by Ken Mason, DCW staff
This article was originally published in the November 2008 edition of Drum Corps World (Volume 37, Number 8).
Twelve more CDs are being added to “The Beat Goes On” series of historic drum corps audio recordings from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. We strive to offer the widest variety of corps from that three-decade period, courtesy of the vast archives of Stetson D. Richmond and Alf Wateska. And we don’t stop at the top — we aim to bring to you as many corps as possible from the local, regional and national-level contests of the era.
This batch begins at the national level, with the 1956 American Legion Nationals. Volume 1 covers the seniors, featuring a selection of corps from diverse geographic locations. Entries from Miami, FL (Harvey Seeds Rebels), San Jose, CA (Gauchos), Stratford, CT (Connecticut Yankees — pictured at right)) and points in between (La Porte Lancers and Racine’s Boys of 76), reflect the truly national scope of the contest. (A future release, Volume 2, will cover the junior contest.)
Living up to its name, the 1958 edition of the “Dream Contest” had a blockbuster slate on both the senior and junior sides. It’s also a dream come true for CD compilation, presenting 12 corps to fill two CDs perfectly. Good thing, because not a single one of these performances could be left out. The legendary Reilly Raiders made a good portion of their legend in 1958, fielding an enormous unit to overcome the defending champion Hawthorne Caballeros, fresh from their AL Nationals win a week earlier.
The Archer-Epler Musketeers, no less a legend themselves, brought their innovative program into third position, while the Pittsburgh Rockets were pulling out all stops to climb into contention. The renewed commitment and fresh programming ideas of the Princemen were legendary (there’s that word again) as well.
Meanwhile, in the juniors . . . for those of you who can’t even imagine an all-female corps vying for activity-wide supremacy . . . that is exactly what was happening in ’58, thanks to the Audubon Bon Bons. This recording demonstrates why. Unfortunately for them, it also demonstrates why it’s hard to argue with any victory racked up by the Blessed Sacrament Golden Knights of the late 1950s.
Also featured here are the Paterson Cadets in their finest year, a season which saw them exchanging victories with the Holy Name . . . er, Garfield Cadets, still just as potent on the field despite challenges in leaving their former church sponsorship.
As in the senior class, Massachusetts was represented in the juniors by their finest, the Hyde Park Crusaders. Iconic exhibition performances by Scout House and St. Vincent’s Cadets add finishing touches to these two CDs.
By popular demand, we bring you more of the Northeastern senior circuit. The 1960 Northeastern Circuit Championship took place at a time when familiar names like the Connecticut Hurricanes and Long Island Sunrisers had their hands full with regional competition from corps like the Fitchburg Kingsmen, Colonial Cavaliers, Springfield Marksmen and the circuit champion Carver Gay Blades. Wish we could fit all eight finalists on this CD, but the two we had to omit will be heard on other 1960 offerings.
To make up for our last batch of releases having no Alf Wateska recordings, this batch has five CDs featuring his work. The earliest of those is 1962’s “West Penn Selections” which delves deeper into the wealth of senior drum corps activity in the Keystone State.
Wateska covered a lot of local action that year, so we have hand-picked the best representative recording for each corps from among several events. His own corps, the Sharpsburg Cadets, and the neighboring Vern Acklin Cavaliers, are both included, along with a rare chance to hear the Derry Crusaders. Latrobe’s Colonials and the Warren Cornplanters were in fine form and the Westshoremen, recently merged with the Bonnie Scots, also had a strong 1962 campaign.
You must hear the 1963 “March of Champions.” Of course, nearly every edition of the Baltimore contest produced memorable recordings in a classic sound forum, but this one stands out even among them, not just for the all-star lineup. Fiery brass power and deep dynamic range, restored in painstaking detail from the master tapes, provides a resulting recording that should probably carry a medical disclaimer (i.e. “ask your doctor if you are healthy enough to listen to this 1963 CD”).
Stetson D. Richmond was in peak form on this night and so were the corps. The Interstatesmen alone are worth the purchase price; compare and contrast the work of their French horns against the mellophones they employed in this 1964 recording. Reading Buccaneers are also added to our selection of top 1963 senior corps by virtue of this release.
“Drums Along the Erie Canal” was a 1964 contest most noteworthy for the rare coverage it provided of several fine units from New York and Ohio. Frequent state champion Marion Cadets had grown to become a factor on the national level. Rochester’s Emerald Cadets would knock off Troopers, Norwood Park Imperials and Madison Scouts later in the season.
Yet on this day, the Grenadiers surpassed them to take runner-up with a hyped performance. Shortsville Shamrocks make it four out of four competitors at this contest whose only 1964 recordings are on this CD. Also included are the Pittsburgh Rockets’ exhibition that night and a recording of the Toledo Demons from a contest the prior weekend to fill out the disc.
As in 1964, Alf Wateska captured an interesting mix of out-of-state (or country) corps in 1967 Pennsylvania shows. That is what “Music in Motion” presents for the listener. Quality corps like De La Salle Oaklands, Geneva Appleknockers and Marion Cadets are now available in a previously hard-to-find year.
The Chessmen of St. Catharines, ONT, and the Cleveland Caballeros were quite adept in their own right. Twin City Imperials are the lone Pennsylvania representative on this disc.
The 1970 “Falcon Invitational” offers a fresh change from the usual lineup for Eastern open shows. The Poughkeepsie Pacers and Speigleaires had both risen to the point of taking on the challenge of top-level competition; their peak achievements are captured here. Oddly enough, should the lost Wildwood recording never surface, this June show will remain as the latest-season recording of the 1970 Muchachos.
Well-taught all-girl power N.D.-Ettes also honed their skills in open contests like this one. Early-season repertoires of Blessed Sacrament and Garfield Cadets are also presented on this compact disc.
The 1972 New Jersey AL State Championship was another of a series of key September contests that enabled Stetson D. Richmond to capture most of the area’s corps in top form that year. Still looking for a late-season recording of Blue Rock? Look no further. If that’s not enough reason to select this disc, check out the other five corps, carefully selected to avoid duplication with the other area championship CDs already released (Eastern States Circuit and Garden State Circuit).
Some of Alf Wateska’s finest work was done at the first edition of the American International Open contest in 1973. AIO also had a nice mix of corps, including the eventual DCI Finalist Black Knights and the up-and-coming Phantom Regiment. Falcon Cadets’ quality is a best-kept secret, as they didn’t tour to DCI, but knocked off several big-name corps and one eventual ’73 finalist in major shows.
The infamous Milwaukee merger known as “The Thing” polished their act for this show. Marion Cadets and Seneca Princemen are also featured.
The 1976 “Great Lakes Selections” is the first of a series of CDs focusing on regional clusters of corps activity in the mid-1970s. This season was the year of the Buckeyes/Caballeros merger in Cleveland, the coming-of-age of the Bluecoats, the last year before cross-town rivals Flying Dutchmen and Dutch Boy Cadets merged, and the first major contest tour of the Bandettes. Perennial Great Lakes mainstay Saginaires round out this compilation.
“The Beat Goes On,” an audio time capsule for the drum corps activity, presents recordings digitally remastered from the original tapes of Stetson D. Richmond and Alf Wateska, not scratchy albums or secondhand copies. Click on “Richmond/Wateska Historic CDs” and “New Historic CDs” in the DCW store to see the full product listing.