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An interview with Glenn Kubacki, Fleetwood recording engineer

by Steve Vickers, DCW Publisher
publisher@drumcorpsworld.com

I’ve known Glenn for a number of years, having met him through the historic record auctions that Drum Corps World ran twice a year since 1992. He both placed items in the auction for sale and also was a frequent purchaser of items for his extensive collection.

For the past year, he has been involved in a major project to bring the Fleetwood catalog of drum and bugle corps recordings back to life on compact discs. Since a mid-1970s fire at the Fleetwood warehouse in Revere, MA, destroyed all of the master tapes, Glenn’s major emphasis has been to find new or nearly-new copies of the nearly 300 titles and engineer digital copies that are as close to the originals as possible.

Last Labor Day at the DCA Championships in Scranton, PA, Glenn and Fleetwood owners Wayne Terminello and Ray Samora introduced the initial 125 CDs, all with the original cover art reproduced on a smaller scale.

Steve Vickers: Tell me how you initially got hooked up with Wayne and Ray on this task.

Glenn Kubacki: Originally, I was looking to remaster the Fleetwood catalog as a preservation project. I had acquired approximately 200 Fleetwood records and was slowly but surely converting them to digital. At the same time, I was searching for any hint of Fleetwood’s whereabouts in the hope of gaining permission to reproduce the covers and bring the Fleetwood catalog to market.

Last May, I heard a rumor that Ray Samora was actively looking to bring the Fleetwood drum corps catalog back to life along with Fleetwood’s sports recording catalog. I made a few telephone calls, got Ray’s number and gave him a call. We chatted for about a half hour and decided to join forces in making this happen.

I had already converted about 50 titles to digital and we decided that they could be used as a starting point for the project. Ray decided that he wanted to make big a splash at DCA, so we set our sights on Labor Day weekend and, after a few strategy session/dinners, we were off and running.

SV: Didn’t you find one individual who had well over half of the albums?

GK: We did. Ray had been in contact with Moe Knox and had discovered that Moe had a large part of the Fleetwood collection in his possession and was willing to loan his records to the project. As a matter of fact, Ray drove down to Moe’s house in Connecticut to pick up several milk crates of records and then continued down to New Jersey where he and I met for the first time over dinner. It was a great meeting and we came to realize that even though there was some overlap, we’d already located over 85% of the base catalog.

SV: Describe the subsequent process you’ve gone through to locate the balance of the collection.

GK: We are constantly looking for the remaining items. I check the on-line auctions daily and am always on the lookout for collections and individual items for sale. We have also been very fortunate. There have been several people who have large portions of the catalog in their possession and have been willing to loan records to the project.

Currently, in addition to the albums provided by Moe and myself, we’ve included albums provided by Alan Horton, Frank Dorritie, John Sullivan and Lou Campadelli. We are very grateful to Moe and these other gentlemen as the project would not have been possible without their help.

Additionally, there are several other collectors who we have not yet imposed upon who have offered their collections to the project. Overall, the response has been tremendous and we are thankful for that.

SV: How many of the original Fleetwood catalog items do you still need?

GK: As of today, we are missing less than a dozen of the original 277 performances in the base catalog. We have 95% of the base catalog in our possession. In addition, we’ve located some of the non-catalog items and some of the Cadet albums as well. By the time we are finished, we will have preserved over 300 Fleetwood titles.

SV: Perhaps our readers can help fill in some of the blanks. Can you list what you’re still missing?

GK: We are still looking for the following items from the main catalog: “Concert Tonight” (FLP 2033 or FSLP 2034); “Serenade of Drums” (FLP 2081 or FSLP 2082); “1965 New York State American Legion, Volume 1” (FCLP 2142); “Drums at Wildwood, Volume 1” (FCLP 2144); “Sound Off” (FCLP 2164); “1966 Shriner’s International” (FCLP 2181); “The Music of the Reading Buccaneers” (FCLP 2185); “1967 New York State American Legion” (FCLP 2196); “1971 Evening With the Corps, Volume 3” (FCLP 2280); “1972 New York State American Legion, Volume 1” (FCLP 2327); “Skyliners 25th Anniversary” (FCLP 2329); “1972 World Open, Volume 4” (FCLP 2335); and “1972 American Legion, Volume 2” (FCLP 2340).

In addition, we are looking for any non-catalog items and Cadet titles. There are also some titles we’ve released in Monaural that we would like to find the Stereo versions of so that the entire catalog can be produced in Stereo.

SV: What series of steps have you taken to prepare each of these recordings for manufacturing by Fleetwood?

GK: In order to understand the steps, you must first understand the philosophy I’m working under. This is first and foremost a preservation project. We are saving a piece of drum corps history.

Since there are no master tapes to work with, we have to work from records. Therefore, the records have to be treated like gold and we must preserve as much of the original performance as humanly possible using the tools and technology available to us.

First, the performance has to be captured to my computer workstation. This starts with me finding the cleanest possible record for each recording. By clean, I mean, with as few scuffs and scratches on the record surface as possible. In some circumstances, multiple records have been used to create a single master.

Prior to recording, each record is cleaned using a vacuum cleaning machine. To capture each performance, I use a highend turntable calibrated to spin at precisely 33 1/3 rpm. Also, to ensure that I capture as much information from the record grooves as possible, I use a highend phonograph cartridge capable of pulling lots of detail from the grooves of each record.

The turntable and cartridge were acquired specifically for this project. I have a special sound capture card and software on my computer to capture the performance in as high a fidelity as possible. Since records can skip, great care has to be taken to overcome and eliminate any skips in the performances.

Once the recording has been captured from the record, the record is immediately returned to its protective sleeve and jacket and put away. A copy of the raw recording is then archived in case future technology allows us to produce even better copies of the performances.

After I’ve captured the performance, I adjust and increase the volume levels. Sometimes the volume levels were unbalanced between the left and right channels. I correct this. In some cases, this imbalance was the result of problems with the original recording equipment. In these cases, fixing the imbalance would ruin the recording, so I left the imbalance in the recording.

I also verify that the channels have not been switched. If the channels had been switched, I would then swap the channels to fix the recording and get the proper imaging for the performance.

The next step is to clean up the recordings. The trick here is that I really cannot add anything to the recordings. I can only take away. Therefore, my approach has to be to do no harm. My goal is to reduce the unwanted artifacts without destroying the music.

This is accomplished by applying a set of filters to the recordings. First, I apply a filter to reduce background noise and crackle to the entire recording. Then I go back and listen to the recording, using other filters to remove unwanted artifacts in small slices from either or both channels. If the filters destroy the music along with an artifact, I will leave the artifact in the recording.

This part of the process could take anywhere from 20 minutes to two hours or more per 13-minute performance, depending on the amount of artifacts to clean. But judging from the comments we’ve received so far, the effort has been well worth it.

Once all of the performances on a record have been cleaned, the performance order is recorded to a master list I’m maintaining and the CD masters are created from the cleaned-up performances.

The masters are then archived and a copy of each master is sent to Fleetwood where the covers are simultaneously being scanned, cleaned up and reduced to CD size. The Web site is then updated and the CDs are duplicated, packaged and made ready for sale.

The whole recording and cleaning process takes anywhere from two to over six hours per four-corps record. This is both an art and a science. The ultimate goal is to produce CDs people will want to listen to of performances from an important time in the history and evolution of drum corps.

SV: I understand there are many more Fleetwood albums that were produced outside the Fleetwood label and that no one has a good handle on just how many there were.   I remember one Cadet-label album of the 1966 Kansas American Legion State contest that came from Revere. Do you plan to introduce any of those items once you’ve completed the original Fleetwood collection?

GK: There were at least 40 albums produced under the Cadet label and other albums created under the Fleetwood label but outside of the main catalog. Currently, we have 10 of the Cadet titles and several of the Fleetwood “non-catalog” items and which we intend to remaster as well. However, since these were short run, limited production items, there are many more out there that we have no record of, but would like to find. If any of your readers know where we can find any of the Cadet titles or non-catalog items, we would love to hear from them.

SV: There have also been some surprising “finds” that were not part of the Fleetwood numbering system. Can you mention some of those items and will they be available as well?

GK: There have been several “finds” so far. Fleetwood produced several boxed sets in the early 1960s. Among them were a boxed set of the “1960 American Legion Nationals,” the “1962 and 1963 Evening With the Corps at Carnegie Hall” and the “1962 Northeastern Championships.” These were all assembled from the main catalog.

But Fleetwood also produced the “1962 Preview of Champions” and the “1962 and 1963 Dream Contest” as boxed sets outside of the main catalog. We’ve been given access to copies of these sets. The “1962 Preview of Champions” is already released, the “1963 Dream” should be available by the time your readers see this and the “1962 Dream” will be coming out soon.

But by far the most exciting find to date has been a recording of the United States Air Force Drum and Bugle Corps (Bolling Field) from 1958 that was recorded in England and offered to us by a fan. I’m hoping we can gain permission to reproduce this recording as it provides a very early look into the talent that Truman Crawford brought to his arrangements. It’s a fabulous recording.

SV: I know this project is particularly meaningful to both Wayne Terminello and the late Ray Samora. Ray was one of the founders of Fleetwood in 1958 and later started Drum Corps News, the “World Open” and the early- to mid-1960s indoor concerts at Carnegie Hall in New York City. Wayne started working in the Fleetwood warehouse while he was still a member of the I.C. Reveries and now owns the company. Describe the relationship you’ve developed with these gentlemen.

GK: First off, I miss having Ray around. His enthusiasm was contagious and inspired everyone around him. I only knew him for a short period of time, but I am grateful for that time and I’m glad to have met him.

Once Wayne and I were introduced, we got along great and are working together to get all of the records in the catalog done for the summer. Even though Fleetwood is up in Massachusetts and I’m on Long Island, I’ve been made to feel like a member of the family and Fleetwood is just that, a family. Everyone on the staff is great, we communicate often and everyone pulls together to make things happen. We’re also plotting a few surprises for our fans. Keep an eye on the Web site for some new and exciting items in the near future.

SV: Any particularly interesting stories you’ve come across in your quest to find all of these items?

GK: Well, Steve, that depends. How many pages do you want to have in this issue? But seriously, there are too many stories to recall in a single sitting. It’s been a great ride so far.

There are a few interesting things that happened, though not having to do with acquiring records, and they didn’t happen to me directly.

First off, Dick Blake, the creative half of Fleetwood back in the good old days, contacted the office recently and inquired about the project. My understanding was that he was quite excited about the possibility of seeing the catalog back in circulation. The second interesting thing that happened was that John Dowlan, former national rudimental drumming champion, called the office a few months ago to order the CD of his album “Percussion” that Fleetwood produced in 1962. John had a great discussion with Marie Cimino and, according to Marie, his enthusiasm for the project was great to hear about.

SV: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

GK: The time period between 1958 and 1972 saw many innovations and changes to the drum corps activity. Bugles became more musical and new voices were added to the brass choir, including the contra bass and the mellophone.

There were many changes introduced to the drum line. Rudimental and tuned bass drums were introduced. Glockenspiels disappeared and keyboard instruments appeared a few years later. Multi-toms and tympani were added as well.

Technique improved and arrangements evolved. Both DCA and DCI were founded during this time. We are preserving these recordings because they provide living documentation of these innovations and changes. Whether you marched during this time as I did, or if you’re interested in drum corps history, these recordings will provide you with much pleasure and insight as to how the activity evolved and progressed during this critical time in our history.

As for the performances? Well, great is great and there are plenty of great performances to be discovered on these recordings.

Finally, I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the efforts of Ray Samora, Dick Blake and everyone involved in capturing these performances in the first place. Without them, this project would not have been possible. My thanks to them.

I also have to thank everyone who offered their collections to the project. Without their contributions, these recordings may have been lost forever. And last, but certainly not least, my thanks to you and to Drum Corps World for your continued support of this project and all projects having to do with the preservation of the history of the drum corps activity.

SV: Thanks, Glenn, for taking time to let our readers know some of the background of this significant addition to the activities’ history.

To learn what is currently available, visit www.fleetwoodsound.com or click on the masthead advertisement on the front page of this Web site.

Publisher’s note: This interview originally appeared in the April 2005 edition of Drum Corps World, Volume 34, Number 1, mailed to subscribers on March 28.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

We received this update on July 26 from Glenn on the Fleetwood albums that are still needed to complete the project . . .

Dear Steve:

I had to answer some e-mails today regarding the DCW interview you and I did for the April issue regarding the Fleetwood project. I have attached a quick update regarding the items still needed for the project.

Thanks to the overwhelming response of DCW readers, we’ve been able to make a considerable dent in the records needed to complete the first phase of the Fleetwood Records project. Of the 13 titles we listed as needing, we’ve acquired 7 with an 8th on the way as we speak. That gives us 272 out of the 277 original titles (98%) and almost all of these titles have been found in their stereo versions as well.

As of today, July 26, we still need the following titles:
* Concert Tonight (FLP 2033 or FSLP 2034)
* Serenade of Drums (FLP 2081 or FSLP 2082)
* Sound Off (from 1966 – FCLP 2164)
* 1971 Evening With the Corps Volume 3 (FCLP 2280)
* Skyliner’s 25th Anniversary album (FCLP 2329).

Additionally, we are still looking for any and all Cadet titles as well as items CYO-1 and CYO-2 from 1958. Any help from your readers would be greatly appreciated.

Glenn Kubacki
Fleetwood Records

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Drum Corps World is published as an on-line electronic magazine by Sights & Sounds, Inc., Madison, WI. It is supported by advertising from manufacturers, service providers, corps, circuits and show sponsors. The publication began in October 1971 at the same time Drum Corps International was formed and has been produced continuously as a tabloid newspaper until April 2011 and on the Internet since May 2011. It is released monthly, as well as six additional e-mail blasts, one in late June, three during July and two in August.

The worldwide staff of writers and photographers provide show reviews during the season and interviews, feature articles, news and human interest stories during the off-season. The photographs that appear in the magazine are provided by 27 staff members who are scattered around the world. The publication covers World and Open Class Drum Corps International corps, Open and Class A Drum Corps Associates corps, alumni, mini-, parade and standstill units, as well as the growing activity in Europe, the Far East, Southeast Asia, the Philippines and South Africa.