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When Drum Corps Was Really Drum Corps DVD Set

About this DVD and videotape footage from Sharper Video Productions . . .

This DVD set was produced by Larry McCormick, a former member and instructor of the Chicago Cavaliers through his company, Sharper Video Productions. It contains interviews with Cavaliers drum majors, directors and instructors, plus archival footage of some of the Cavaliers' competitive rivals during the 1960s. The remastered DVD contains basically the same material as the six-volume videotape set that was originally released in 1998, although reorganized into 10 chapters instead of the six volumes.

• Chapter 1 -- “Birth of a Champion” (1948-1955) -- How drum and bugle corps got started in Scouting and the veterans groups through the eyes of the Cavaliers organization, with cameo performances of great corps from the 1950s like the Cavaliers, Austin Grenadiers, Norwood Park Imperials and Belleville Black Knights.
• Chapter 2 -- “The Glory Years” (1956-mid-1960s) -- The Midwest, led by the Cavaliers, soar toward winning the coveted VFW National Championship, plus Garfield Cadets. Cavies reveal the origin of the “splooie” cheer, initiation ceremonies and the 1961 undefeated season.
• Chapter 3 -- “Blazing the Path to DCI” (mid-1960s-1972) -- Looking deeper into the politics of the movement and the shaping and future forming of the DCI organization, the 1967 titles and the Troopers, Boston Crusaders, CSJA Judges group, 1965 Chicago Royal Airs and the legendary 1971 Cavaliers’ circus show.
• Chapter 4 -- Rare vintage performances (1960s).
• Chapter 5 -- Chicago Royal Airs, Blessed Sacrament Golden Knights, Boston Crusaders and the Cavaliers -- a collection of rare and classic black and white archive videos from private collections with spectacular moments in drum corps history, most from the national championships.
• Chapter 6 -- The Cavaliers’ Japan tour.
• Chapter 7 -- Drummer’s reunion.
• Chapter 8 -- Color guard championship performances.
• Chapter 9 -- The United States Marine Drum & Bugle Corps.
• Chapter 10 -- “America” -- Under the direction of Colonel Truman Crawford who played a major part in the history of drum corps. You’ll hear “The Commandant’s Own” play a tribute at Crawford’s retirement ceremony.
A review by Michael Boo that originally appeared in Drum Corps World 10 years ago follows . . .

"When Drum Corps Was Really Drum Corps"

by Michael Boo, DCW staff
I have just witnessed the most incredible drum corps video experience of my life. On Sunday, December 6, 1998, Larry McCormick, Drum Corps International Hall of Fame member and president of Sharper Video Productions, Inc., invited a few dozen friends and drum corps acquaintances to witness 2 1/2 hours of his most recent labor of love, “When Drum Corps Was Really Drum Corps,” a 50-year history of the junior drum and bugle corps movement in America.

This big-screen presentation covered the four-hour video collectors series. It truly left the viewer yearning for more. Larry is no stranger to drum corps. He marched in the Cavaliers during the 1950s playing in the drum line. He then became an esteemed instructor of the corps from 1962 through 1971.

Not content with the restrictive instrumentation of the day, he began to design new percussion equipment (remember the flapjacks, the predecessors to marching timpani?). He then went into show designing and is credited with the introduction of the “total show” concept (his shows were often far ahead of their time, such as the 1971 shows for Cavaliers (circus) and the Madison Scouts (“Alice in Wonderland”).

In homage to the Cavaliers’ 50th Anniversary, Larry decided to create a comprehensive history of the corps and the entire activity. The two years of hard work he put into the project is well-reflected in the remarkable production values of the finished product. I think it’s safe to say that there has never been a better produced video series in the activity.

Make no mistake, this is far more than just a video history of one corps. The series explores the evolution of the entire drum corps activity up to the events that led to the formation of DCI.

The program includes many historical videos of corps from the past, color guard championship shows and even a rare performance of the U.S. Marine Drum Corps under the direction of Colonel Truman Crawford at his retirement ceremony in Washington D.C.

While the title of this series alone might cause some people to flinch, whether or not it’s a sly and wry commentary on today’s activity is something only Larry knows. But to anyone who remembers the “early days” or is intrigued by the past, this series pulls no punches in presenting the aura of drum corps back “when” that can’t help but give one goosebumps during a viewing.

The series starts with an historic post-World War II prologue, explaining why the country was ripe for the explosion of drum corps that was to soon follow. A large number of non-drum corps historical film clips went into the production of this part of the series.

There is much film of early competitors that was dug up from the vaults of many old-time corps fans. I had heard of several of these units, but had little idea what they were like.

Through interviews and reflections, the historic rivalries are relived and brought back to life. The famous Midwest vs. East brawl with St. Vincent’s after the VFW Nationals in 1957 is explored, including the participation of two senior corps of supposedly “responsible” adults.

Several laughs were heard throughout the room as Don Warren, founder and still president of the corps, shared his memories about why he created the corps out of the Boy Scout troop of which he was scoutmaster and how he himself was only a couple of years older than the oldest members.

The great Cavaliers hall fire of 1967 is explained, a tragedy that claimed most of the corps’ history and much of its equipment, just prior to the corps moving forward in the same season to win both the VFW and American Legion Nationals.

For the curious, an explanation of the origins of the corps’ “splooie” is, well . . . never mind.

Interviews conducted with adults of today who were members in those earlier years are quite touching. You can see clearly just how the corps and the activity affected them and changed their lives forever.

Don Warren explains how the Combine of 1971 was formed due to bad judging at the VFW and American Legion Nationals and how that, in turn, directly led to the creation of DCI.

Plus, 1971 was the year of the aforementioned “total concept” theme shows, complete with costumes. Former Madison Scouts Director Bill Howard is interviewed as he remembered how the head of the VFW Nationals proclaimed there would be no costumes, or much of any other innovations, and that (along with the judging) pretty much persuaded a handful of influential directors to form DCI.

Howard goes on to explain why the corps felt they needed to control their own destiny. But the video series doesn’t preach or get in the way of the story. It allows the activity to tell its own story and there isn’t a dull moment.

The entire drum corps world is covered as it is viewed through the eyes of the Cavalier organization. But true “corps” fans will enjoy this viewing experience as much as those who are connected to “The Green Machine.”

As a history lesson, “When Drum Corps Was Really Drum Corps” hits a home run. As pure entertainment, it hits a grand slam. It would make a perfect gift for any drum corps fan.

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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.