mellophone part vanished. No cymbals. We sounded weak for some reason. No bass drums. Where did the drum major go? Our busses are the other way. By the time we were off the field, there were maybe 20 left standing. The corps directors son who marched in the snare line asked me. "What do you think it is?" "Food poisoning."  He vanished a minute later. By the time we went across the stadium and walked to our busses, Lianne, Annie and I stared at each other as 11 ambulances shuttled our members to all the area hospitals to have their stomachs pumped. Me and Annie laughed. Lianne was somber as two of her sisters has vanished in the mayhem.  It was a strange ride back on the empty bus to an empty school gymnasium.

Corps members came back between 5 and 6am. Next day the papers blamed US!

“Nervous Fatigue Knocks out Area Bugle Corps”  Jane Hoyt The Macomb Daily Page 3-A   July 22, 1970:  “Members of a local drum and bugle corps who collapsed almost en masse in a weekend competition, all seem to be back to normal.  Teenagers of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No 1146 Drum and Bugle Corps collapsed simultaneously in what doctors describe as “nervous fatigue.” … there was equipment spread all over the field, drums, cymbals…”

Kevin's father (snare drummer Kevin Whitford) stated "“Because some of the symptoms are similar to those of food poisoning, this was first suspected.  But when another competing group collapsed, the nervous fatigue diagnosis seemed more logical.”  That “other corps” ate at that same restaurant before we arrived.  It was food poisoning, but you can’t get the American Legion honcho who owned the restaurant in trouble, can you?  

“If it’s a good drum line everyone knows it.  I Wouldn’t trade it for anything!  The fun is being good at it.  Drummers are a breed.  Drummers are tight.  I had three kids. My daughter says,  “MOM, IT SOUNDS LIKE YOU BELONG TO A CULT!”       Jane Macey 

 

“There is no stronger bond of communion than that which unites those who have fought and bled on the same battlefields, chared the same adventures, and encountered the same dangers, trials, and misfortunes.”

            Edgar A. M. Sanderson (Civil War)

 

"The end of the show should be, as was eloquently said by an SCV tenor tech, "the part where the sharks riding elephants take over, trampling and slashing everything in sight."            Jan Nicholas (Crossmen)

 

            “Drum corps is like a disease. Once it’s in you, it’s never going to leave.  If you leave it, it’s gonna come back and get you.”

 Javier Morales (Skyliner Alumni, St Anslem's F&D)

 

It’s pretty hard if two people are married and one of them isn’t drum corps.  It’s a way of life.”      Jim Russo (married to a Bon Bon)

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The Glassmen had a very good drumline that dominated the Great Lakes Circuit.  We might lose brass or marching but there would be a mountainous 6 or 7 point spread in drums. One rookie drum judge had taken his field trials on our corps twice. In Durand Michigan, it was for real. Schultzie was on the field. Picture a roll-polly type Scottish lad with wire rim glasses and slightly heavy set. Strawberry blond hair and roundish face.  he was from Central Michigan University and had never marched corps. As center of he Glassmen line line, it was my job to introduce him to the reality of drum corps.

He came waltzing up near us on the striating line.  "Hey Schultzie, get your ass away from me or I will run you down and step on your head." He laughed. The four letter words I added got his attention. Judges getting their score sheets ready for he opening notes didn't know what to think. I had already taken field trials so most of them knew me. "Why is Ken swearing at that new judge?" The drum major yelled, "Mark time move!" and the initiation of Schultzie began. 

As center of the line I had the right to increase my step size. You did not have to yell "move" if you were about to hit a judge.  

You just pulverized them then ask for blood type. Glassmen had a mean rifle line of 10 ladies coming at Schultzie from the front doing "bottom-bottom top-tops", a spinning double-time propeller. Schultzie was trapped. if I could just get him there early............. We had to stop in the drill, but Schultzie had the audacity to stay on us. The rifles didn't miss. Now anyone knows a judge should carry at least 5 pens if not more. One might not write. Another might break. It might rain and two go down clogging the tip. You might drop one. But you have ONE in your hand that writes! Schultzie got hit so hard he dropped his one and only pen. He went down to get it and the end of our snare line hit him in the head.  It was about a C# with medium decay - metal lower rim on bone. It fit the resonance of the music nicely. Good GE.

Later in the show Schultzie came around while we had a tacit. "I told you I would get you. We ain't done yet bando." Being called a bando had to hurt. And the second time we hit him it was about a Bb and a little more dissonant..... but enjoyable. 

After the show Glassmen were sad to find out there was but one restaurant open in small town Durand, Michigan. As winners we did the semi-circle performance for all the 2500 band kids that showed up that night. The place was packed. So was McDonalds. We were last in line.  As I stood there, Basil, the rifle instructor, said, "Ken you want to eat?" "Yeah lets get out here and go home. It's a 2 hour drive."

"No - watch this."  Basil was a nurse. He could do an impression of a car wreck accident victim and do it well. No one knew who he was so from the end of he line (which was out the door), Basil begins his move toward the front. "Hey let the poor guy through. He has been in an accident recently. Let him order!"  Basil dragged his right leg and limped to the front. Poor guy. "What would you like sir?" asked the order taker. Basil mumbled then drooled on the counter. "Sir what would you like to eat?" He drooled on the straw rack. "Sir"? 

Basil straitened up looked the guy in the eye and laid out four $100 bills on the counter (snap! snap! snap! snap!) He said, "I want 100 Big Macs, 100 large fries and 100 large cokes -  and make it snappy!"  I fell out the door. Glassmen were almost never fed but this was a prize money show and we won $1500 dollars. Our corps director gave him four $100 dollar bills to feed the corps. While on the ground someone stood over me as I was laughing so hard on the ground my stomach hurt. I was doubled over. Schultzie! How ya doin? He is smiling at me. "What are you doing Ken?" "Hey Schultzie, what the hell was with your mark tonight? We are a 17 line around here and you have us at a 16.5? What the hell is with that?" My four letter words really pissed him off and he stormed away. Glassmen soon snuck our food out from all the corps under a blanket. We ate on the busses as they other corps starved.

After getting home at 4am, I slept till noon. Then the phone calls came. One call was from the Circuit Percussion Caption Head.

"Mr Mazur...... Mr. Schultz has quit the circuit. What the hell did you say to him yesterday?  Monkey see. Monkey do. Monkey no no.

I did nothing!  He was a bando. We need corps people judging who have been on the field. He was not amused.

The other 5 or 6 calls came because of something that happened earlier at that same Durand contest......

The corps my friend Kevin and I had been in - the one with the food poisoning - was in the same show that night. Their bus driver was a race car driver and parked their busses about two inches from ours.  The wheels were almost touching.  You could reach into their busses open windows. So we sang the corps directors daughter a merry song that questioned her virginity. it was not a pleasant song, as songs go. Then we sang it again and again rocking the busses till they almost tipped over.

It was a crisp night, the kind of night sound travels far. We did a great show and I had my usual hot dog and coke snack afterwards. We later stood at retreat waiting for our scores. The corps we sang to - and Kevin and I marched in for 4 years together - placed low and was to play a song, salute the winning corps - us - and leave the field. They began to leave but didn't play anything but a snare tap. Their color guard went on the track then began to turn the wrong way. They were not going to salute us.  This was a marching band crowd. This was the year all the band directors chose to change their programs over the corps style and formed a competition band circuit using drum corps rules. The place was packed.  The place was now silent as something was happening but they didn't know what. In deep silence Kevins brother Gary shouts as loud as he can from the very top of the stands......

This corps silently walking off the wrong way had a bass drummer whose named rhymed with the Benny Goodman Orchestra. His nickname was "Benny".  I had learned to shoot pool at his house. He was a shark. Unfortunately, Benny was very tall and had scored a basket for the wrong team at school. Someone found out they sometimes called him "Wrongway Benny."

From the top of the silent stadium on a night when sound traveled far comes the booming voice of Kevin's brother who used to play tenor for them, as their drumline turned on the track, "Hey Benny... You're going the WRONG WAY!"  Kevin and I looked at each other. Our corps had been on the road for three weeks - we were giddy anyway - wanting to get home and sleep. Kevin soon was curled on the ground screaming in laughter. I had to explain to everyone what was so funny. We put a bass drum in front of Kevin so the audience wouldn't see. Unfortunately, a minute later Gary again screamed to a hushed stadium, "Hey Benny, You're STILL going the wrong way." Now the entire Glassmen corps lost it - mean guard ladies and all.

We couldn't shut up. Our drum major came back, "Shut up! Shut up! Agnello can hear you!" John Agnello was the contest director and MC. He would sell the corps to a city for a show and take a nice big cut for himself.  But, he found us work, usually in some pretty nice towns around Michigan and Ontario. John was getting pissed. The Glassmen DM was 6 foot 4 and an imposing figure even to the drumline if he was mad, the only one we would listen to. We shut up for maybe 30 seconds. And lost it again. Agnello announced a caption award which we won.  The DM brought it back and screamed at us, "We are going to get fined. They can hear you in the stands SHUT UP!"  We lasted about 20 seconds this time. We hacked. We gacked. Another corps played its way off the field and we won the drum caption award. Agnello was on the front sidelines screaming at ME, "I'll get you for this! I'll get you for this Mazur!" What did I do?  Money see.  Monkey do.  Monkey no no. I did nothing! Agnello was from the same VFW post my father was from that sponsored that corps.

The Glassmen DM finally had enough.  He storms back to the corps with another caption award as a few thousand band kids get the idea if you win the show, you get to goof-off. Besides, Agnello was seeing his chance of another show the next year (and another payday for himself) go up in large orange-red flames. 

"DRUM CORPS. ATTEN-HUT!"  Our drum major was incensed! He put the trophy down right in front of me and glared at the corps. After a long pause he spoke to us doing a perfect impression of Donald Duck, "WOULD YOU PLEASE BE QUIET?"  We were completely gone in front of a couple thousand people. There DM was hacking in front of me and Agnello was yelling some more at me. Finally he said, "Would the Glassmen like to perform for the crowd their show as the winning corps?" And we had to get it together.  After we played we hit the busses and went to the McDonalds line-out-the-door..

The phone calls came one by one the next day. The Quartermaster called to ask why I had almost tipped the busses over and blown out the shocks.  The Corps Director called to ask what I said to the poor drum judge and what we sang to our friends in our previous corps. Then the President of the Great Lakes Drum Corps Association called. "Mr Mazur, you have protested by a corps and at the circuit meeting tonight at Bruce Post near you, there will be a hearing and a vote. You are welcome to come defend yourself. The Glassmen have also been protested."  Click.  There were a few more calls. Later that evening the President called back. "Mr Mazur, the vote was 11 to 1 and 11 to 1. Who the hell is going to kick the Glassmen out of the circuit?  You guys are our bread and butter.  We make money everywhere you go."  

 

The last call? At about 1am the next morning the drum instructor of Glassmen called to say, "Glasmen have folded for the year.  They don't have the money to go to DCI. I know you practiced hard to compete in individuals but you ave to march prelims to compete.  I am sorry Ken." "I can learn someone else's show and still compete in Indies."

About 2am a he calls back. "Ken, get to Toledo Ohio immediately. They will not wait for you. They leave at 6am for DCI prelims at Ithaca. I made a deal with their drum instructor who was still at home. You will learn their show and march with them Thursday at 8am. They will allow you to use their name to compete in individuals." I woke my father up. "Dad we have go to Toledo. I am going to DCI with another corps." We were on the road in ten minutes. He had to be at work at 6am.  I started learning their show the minute I arrived. Corps that are first on at Marion or DCI usually get hosed. Being on a field with gopher holes in the middle of nowhere next to rows and rows of corn at 6am is no treat. I told the mothers who would be going to the gym where individuals were at to put my name right behind the Santa Clara cats. No matter what anyone says. Do it!  The Saginaires were a corps that had played "Rubber Ducky" as a concert number when they were younger and not that long ago. People told them, "You might want to move that name over there. You're putting it in the wrong spot." But the mothers held their ground and I went after the Tom Brown (SCV), Rob Carson (SCV), Steve Chorazy (Troopers) block.  Scott Johnson was with Stockton Commodores in the mix too. These players took 5th, 6th, 2nd, 1st, and 4th. I was third.

It was at this contest that Backward Flams were invented. (MALFs)  I was in the back in the mens bathroom as were a few others warming up and a drummer from the Madison Scouts walks in.  It isn't long before his brother shows up. "I have a new pair of sticks for you to use. They are really heavy. You gotta try these. They are great!" The brother in uniform about to go on says, "Yeah, they are really good. Nice and heavy. I am going to use them." And soon out he goes into the gym. I stopped to watch this as did a few others.  You don't switch stocks before a big contest and not a few minutes before you compete. Your body has not adjusted to the new weight. Your coordination is going to be off - if not immediately, soon. Very soon. He got through his breakdown but had trouble in the ritard. The solo was rough from the start. About a minute in he tried a difficult flam passage and the flams popped. They popped again a few measures later then went backwards - accents hitting before the grace notes. Damn! These guys in the big time corps had invented something I didn't know about. Backward Flams! I tried to learn what he was doing but couldn't figure out the coordination in time. Mabe they had all summer to work on it? Turns out the guy was just tired but the idea stuck. I played Backeard Flams in my 1975 solo and was promptly rewarded with two tick marks (a .6 deduction). The judges didn't know what they were and there was no point in chancing that again. But backwards flams can be done with drags, rats and buzzed situations.

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Drum corps is the momentum and tradition of warriors.

 

            Armies prepare.  A rudimental mentor put you through “basic training”.  Drumming veterans all have battlefield "war" stories.  Embellished with rainstorms, mud, thirst, heat and cold, they tell more than facts and figures.  We made war on 20th century competition fields, thrusting skill, loud brass, lances, pike and sword, to mesmerizing effect.  Drumsticks were weapons, each note a bullet shot at the audience and opponents who bled, if not applause, then respect.  Each mistake was a misfire, a sentry down, something quickly forgotten as the battle raged, the outcome in doubt - weapons reloaded with the next phrase.  Fire!  Any Phantom or Civil War Regiment will tell you pride was at stake.  Some units screamed while they charged, judges suddenly under assault.  Cannon were manned and ready, all five of them - all that's needed to shake stadium walls. Besides, there was another army standing behind, waiting to be called to arms and charge.  Attention to the Drum Major.  Without his direction there would be numerous casualties.  Commanders and generals run to the press box to see battle plans executed.  There are great expectations.  

Drill was originally defensive military tactic - trust in harms way.  Civil War private Sam T. Watkins remembers Robert E. Lee: "Soldiers, you are ordered to go forward and capture a heavy battery; pirouette, march.  Forward men; pirouette carefully."  The boys "pirouetted" as best they could.  It may have been a new command, and not laid down in Hardee's or Scott's tactics; but Lee was speaking plain English, and we understood his meaning perfectly… I have no doubt that every soldier that heard the command thought it a legal and technical term used by military graduates to go forward and capture a battery".          

1979 Phantom Snareline At Front Sideline

Twentieth century drummers found Civil War hours acceptable measure: practice all day, battle till midnight, fill your canteens, pack the wagons, if lucky -  sleep. At sunrise, wake to some idiot happily proclaiming reveille or sadly pushing broken wagon(s). Horses were more reliable than diesel engines.  Breakfast cereal was without water or milk. Did sutlers have donuts in the Civil War?  Watered cereal or four boxes of glazed donuts with water from a townies dirty old hose that housed a bee nest, made us look forward to lunch.  The corps is late for battle – the hell with lunch. Drum corps chuckwagons were first come, first served.  Forget cleaning the drum and shoes.  If you don’t eat immediately after the last run-through, they will run out of food and you’ll miss dinner too.  Yes, we had our own food trucks (commissary), although many a drum corps would swap for Civil War hardtack. “I found on the second day's march that the suttler's "goodies" which I had stocked up with had absorbed a little too much of the flavor of my haversack to be palatable.”  We didn't care as long as the wagons wheels didn’t fall off and horses still ran.  Without them there would be no battle. We were there to fight.  Camp followers sometimes sewed and cooked. Armies had prostitutes following them around.  (This we didn’t have, couldn’t afford and had nowhere to put them.)  At least we didn’t have to walk, though in Pennsylvania mountains, horses beat any normal drum corps bus.  We pushed…. or jumped out the windows at 4am going backwards on fire with a burned out clutch into oncoming traffic, the driver too old to get out of his seat.  Civil War musicians did duty and breakdowns at seven days a week in all types of weather. We used the back of bus seats to warm up till they disintegrated or fell off.  Management complained but what did they want, a tidy bus or the damn trophy?  

 

“There are some charming illustrations of a drum line in the winter with all the men wrapped up in their greatcoats and scarves banging away on a row of hogs heads stood on end.”  (Ancient Times, April 2004 Issue 111  p.3)

 

Retreating armies always have long, silent rides home. The comfort of tired wagons belching black smoke and tired troops would not cover downward spirits after a poor performance. The army that held the battlefield after an encounter was considered the winner during centuries of war etiquette.  It remained so. Winning corps performed their show again in a large arc for admiring crowds.  It is much more fun to watch others pass to your review and play your full show one more time.  For that you'd never be out of ammunition, no matter how tired. Like the army of Bobby Lee after its last battle, corps members aging out stacked mementos on the field after their last finals battle. 

At the 1631 Battle of Breitenfeld, “The Saxons, by themselves, as in a separate army, were formed in two lines, the infantry at the center and the cavalry at the two wings, and made splendid appearance with their new clothes and new arms.” 

 

            Experienced members knew to watch other corps precision from the back sideline to see how the attack was progressing.  After one battle, you knew who could be trusted to fight and handle pressure and those better left with the horses. “He knows who were the best soldiers, who stood in the front rank, who led in the assaults. Likewise he knows who were the skulkers and cowards, for it was an impossibility for a soldier to hide his weakness from his comrades.”  (Delevan Miller, p.249)

In a good drumline, you knew people better than family. It was family. If the guy next to you had eyes that widened at the first glimpse of bright stadium lights as the busses pulled in -  battle imminent – you read the riot act…  and look at all those people!  Make a mistake and I’ll kill you.  Rookies became tenuous watching a good corps on the field before them, rattled by tumultuous cheering, adrenalined tempos and mesmerizing sound bouncing back that meant business.  Drummers didn't write last letters home.  They created 'good luck chants' similar to football team trash talk. You could see lines singing or swaying back and forth crooning the mantras from some ancient religious sect.  You knew the moods of those around you, their girlfriend squabbles, view on life and political events - what they wanted to do after their last show 'once they got out', no different than a Civil War private realizing his year commitment was up.  You knew if they liked the heat or cold and could anticipate their temperament; moods affected playing.  Everyone took note of the person who marched sick, drum corps food sometimes what it was.... or the lack of it.  Feinting was saved for the finish line. Throw up on your own time.  Don’t you dare pass out till the last note and don’t bump anyone on the way down!  That’s another tick! You’ve got a cut? It’s bleeding? SO?  Heave your guts worth and keep it OFF the uniform.  You’re sick?  Dude -  you’re on in five minutes. You don’t have TIME to be sick.  Don’t you dare get any of that on me!  Twisted ankle?  Poor baby. Put some ice on the swelling and shut up.  Your leg won’t fall off.  You’re not going to let us down ARE YOU?

 

Wes Meyers (Skyliners): “Most of my lasting relationships are from my drum corps days. I still get calls from Florida or Pennsylvania or some drummer of mine.  It’s a different relationship. On sports teams, you play a few years and guys move on. In drum corps, you stayed in touch.  Heck, I still go to their bachelor parties!”      

              

Bonnie Baker (Royal Airs): "The Royal Airs showed up at CYO nationals in Boston on Saturday morning. When we got off the bus folks looked at us like we were some Chicago gang or something. We had to go right on the field for prelim competition cause we were late. We had slept on the bus all night on the road and had no showers.  For some reason they thought the Chicago kids were tough.  I don't know why for sure. We won of course!"      

 

John Mazur (Air Force Basic Training 1943): “We were considered to be a f*** up bunch from Detroit in basic [training].  Always had guys in trouble.  We were considered last of the twelve groups.  Someone came up with “Me and My Gal” for a cadence count.  I don’t remember what we did, but it sounded great.  On the final judged parade, we won.  IT WAS PERFECT!  We got the championship cup.  Pappy, our sergeant – he was a good one – cried.  “You S.O.B.’s, you gave me so much TROUBLE!”  I think he got drunk that night.”    

 

John Bosworth (Air Force): “In 1863, Buck Soistman acknowledges an order for a drum.  The guys rode his horse in bad weather to pick it up and didn’t have the right amount saying, “If you came all this way for a drum in this kind of weather, you must really want it.”  Three months later he was still waiting for his money. He was eventually paid in full.”  

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Drum corps housing was hard yellow-lacquered gym floors with crawling bugs near  doors and flying ones near your food.  On occasion, more rooms would be opened that had carpet bugs, acceptable if your cot had been lost last weekend.  Of note were the creepy crawlies in the showers.  Pennsylvania had large, interesting ones.  Bug repellant merely fed them. Out west, they were fewer but deadlier.  Even with a good roof and floor, sometimes practice fields were on the sides of hills.  Gopher holes twisted patience and ankles.  Civil War soldiers used to shoot them

 

Pressure to uphold your 'name' was of a different sort.  Experienced vets knew you were as good as your weakest man, no different than Civil War soldiers except that instead of four years together ramming cartridges, we spent ten months ramming Flam Drags, tight rolls, backsticking and One Handed Ratamacues.

            If discipline was not taught from the first practice, there would never be any.  Like the army, the timing of attention, sticks out, mark time, at ease and uniform step had to be well defined. This caught the eye of future drummers as young kids. A drumline that can’t get it’s sticks out together will not shoot straight, their attacks like Wylie Coyote trying to catch Road Runner – ain’t gonna happen and close don’t count. 

            

Don Rayes (Reilly Raiders): "The commraderie and genuine love of drum corps and our fellow Reilly Raiders were things that weren't expressed but were felt among us all.  We were normal everyday working people with an above normal desire to excel in competition." [8]  "The first time I saw a drum and bugle corps, I knew I wanted to be a part of it. 

Joe Wormworth (Syracuse Brigadiers): “It was a senior show and our little trumpet corps did an exhibition. We saw the Syracuse Brigs and Hawthorne.  I WENT BANANAS!  I started teaching myself via records and bought books, bought the records – learned phonetically.”

Wes Meyers (Skyliners):  “I was banging pots and pans with spoons as a little kid.  I thought everybody did that!  Later, I found out that the dining room table had great response.  My dad nearly killed me when I dented mom’s table!”

 

Who among us hasn’t wrecked a few end tables or bus seats? 

 

Drum corps was a place for the talented and the brave.

It was war out there.  And you could mess with the enemy.

 

Ken Norman (Racine Kilties):  “We wrote judges traps.  In the drill you could go single interval or have a cross through.  Judges would get down on their hands and knees to get out of there.  The audience was howling.  Des Plains had four sabers in the drill.  Try going through that!  

Harold Girt  (Canton Post 693 VFW, Massillon Post 221 AL): “In one instance, one of the judges making notes didn’t look up. You can’t tell from the stands but we’re moving fast out there.  You could make up ground quickly.  He got tangled with the drum section. You don’t have to move for a judge.  He got tangled with Art [Dirkenbroad]. Their rank hit him.  Hit ‘em pretty good!   One time a judge dropped his score sheet. Docstater was a guy that would get right on the side of the line on the left end and listen for mistakes.  He was bent over, wasn’t looking and we moved.  Hit him pretty good too!”

Jim Middleton (Bellville Black Knights): “I was judging Troopers while they were doing the sunburst.  I was caught in the middle.  I finally had to duck down and run out of there!  I escaped!  The audience applauded me for getting out in one piece!         

Tony Sepe  (Blessed Sacrament): “We used to get Harry Ginther [of Reilly Raiders] going behind the snare line.  The two of us [bass drums] marched an “X” and crisscrossed behind the snares to get the judge out of there.  It was our Ginther move.  If the [judges] pad was within reach, I’d try to knock it out of his hands. [I] Got it a couple of times!”      

Ron Marcquenski (Cavaliers): “Once judges knew your drill they came in real close. They would listen from the backside.  They’d get behind you all the time to hear better; Dick Brown and Curry.  They would cup their ears with their hands to hear better. We’d hit ‘em sometimes – knock the board right out of their hands.  You could hit judges if they were in the way.”  

Bob Schreffler (Cavaliers):  "In the "old days" of inspections, [Paul] Milano used to walk with the drum major because he could think of a bullshit excuse for a problem quicker than anyone else in the corps, which is saying something with the Cavaliers of the 70's!"       

 

Sometimes you were your own enemy.

 

Tim O’Brien  (Blessed Sacrament) (BSGK Website): “In 1957, a veteran of the Corps was kicked out of the line on the day of the American Legion Nationals in Atlantic City. But instead of sulking in seclusion, he was at mid-field on the backside of the Armory floor that night as the Corps defended its National Title indoors. Every time the Corps turned away from the stands and headed backfield, they saw their fellow Golden Knight, clad in his Corps jacket, his fists clenched, exhorting his corps onward. There were tears in his eyes. His name was Richie Paul. His brother was the Drum Major. His father was the Quartermaster.”    

 

Bob White (Massillon Ohio Post 221 AL):  “In 1949, some drum company gave all the corps in Miami plastic drum slings to use. The sun hit them and the drums quickly sank towards the ground.  You couldn’t play.  Everyone was going, “What the hell happened?”  The sun happened!”

‘We would add a step to a beat and get the whole corps out of step.  Corps were taught to put two feet down in a row to get back in.  Bands couldn’t do that. They had a bunch of band directors in the front row playing trombone and we pulled that during a counter march.  We came out OK but some of the guys got hit."  

 

Ben Mical (Cavaliers): “In ’61, we were a feisty bunch.  Don Warren, the Cavalier corps director knew we were headstrong and gave us just enough rope.  It was a big show in Madison, Wisconsin with prelims that had an inspection.  We lined up for inspection and the whole drum line was laughing so hard, you could hear us. We were laughing so hard our drums were bobbing up and down.  Don saw this and was livid.  The judge got closer and we shut up.  Don  was SO pissed off!  “I should can you guys, but I can’t!”       

Robert Minor (Norwood Park Imperials):  “Our guys [Norwood Park] saw a judge in street clothes before a contest one year [and] made fun of him. He hosed us at Nationals."          

Peter Crawford (Cadets LaSalle):  “At Syracuse, the field was a mess.  They decided to use a water hose as the starting line.  The drum major went “Avite. On a VA!”  The corps [Cadets LaSalle] took one step and tripped over the hose into the mud.  They had to stop us and start over.  Took the hose off the field. Won the show!”          

Chew Gernenadt (St. Lucy’s Cadets): “It was the exit number in ’64.  Off the field we did a company front.  The corps stopped and I kept going.  The crown was cheering and I thought “Wow!  We must be good!”  The crowd was really screaming.  I was 20 steps out in front of the corps.  We won the show. Lucky it wasn’t a big one or no one would have talked to me after.”     

Alfred Merritt (Connecticut Yankees):  “The Yankees would have won nationals in 1960.  We had ‘em beat.  The problem was our horn soloist in Begin The Beguine concert number.  His mouth went dry.  He never played the solo.  Went home and never saw him again.”     

 Howard Girt (Canton Ohio Post 396 VFW, Massillon Post 221 AL):  “At Ohio State Championships in Columbus, one cymbal hit a crash and it went flying far in the air backwards.  You could see the people in the stands all watch that thing go up and come down.  You could follow their heads.  That cymbal stuck perfectly in the ground.  He played one cymbal and one knuckle the rest of the show.”                       

“We were about to be inspected – I think this was Soldiers Field – and I had to go. The drum major said to hurry, he would hold the judges off till I got back.  Someone pointed me in the direction of some doors. So I go in and do my business and suddenly there is an entire women’s drill team in there – about 40 of them!  I hurried out the door.  It seemed that women’s unit was everywhere we went.  They always would come over and ask, “Where is that drummer boy of yours?”

 

Dick Filkins:  “We used to have football teams.  West Reading, Osmond….. The corps had a football league.  It was tackle – no shoulder pads.  It was a bloody mess.”

Frank "Fast Frankie" Nash: “In 1978, Skyliners DM Butch Anderson wanted a big entrance; [he] came to the starting line in a limo while we were sweating on the starting line in 100 degree heat.  He had ice, champagne… and we were wore out.”

Mike Ellerby:  “Dale Loftgren went to Santa Clara after Kingsmen folded.  His first day staying at a house in Santa Clara he was asked who had the best guard.  He of course said without hesitation – KINGSMEN!  To this day, they remember that.  It is the first thing they say when they meet and he always says the same thing. Gale Royer walked in on drum rehearsal the first time Loftgren was there. He asked, “What the hell is this Kingsmen guy doing here?  Bob Kalkofen, their instructor, had intensity.  He told Royer he was running the rehearsal and if he didn’t like it he could  *&^$#%@%^&* fire him.”

Tim O’Brien (Blessed Sacrament) (BSGK Website):  In 1970, the Golden Knights were told they could not go to the VFW Nationals in Miami unless it placed 1st or 2nd in the CYO Nationals in Boston.  B.S. finished third, but after the show in the parking lot, everyone began digging into their pockets. Fourteen-year-olds threw in a dollar, others gave five dollars. Instructors endorsed their corps paychecks and handed them back.  Staff and the Quartermasters emptied their wallets.  An overwhelmed Father Stulb finally succumbed. "Okay, get on the buses," he said. "It's on to Miami."       

It wasn’t safe to miss rehearsal.

 

Dave Below (1992 Crossmen): "At Allentown, in the morning, I missed that first change so I ended up behind the snare line, almost behind the tenor line, going four steps too far. The line reversing the other way put me seven people down.  I had to race to catch up and get back in line.  And when I was just about to my hole, the line would reverse again and my momentum would put me three deep down the bass line.  Sez (bass 2) is looking at me screaming "WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING OVER HERE??!!  I vividly remember seeing each snare look over their shoulder wondering what the hell I was doing back there, while I'm running and yelling “F******!!!!" trying to get back to the hole.  At the end of solo, over the roar of the crowd, all I could hear were the howls of the drumline, guys just crying in laughter.  The closer being quiet, all you could hear was guys snorting through their nose trying to not bust out laughing.  I surely thought I was getting my ass kicked, but I remember Chet the snare tech on the ground rolling around.  Thurston put his hand on my shoulder to console and face me but couldn't get two words out before dropping his head in laughter."   

 

For some it was better if you did miss rehearsal.

 

Chew Gernandt (St. Lucy’s):  “There were some tough corps - ghetto corps. A lot of corps would battle all the time.  It was like a football game.  Garfield’s worst nightmare was to be on retreat in between us and Sac.  We were inner city you know – Elizabeth, Newark and Bayonne – a rough corps.  Vinnie’s was a rough corps.  Poor Garfield!”       

 

Rob Carson  (Santa Clara Vanguard): “One of our guys came in from the other end of the world.   There was this bass drummer, Pete, who was a member of the Hells Angels.  The busses would be ready to go and right before they pull out he would come in on his motorcycle from the hills of San Francisco somewhere and catch the bus.  Mike Moxley would stand there wondering if he was going to show up.  He was our number five bass.”      

 

Bob Kalkofen (Troopers, Santa Clara Vanguard):  I was from Wyoming with horned-rimmed glasses.  Here [at Santa Clara] was a cat standing there in Hell’s Angels leather.  He wants to try out!  I told him to go home, change his clothes and clean up.  So he left. People asked me, “What did you SAY to him?” Well, he came back with a clean shirt and his hair cut. No one else could carry that number five bass drum.  He kept us out of trouble all season.  He squeezed Gale Royer so hard, he broke his ribs.  Years later, he was on the front page of the paper.  Tarantula Man….  They say he ran narcotics from Tijuana to San Jose. There were unsolved murders.  They caught him.  He was SCV’s bodyguard.”

 

Don Interdonato (Blessed Sacrament): “At New Jersey State, you couldn’t have a blank in the line for inspection.  We put in a substitute. He was not supposed to march the show.  Our guy wasn’t there yet.  The corps is going to the starting line and this guy thought he was going on the field. His name was Ricky Jones. We had to get him out of there. Well, the drum major came over and gave him a shot to the gut and he went down.  He wasn’t going on that field!  

“We had an inter-corps football game. Someone broke a collarbone.  An ambulance comes.  Now everyone falls to the ground so the crew can’t find the injured guy.  Just nuts!”

 

We Persevered. Onward!

 

Dave Clark (Watkins Glen Squires):  I was marching a parade as a bass drummer and hit a hole in the road.  I fell on top of my drum and split my lip open – bad. Blood came gushing out.  I hit that bass drum and blood would spatter across my face.  By the end of the parade it coagulated; my lip was hanging off.  I’ll never forget Mrs. Wilkins face when she saw me. She screamed!  Why didn’t you tell someone?  THIS IS DRUM CORPS!  After getting stitches at the hospital, the corps gave me a standing ovation.”

Tim O’Brien (Blessed Sacrament) (BSGK Website):  In 1970, the Golden Knights were told they could not go to the VFW Nationals in Miami unless it placed 1st or 2nd in the CYO Nationals in Boston.  B.S. finished third, but after the show in the parking lot, everyone began digging into their pockets. Fourteen-year-olds threw in a dollar, others gave five dollars. Instructors endorsed their corps paychecks and handed them back.  Staff and the Quartermasters emptied their wallets.  An overwhelmed Father Stulb finally succumbed. "Okay, get on the buses," he said. "It's on to Miami."       

 

Everyone loved drum corps busses, especially kicking rookies into the aisle - more pillow space - to avoid looking and feeling like a morning pretzel. They were a pleasure to ride: windows that wouldn't close in rain, snow or blizzard; soot blowing in from the rear engine compartment; a former race car driver at the wheel who could drive the bus better backwards than forwards (and could actually screetch bus tires) the many interesting arachnoids that found home near your seat after parking the busses near a lake, your change of clothes drenched by leaks in the roof, and the racks above the seats – the only place that could get you some sleep (and hide the loving couples for a while. Who needs chaperones?).  When the engine hacked, that didn’t matter either, coughing oil was normal.  (Royal Air lore tells of a horrible bus trip to Portland, Oregon, for finals, broken down, seeing the sights of Portello, Idaho for three days.)  Rookie bus drivers and cramped city streets didn't get along, nor did all the shiny parked cars.  The cars always lost.  And we didn’t leave a note on the cracked windshields.  You would think a Humvee hit your car, but they didn’t have Humvees back then. The paint we left in the dents were the same color as local city dump trucks.  Must have been them.

 

Slow moving judges were also toast.  

 

Keeping the line and face straight while pushing judge Gus Barbaro across the field with your drum – he is a big man – took circus-like skills. You had to balance him correctly on the rim of the drum.  Laughing wasn’t acceptable unless the whole segment was coughing it up.  On the field, you kind of hoped the judge would just stay there - a few more counts - as twirling rifles increased their step the opposite way.  Color guard pikes could be pointed, shorter than those used 500 years earlier, but just as effective.  Gus got himself caught by a rifle line wedge spinning double time (bottom-bottom-top-tops), a row of white painted airplane propellers.  C’mon Gus…. Go for it….RUN!   It was enjoyable anticipation, especially if the grass was wet. We waited to hear the thud.  It’s amazing no one got killed, though we tried.

 

Allan Murray (Anaheim Kingsmen):  “In ’74, I started the corps [Aneheim] off with a bell cymbal solo in the OTL – Mambo.  The drum major would stand in the middle of the field and look at me for tempo.  There was no 1,2,3,4 this time.  I couldn’t see his feet.  Anyway we ended up at maybe 160 a minute, 180… we were flyin out there.  Gus turned around with his back to us.  He couldn’t get out of the way. We chased him all the way across the field.”        

 

Sometimes you just go for it…  

 

Ralph Hardimon (Anaheim Kingsmen): “We yelled and screamed all the time on the field and would always talk and tell the judges to come and get it. We were pretty bad-ass cats, not cocky, but at least one notch below cocky and that was enough. Oh, how much fun!”

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Judges knew it was a long walk to their cars but……..

 

Eric Perrilloux (Charles T Kirk):  “There was this cymbal player once - a "rover" - who comes chasing me with cymbals on the field.  It was getting dangerous.  He was trying to distract my attention.  I went close to the line, put five or six marks on the sheet so he could see me do it.  He stayed away after that."  

Brian Mason: “I went to compete and the judge said to move back a few feet away from him.  He moved me around. I didn’t know who the guy was.  He hit (ticked) me a few times and there was nothing there. After I was finished, I went up to him and said, YOU’RE AN ASSHOLE!”  I tied for first that time. It was Eric Perrilloux.  A few years later I was talking with some other people standing with him.  I didn’t know who he was before and was trying to hide. Geez, I had insulted a drumming legend!  As the conversation ends he says he remembered our unit and turns to me and says, “And I remember YOU!”

Ralph Poznanski (Cavaliers): “I dropped my stick after concert at finals.  Sorenson didn’t give it back to me until halfway through the closer.  I was pissed. When he handed it back I said, “Thanks *******!”

Wes Meyers (Skyliners):  “Pratt was crazy!  One time Reading was on the field.  He was right up on top of the line. They were backsicking in their drum solo.  He stuck his head in to hear and got backsticked in the head!  He would get right in there.  Pratt got knocked down a lot.  When a line would go to extended intervals he would get right in the line with them and look around!”    

Doug Kleinhans (Hawthorne Caballeros): “When Pratt was judging, he would get on the ground under the Reading Bucs snare line.   He wanted to see if what he was hearing was what he was hearing.  By the way, he is intelligent as hell.  He wasn’t getting any ticks.  Was it him or the drums?  A guy in the line says, “Hey man, I’m movin and going to step on your head.”

Norman Peth (Geneva Appleknockers):  “Corps used to get the judges out of the way any way they could. Geneva did a little of that.  One judge dropped a clipboard.  A guy marked time on it for a while. Back then the sheet had a few copies of carbon paper under it for the tabulators.  The scoring was a little confused that night…”

Wes Meyers (Skyliners):  “I chased lines all over the field! I didn’t want to miss anything!”   

Rodney Goodhart (Yankee Rebels): “I was judging in ’64 and ’65.  Heck, I judged a senior show in ’58 when I was only 19.  They thought I was 21.  I remember seeing Lefty Meyer coming.  Oh, man!  I did some American Legion contests in DC.  I remember Doc Shanker, one of the judges.  He would park himself right in front of one of the snares and tick him.  There was no backfield judging back then. Skyliners had eight snares and one of them took off his drum and went after him!  I think that was at a Jersey contest, the same one that IC Reveries sat down on the starting line.  They felt they were finalists and just stayed and sat there.  Anton Schletca – he didn’t know what to do.  I said, “Let’s judge ‘em!  I said to Gale Royer, “What are they going to do, get the police and handcuff the kids?”  Later at the hotel Gale said, “I’m going to go back home and start a drum corps!”  The rest is history!”  

Ben Mical (Cavaliers): “In ’60, we had a 19.1 in May!  The judges were up close, in between and behind us.  They came right on top of us. We lost nationals in Detroit by having 17 ticks for feet not being at a 45 angle. Only lost by 4 tenths.  Lost nationals for chicken-shit.”          

Nick Attanasio (Sons of Liberty):  “One time [Les] Parks had the guys in his line squawking about Ratamacues.  Les went to discuss his mark with [Hugh] Quigley.  Hugh asked Les to bring in one snare drummer at a time to play the part.  Well, one comes in, two, three and four.  Quigley pointed out their style differences.  Parks said,  “OK, I give up.”        

 

The garbage truck that left with your score was called “the dump.”

 

If a judge didn’t like you, your busses, your part of town, your style or the fact you played buzz rolls…. . if you expected a 17 and received a 10…. If the guy wouldn’t look at the line but wrote all the time – and looked happy - you were now part of a landfill.  Corps drummers know landfills can be found in any state, at any time, on any continent. The amount of dumping would fill a century’s worth of refuse pits.  Dumps were especially prevalent when crossing state borders into someone else’s turf.  The garbage truck lever is then pulled squishing your score into oblivion. It was painful to watch it happen while performing.  Some judging circuits had refuse piles a mile high.  But, if the other guy was getting dumped on – now THAT - was good and fair. Pile it on! Pile it high!

 

Wes Meyers (Skyliners): “Judging could be a good ‘ol boys club.  It was geographic. A judge should handle it no matter the preference of style.  The Boston area guys were snobbish. Sometimes it was tough to get scores in the Penn-New Jersey area. Around here [in New York] we were pretty open-minded.  Some guys would say they would “have a pencil in hand” for next year meaning they would see your line and pay you back. Happened in upstate New York a lot.  I’d go up to the GE box to hear the show as the judges heard it.  One time we did a good job.  Fourth place!  Mickey Petrone was at the critique, “Don’t hit the guy, Wes!” I rip into him.  Tru Crawford was chief judge.  Tru says. ”Better give Mr. Meyers an answer.  He’s VERY pissed off.”  People were telling me, “Go for the fine. He deserves it!”  We got fined. I think it was $100.”    

Doug Kleinhans (Hawthorne Caballeros): “I judged DCA a few years.  DCA could be INSANE!  Ray Ludee, John Flowers, Wes Meyers – it was their job to win.  They would brow beat you at critiques.  Lefty Meyer would come over and want to know what Sky didn’t win.  After a while some would just give the same score tenths apart.”           

 

A  corps from Danville, Virginia, was written off the sheets in the first five minutes. They had four baton twirlers who kept throwing them into the air and dropping them.  One tenth of a point penalty for dropped equipment.  Then they'd pick them up. That's a two point penalty each for picking up dropped equipment.....

 

Michael J. Cahill:  “The Cambridge Caballeros beat everyone in 1962.  Garfield wanted to take us on again at a local show to get even.  They asked Fitchburg Kingsmen in Massachusetts to enter their show at the last minute to beat us.  There were five or six corps, then an intermission to set up the show-down.  We played the best show of our lives that night.  Beat ‘em 91 to 89.  Two weeks later we were in ninth place at the Minneapolis (1962) nationals. The one where the drum judge hadn’t judged in ten years. He was from Sleepy Eye Minnesota.  He hadn’t judged for ten years.  Dumped us bigtime."

 

Hmm….. probably one of two “sleepy” individual competitors nine years earlier at the 1953 RDA contest:

1st   John S. Griffiths    Sleepy Eye Post 47 AL  1st place 95.65

2nd  A Racine Boys of ’76 drummer

3rd  Matt Lyons from the Connecticut Yankees

4th  Thomas Foster   Sleepy Eye post 47 AL  4th place  94.15

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Many time winner of the Legion title in the 1930’s, Vince Mott was defeated by Bob Van Deck in 1935.  Ed Olsen:  “Mott subjugated the entire contest in 1938.  He pulled some kind of fluke and there was no individual contest the next year.”   Ed had his years slightly mixed up.  From the Spring 1936 issue of Modern Drummer: “The best drum gag of the year – three clarinet players doing the judging at the individual drum contest for the American Legion at St. Louis.  Ask Vincent Mott of Patterson, New Jersey, to tell you about it.”  

 

Judges reputations followed them.  At a design meeting with a family building a new home, I realized their daughter was a drummer in a band I judged the previous year at state finals.  At the last meeting, after the drawings - and check - had been exchanged, an inquiry was made as to the photo of the girl and her snare drum on the fireplace mantle.  Says father, “Yeah we made state last year. The drum judge really dumped us. He wasn’t very good.  He cost us a few places.”  The author stated that might be the case and quickly retreated to his car, debating whether to tell the father his daughter was a tick machine.

 

Judges were paid.  We weren’t.

 

Bobby Redican:  “In the 1960’s if you judged the World Open you’d get a $100 judging fee.  At American legion they would give you your hotel and food. Not bad.”      

Eric Perrilloux:  "In the early 50's the junior corps were paying $35 per show.  At D.C.A. the pay scale was maybe $50, more usual $35.  They didn't pay meals and [were] not flying people in at all.  Before D.C.A. the different judging associations hired you to do contests; New York Fed, Central States.... two contests every weekend.  Half of them joined so many judging associations all they had to do was change their hats.  As for me, I wanted a different opinion every week. By 1968, the clinics really started.  You had to come if you wanted to judge." 

 

Instructor’s pay was good for gas.  

 

John Dowlan: “You started at $5 a rehearsal.  If they kept you after the first year then $7.50 or $10.  I started at $2.50 at the Osmond Cadets.  Harry Ginther was there.  He wouldn’t do it for $2.50 so I got the job.”                            

 

Horn instructors could be a pain in the ass.

 

Chew Gernandt:  “Larry Kirchener was a problem to work with.  He was at Reilly.  They had to explain to him, “Larry, its not an orchestra, it’s a DRUMLINE!”        

 

And we always made the gig.

 

Jan Nichols (Crossmen, Dutch Boy, Renegades Sr.): “My parents were dead-set against me going to the juniors.  I was to stay home and work all summer to pay for college.  When my friend on Dutch Boy's staff asked me to go, they were on tour, and I couldn't just drive up there and leave a car in Montreal for the summer.  Plus, they weren't going BACK to Montreal after tour, either.  I knew that it would be pointless to ask for a ride from the folks and Greyhound wouldn't take me to the show site to meet up with them.  I needed a ride. I came from a small town - 5000 people - not many around in the summer.  I asked everybody, nobody would take me the 10 hours to Montreal. Finally, one of my friends' 15-year-old brother had just gotten his learners' permit.  He agreed to lie to his parents and take me in their car.  He brought a buddy along for company.  

“We told everybody that we were going to Penn State (an hour away) for the day to visit friends.  I packed up for tour and hid it at my girlfriend's house so I could sneak away the morning of the crime.  My parents would go ballistic. I had quit my job, so the whole thing was done on the sly. Well, I drove us to Montreal and sent the 15-year-olds back home.  They got stopped by US customs on the way back without a valid drivers license between them, and their parents had to drive to the border to bail them out.  Ouch!

I called home to let the parents know not to look for me for six more weeks. I was not thinking clearly. First, I called at 1AM.  Not smart.  Second, I was making a collect call from Montreal. 

 

 Me:  "Hi operator, I'd like to make a collect call to 717 ••• ••••"

Operator:  "thank you for using (whatever telephone carrier)" Phone rings like 12 times.  My mom answers, at 1AM, groggily...  "hello?"

Operator:  "Bonjour, Madame!  Vous avez une blah-blah-ze-blah-blah-telephonique-blah-Jan."

Me:  "Operator, she speaks English"

Operator:  "Oh, terribly sorry, you have a collect call from Jan, will you accept the charges?"

Mom:  "Yes, and WHERE THE HELL ARE YOU?"

“She thought I was in FRANCE or something.  She was so pissed that she told me she was going to hunt me down on tour and find me and make me come home.  Thankfully, we were in Canada for the next two weeks.”              

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Better late than never.

 

After 27 years, an error was discovered in DCI scoring.  Blue Devil tenor Robert McMillian’s score was placed in the 1976 snare recap; he scored slightly higher than announced winner Dan Guernsey of the Madison Scouts.  McMillian’s mother still had his score sheets and a wired telegram from Don Pesceone that never made the newspapers. Only Blue Devil people knew.  Guernsey won the next year in 1977.  When informed about the episode, Dan called Rob and congratulated him. True Class.

 

Different kinds of survival skills were developed.

 

Peter Crawford (Cadets LaSalle): “I saw a cute tenor drummer marching with the all-girl Chatelaines (Quebec). I didn’t speak French, so I asked what I should say to her.  They [Cadets LaSalle] told me to memorize a phrase and go find her. Well, what they had told me to say would get any guy’s face slapped.” 

Derek Blakenly (Crossmen):  “Crossmen had the “Call of the Wild.”  If a good looking girl walked by someone would start tapping on their drum (1 a2 and 3e).   When the next guy saw her, he started in until the whole line was doing it.”

Jeff Collins (Capitol Freelancers): “Snare drummers usually marry a rifle.”  

 

            If the judge was not “getting anything”, it had nothing to do with the morality of your girlfriend (or the one that slapped Crawford). It meant you had an entire judges slate baffled and confused looking at their sheets and worried you might be THAT GOOD.  It’s why John Pratt would stick his face right into sticking - get hit - then have drum lines telling him to “get the hell out of the way!”  With Phantom in the late 70’s, the thing to do was egg entire songs in practice then do it on the field.  As the instructor of a good class A corps in the early 80’s, it was invigorating to be bombarded with cheers and high 5’s after one late season performance.  A snare comes running up, “Hey Maz, I’m telling you, we egged the opener.  I’m telling you!”  Another guy, “Yeah it was an egg.  Nothin there.  NOTHIN THERE!”  Everyone was worried about the egg, not the score.  A few weeks later, after the season’s last show, the drummers signed their autograph’s to that score sheet; a proud and earned achievement. 

 

Peter Crawford (Cadets LaSalle): “There is nothing better than playing in a clean line!  NOTHING!  To hear those rolls clean as ****!  There is no better feeling thing in this world!  To see people coming over to watch and its clean as ****!   Nothing better in this world!”             

 

Judges understood Peter.  It was victory to play a long passage and see the judge blankly stare and DO NOTHING.  Sometimes it was a smile; maybe a thumbs up, but judges were telling you they respected your time and effort.  

 

Larry Darch (St. Joeseph of Batavia): “It was great judging on the field!  Sometimes it wasn’t the best ones that got you.  Sometimes it was a lesser corps.  They could get into their shows.  They would surprise you.”  

John Flowers (Reading Buccaneers):  “Eric Landis, another Air Force drummer, and I did the prelims at Whitewater in ’72 – 100 corps in 2 days. Talk about a tolerance level!  We were on the same page though.  You had to watch it because if you wiped out a line’s percussion score it put a kibosh on your DCI career!  It was a thrill being on the field judging at nationals.  Boston would do their left hand sticking and just look at me.  They would tell me to go… and swear at me on the field. I would smile at them."   

Gus Barbaro (Geneva Appleknockers, Rochester Crusaders): “Judging on the field was very, very exciting!  Any 3 or 4 drumlines could win. I was more excited out there.  You never wanted to screw up!  It was neat to see the quality level by August.  You dumped on them early.  The quality level was great!  It had to be. It was electric.  Judges would look at each other and smile.  We would be screaming and yelling out there.  The kids knew it too.  They knew if it was “on.”

            “I did championships 7 or 8 times - every other year.  I did the regionals a lot. I got pushed around a lot out there.  You had to get there to hear and then write everything…. And I always tried to get a drummers stick back!”         

Doug Reynolds:  “In 1960 I joined the All American New York chapter of judges…. I judged the first World Open in 1961 and was hired to do Illinois American Legion that year too, a full two days of competition.  In ‘66 or’ 67 I did the VFW contest.

“At a finals contest it was heaven out there!  The grandest experience one can imagine!  I had the chance to see the corps 6 or 7 times in a season.  By that time I knew their drill and the show.  I was seeing them at their best level.  Whoever won truly deserved it.  They TRULY WON!”          

Joe Wormworth (Syracuse Brigadiers):  “It’s heaven out there judging when a good line is on the field with a good book.  I saw this a lot in the late ‘60’s.”

Danny Raymond Jr (Skyliners, Disney):  My dad [Danny Raymond Sr.] is judging World Open in ‘72.  Part of the uniform is kakhi pants and shirt.  He left them at home.  Frank Arsenault was there and drove my dad all over the city of Boston  - tailor to tailor – looking for judging pants.  Found them too!”

“Dad would talk to the drummers, stand in front of them, not move, and throw a “thumbs up”.  He did that a lot.  Blessed Sac would kid with him.  “Get a lawn chair cause you ain’t gonna get nothin.” He’d reply, “No, wait a minute, I’m going to get another pencil.  I might need it!”  When a corps was going off the field he would tell them so they could hear, “I’m not hitting you. I’m just writing comments.”

 

Don’t mess with rudimental cats. 

 

Dick Filkins:  “Bob Zorfass was a drummer for the York White Roses.  He ended up as principal of York High School.  No one knew he was a drummer.  The band director asked Bob to write him a street beat.  He was someone who always wrote over your head. Well, the kids couldn’t do it.  Bob was asked to come down and talk them through it.  The kids were laughing about it like, “No one can play that.  Watch him make a fool of himself!”   Bob finally pulled out the sticks and the kid’s mouths fell open.  They were astounded!  He said it was the highlight of his drumming career to see those jaws drop!”         

                 

Everyone remembers being cold and not warmed up going off at retreat.   You hoped no one good was around to hear as stiff muscles tried to execute.  Being cold as a carp when trying to play your most difficult piece in a moderate headwind that jostled you sideways was called experience.  

Drum Corps Ain't Band

A large bunch of young college rowdy’s were at Horicon Marsh Days doing what boisterous young adults do at a Wisconsin local fair.  They were laughing at us, the Phantom Regiment, as we marched past after the parade. Hot and irritable, the corps glared at them. As they moved closer to the us guzzling beer, I presented both of my sticks upside one of their heads. His bottle broke into pieces, showering the contents. Quietly stunned, he nor his friends had much to say, drowned out by the laughter of the trailing horn line. Turning back to look, they stared blankly. Drum corps ain’t band.

 

“And now the scores……….”

 

Ralph Poznanski (Cavaliers): “The Kilties were out of control.  All the kids that got kicked out of other corps or were talented but had an attitude went to Kilties.  At DCI Midwest in ’75, they stacked their drums at retreat in a pyramid, then stood behind it and drank pop, ate Doritos chips and smoked things not of this country.”      

Paul Milano (Cavaliers):  “Trooping the stands is a lost art.  Kilties were pissed off at their score.  Their soloist comes up to our drum major, takes his mouthpiece and stomps it into the ground, salutes our drum major, then stormed off.  All kinds of stuff happened at troop the stands.  People would fling sticks all over the place.”     

John Grady (Reilly Raiders): “Even though Reilly dropped from being the No. 1 POWER HOUSE of the 50s, they were still super.  Wild Bill Hooten wasn't happy and blew his stack a few times that season [1960], including, in New Haven, Connecticut, when he tossed the 3rd place trophy over the fence!”

Paul Milano (Cavaliers):  “I didn’t know if Cavaliers were going to make the field in ’74.  I was in Santa Clara…..  Santa Clara was very church-like. Anaheim was nuts!  They had a house they lived at – rented – from a guy who went to Europe for two years. They were supposed to take care of that house as part of the deal.  They didn’t.  They stuffed garbage in the garage and the swimming pool out in back – well – that was a toilet.  They were totally crazy.  The parties there had all kinds of women and they told the guy who ran the liquor store that they would pay him and order now because they would not be in shape enough to tell him what they wanted later.  And the guy did fill the second order.”          

 

Tudor O. Bompa (Olympic Coach, The Theory and Methodology of Training, p.201):  “There is strong evidence that alcohol and smoking do affect ones performance…  One should not believe that being physically active means to lift bottles of beer.”

 

Ralph Hardimon  (Aneheim Kingsmen): “Man, as far as partying with the corps, well, use your imagination because we did everything back in those days in California. But when it came to practice, then it was that and that only.  

Bob “Kemo” London  (Royal Lancers): “Our corps got beat for the first time by anyone around here at the 1970 VFW state finals.  We were eight points down. Our snares, Gary Sidlowski, Kevin Ricozi and Mike Bessinger, shouted “BULLSHT” and threw their sticks at the stands.  There was a penalty or something but they had read the scores wrong; the tabulators had messed up.  We were looking through Praesidium at Mauraders. Poor little Praesidium, an all girls corps, was between us and them, scared out of their wits.” 

 

We were parked next to them. After the show Mellophones and contrabass bugles went flying over their busses landing close by.  It rained silver tubing. I closed the bus door to watch once expensive metal fly and become scrap.

 

Are the judges ready?  Is the corps… ready.  You may enter the field for competition.

 

Lorne Ferrazzutti (Toronto Optimists):  “One time we had to stand on the ready line as Skyliners took the field. The ground actually trembled!”

Ralph Poznanski (Cavaliers): “I used to throw up going to the starting line.  If a judge saw it he didn’t know what to think. I always did that, even when bowling in a league.  I’d have to pull the car over.  For me, it’s getting ready for competition.”               

 

Only a drummer would understand.

 

Dave Below (Crossmen): “I was choosing various exercises from these sheets wrote up years ago; lines of four measure phrases of one hand technique like tap timings, Flams, great stuff.  One sheet was based on Lead Hand Switch passages.  So I picked one that started with a right hand lead 9 stroke roll into a right Paradiddle, into another 9 (now opposite lead hand) into a L-paradiddle.  It continues back and forth.  Very fun, very Marty Hurley, great fundamental exercise to develop hands and flow.

"I was giving them nicknames we could all recognize - couldn't come up with one for this one. This guy Barney, snare on my left [Freelancers 90-94 Pit] without missing a beat says, "Confused Girlfriend"; all the back and forth execution of the rolls sound like a girl changing her mind every five seconds.  We were howling. "Confused Girlfriend" it was.”

“Gentlemen, it’s been an honor to share the field of battle with you”

Quarterback, Washington Sentinels, from the movie  “The Replacements”

 

“Greatness, no matter how brief, stays with a man.  These men earned it.”

Coach, Washington Sentinels, from the movie “The Replacements”

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