by Ken Mason, DCW staff
“The Beat Goes On,” an audio time capsule for the drum corps activity, now has yet another dozen CD’s worth of Stetson D. Richmond and Alf Wateska recordings to choose from. Junior corps of the 1970s are getting a little more attention in this batch, but the ’50s and ’60s releases are carefully chosen for their significance.
Speaking of which, the 1954 American Legion Nationals, Volume 2, begins our senior coverage for that season. Hearing the brilliant sound of top corps like the Hawthorne Caballeros and Yankee Rebels, it is hard to believe these recordings are over 55 years old.
Other corps featured on this disc include Satan’s Angels from Bellefontaine, OH, in their banner year; the Pittsburgh Rockets, repeating as American Legion finalists; and the historic Midwest power, Racine’s Boys of 76.
The 1957 Dream Contest is a long overdue issue, but when you hear it, you’ll agree that it was worth the wait. This was one of the finest hours for all-girl drum corps history, the day the Audubon Bon Bons came within 0.05 of winning one of the most significant titles of their day.
Meanwhile, it’s hard to argue with the Blessed Sacrament Golden Knights’ triumph after hearing their rock-solid sound. And then there’s Holy Name Cadets, a week before their American Legion Nationals win, revealing the form that would put them on top again at the following week’s Legion event in Atlantic City.
It’s a good thing St. Vincent’s Cadets were in exhibition, as this contest would have been too much to take with them thrown into the mix. As it stood, a heroic horn show from Liberty Bell provides iconic memories, but could only garner last place in the score tally. Scout House, at their historic peak, rounds out the CD with their exhibition performance.
1958’s Penn-Jersey Selections delves into the quality junior competitors lurking just out of the spotlight of “Dream”-level contests. The Tri-Community Blue Lancers and West Reading Police Cadets swapped the top two spots at the ’58 Pennsylvania state title contests, while St. James’ Cadets won Maryland’s American Legion state show.
State titles were harder to come by in New Jersey, but Woodsiders and St. Lucy’s Cadets added to Newark’s abundant tradition of quality drum corps. Bracken Cavaliers, rapidly rebuilding, round out this disc.
The 1966 Music in Motion recording presents more of the wealth of senior corps in Pennsylvania and surrounding areas. Visits from Ontario corps were becoming a regular occurrence, as evidenced by the Canadian Commanders, Guelph Royalaires and Flying Dutchmen.
Alf Wateska had his gear in shape to handle the power of the large Commanders unit, as well as the fast-paced frenzy generated by the Hamburg Kingsmen.
The Interstate Cavaliers featured many of the same arrangements the Anaheim Kingsmen would use in ’67 and ’68, penned by a young Rocco Oliverio. Albion Grenadiers also mixed things up competitively at this level.
Stetson D. Richmond captured the 1967 World Open in particularly robust quality and we offer all 12 of the finalists, with recordings unaffected by the occasional rain showers of that evening. This is of special interest to the Imperials of St. Patrick, whose Fleetwood recording was not complete.
Also worthy of note are fellow Midwesterners, the St. Paul Scouts and Nisei Ambassadors, making the long trip to compete in Lynn, MA, at the famous Manning Bowl. Pittsfield Cavaliers, Trumbull Troubadours and I.C. Queensmen are other names we don’t get to feature often enough.
At the top end of the scoresheet, the Boston Crusaders were on a tear, with two state rivals, the Cardinals and Reveries, joining them, and banner campaigns being waged by St. Joseph’s of Batavia, St. Lucy’s and St. Raphael’s Golden Buccaneers. Hear them in digital clarity.
Continuing our quest to make up for the lack of DCA Championship recordings, the 1968 March of Champions fills in the remaining top seniors not previously included in “The Beat Goes On” product line, specifically the Connecticut Hurricanes, Hawthorne Caballeros and show host Yankee Rebels. This event also provides our best opportunity to hear the Reilly Raider/Musketeers, the one-year joint venture of Philadelphia’s senior powers.
Also featured is the winning performance of the Reading Buccaneers, who would go on to take the DCA crown that season. The Long Island Sunrisers were a particularly close runner-up that night in Baltimore; judge for yourself how hot their show was.
The 1974 American International Open recordings are a real treat for diehard drum corps fans. Not only were the corps in late-season form, so was Alf Wateska, providing solid dynamics, true tone and an interesting stereo counterpoint to the other recordings of that year. For example, you will hear wild mellophone licks near the end of the Anaheim Kingsmen opener that are inaudible on the Ken Kobold recordings that year, simply due to the different microphone placement Wateska used.
Of course, a few of these corps didn’t make the DCI albums, so you might only hear the Cardinals, Marion Cadets or Southern Tier Grenadiers by virtue of these CDs. The contest lineup matches the quality level of the recordings, with SCV, BD, De La Salle, Phantom Regiment, Cavaliers and Black Knights also headlining the lineup. Regiment Militaire and Falcon Cadets complete the 12-corps field.
The 1975 AIO, volume 4 CD delves into the remaining open class competitors from that contest, covering a wide geographic range. We go coast-to-coast with the Seattle Imperials and the New London Surfers; from the big city (OLPH Ridgemen) to the plains of central Ohio (Marion Cadets); and, in an unusual twist, two Louisiana corps on one CD (Bleu Raeders and Southern Rebels), just in time for Mardi Gras.
Our first ’79 releases are now here, in the form of the complete 1979 American International Open open class finals. Headlining these two discs are the finest-ever edition of the Guardsmen and the always-potent Crossmen. Royal Brigade’s crystal-clear horn line was a highlight.
Hometown fans were treated to the rebuilt Royal Crusaders displaying the form that would propel them back into DCI’s top 20 with a vengeance, as well as the talent-laden General Butler Vagabonds with perhaps their finest crop of soloists (and with them, that’s saying a lot!).
Many fine corps toiling in mid-open class present surprising attributes, like the electric performance of the Florida Vanguard at this show, or the brass fireworks of the Massachusetts merger Royal Marquis. Or the compelling shows of two upstate New York units, Greece Cadets and Watkins Glen Squires, both having narrowly missed DCI’s top 25 that year. Saginaires delivered open class power and finesse as Michigan’s highest-ranking competitor of the day. Two Lancers (New York and Bengal) round out the set.
“The Beat Goes On” drum corps audio recording series presents drum corps performances of the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, digitally remastered from the original tapes of Stetson D. Richmond and Alf Wateska, not scratchy albums or secondhand copies. Look for ads with our product listing in your latest copy of Drum Corps World (turn to page 6). Or search for your favorite corps online at the DCW online store (www.drumcorpsworld.com), where you can view the full list of 172 CDs representing nearly 370 different junior and senior corps.