by Ken Mason, DCW staff
Back in the early 1950s, Stetson D. Richmond began offering his audio recordings of drum and bugle corps contest action to the public by popular demand. The technology of the day required him to split the typical 13-15 minute performance of the day into four segments to fit the 78 RPM record format in common use back then.
Even when 33 1/3 RPM solved that problem, albums were still custom-cut on noisy vinyl acetate platters. Today, you can upgrade to compact disc format, mastered directly from the original tapes of Richmond and Alf Wateska, and made available as “The Beat Goes On” series. The difference is astounding.
Twelve new CDs are being added to the selection, starting with the 1956 “Drums on Parade”. The Cavaliers and Norwood Park Imperials rose to new heights as they dueled each other at this and other contests. Also present were the ever-popular Kilties and the Cedarburg Thunderbolts, forerunner of today’s Pioneer. But the visiting exhibition unit was the headline news, as Preston Scout House made their first Midwestern appearance while at the top of their game.
The 1959 New York-Canadian Circuit championship was Stetson D, Richmond’s final recording effort of the 1950s and what a way to finish. Stung by a second year of defeat at Canadian Nationals two weeks earlier, Scout House of Preston, ONT, moderated tempos, cleaned up many details and gave their absolute finest effort to try and topple national champion Toronto Optimists in a classic strategic battle with repercussions that would affect the Canadian competitive scene for years to come.
Though the Optimists triumphed, Scout House closed the gap from two points at Nationals to a half-point on this day. De La Salle Oaklands, who would become Opti’s chief challenger in the ensuing years, are presented in their earliest available recording here as well.
On the senior side, the crowd-pleasing Geneva Appleknockers took a significant title, with the
Guelph Royalaires very close behind, underscoring their emergence on the international scene. Hilton Crusaders (now Rochester Crusaders), the first beneficiary of Vince Bruni’s genius, are another must for fans of classic drum corps.
Further revealing the depth of drum corps activity at the turn of the decade, “The Beat Goes On” has compiled selected corps from the 1960 Interstate senior circuit, one of the earliest organized circuits for corps looking for a steady diet of field competitive events. The circuit spanned a region from Bridgeport, CT’s, Troopers to the Bangor, PA, Yellow Jackets, with corps like the Amboy Dukes and Morristown Colonials in between. And it’s true — the Lambertville Volunteers and Roseto Chieftains, perhaps better known for recent activity, were competing nearly 50 years ago, and here’s a rare chance to hear them in action.
Back when drum corps season occasionally extended into the fall, the highly-competitive Greater New York Circuit held its title bout as late as the 1962 edition’s October 21 date. Needless to say, the corps had plenty of time to refine their products for this championship show. The Dumont Police Cadets, Bronx Kingsmen, St. Ann’s Loyalaires and others are featured.
Ken Kobold scaled back his recording activity upon becoming contest director for the Illinois Drum & Bugle Cops Association in 1963, a position he served in for five years. Fortunately, the state AL championship was not a circuit event, which gave Kobold a free day on which to dust off the recorder and capture all of the state’s top corps in fine August form. For that matter, Kobold’s equipment and technique was also in fine form on these recordings. Collectors know that the odd travel patterns of the 1963 season make it hard to find recordings of even some top corps
At last, after patient work with the original tapes, we present the 1964 version of Baltimore’s “March of Champions”. The big news in ’64 was the arrival of the Connecticut Hurricanes, finally bursting forth from contender to champion caliber. On this day, though, the New York Skyliners were not to be denied, presenting much of the vintage material now immortalized in alumni corps performances.
Honorable mention has to go to the Interstatesmen’s wailing mellophones, relentless drum line and driving tempos; this is your best opportunity to hear what all their rave reviews were about. Also included are the Reading Buccaneers, in hot pursuit of the leaders, Archer-Epler Musketeers before they changed their concert number, and a rare recording of a potent Yankee Rebels unit in their host exhibition.
Western Pennsylvania had a bumper crop of drum corps in the mid-1960s, enough to support their own competitive circuit. “West Penn Power” catches these corps at their peak. Hear the Meadville Thunderbirds and North East Shoreliners compete head-to-head, a couple of years before the merger that created the Erie Thunderbirds.
Recording engineer Alf Wateska was an alumnus of the host Sharpsburg Cadets, who would go on to merge with this contest’s runner-up, the Vern Acklin Cavaliers. The winning Westmoreland Esquires were themselves the result of a 1959 merger. Only the evening’s exhibition unit, Cambria Cadets, led a merger-free life.
Finding quality recordings for 1968 is a challenge. With that in mind, we’ve put in some extra effort to restore Stetson D. Richmond’s take on the 1968 “World Open” finals. Collectors will want to check out these CDs, even if you already have the Fleetwood version. Different microphone placements give a fresh perspective, and every performance has been
meticulously reworked to remove compression and provide the listener with the full dynamic range.
Hear what the Boston Crusaders, Des Plaines Vanguard, Blessed Sacrament Golden Knights, 27th Lancers and other top corps really sounded like as they charged toward the stands. Exhibitions by the winners of class B (Don Juans) and all-girl (Debonnaires) are included, providing you with the complete night’s event on two CDs.
Another year has been filled in for our popular Red Carpet Association Championship CDs. This time it’s 1974, the year of the tie for first place. Co-champions Erie Thunderbirds and Guelph Royalaires were no strangers to each other, as their title duel the previous year was decided by a tenth of a point. This edition of RCA also marked Brass, Inc.’s first visit to the championship, which the audience certainly appreciated (even more so after their performance).
“The Beat Goes On” is a series of historic drum corps audio recordings from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Listings of the CD contents can be found in our advertisements in Drum Corps World, or search for your favorite corps online at the DCW online store
(www.drumcorpsworld.com). Click on “New Historic CDs” and “Richmond/Wateska Historic CDs” where you can view the full list of 124 CDs.