Many years ago I became friendly with a lady at Mission Drums whose name was Mildred. She was at the show with her two sisters, Phoebe and Henrietta and her brother, Phineas. I found Mildred to be an astute drum corps fan who fell in love with the Princemen and their legendary drum major, Scotty Chappell in 1946 at the VFW Nationals.
As she was much older than me, I started calling her Aunt Mildred which she got a kick out of and her sisters also became aunts and her brother an uncle. The only problem came when someone referred to me as her nephew. She became very agitated and stated that “Richard, (she never called me Rick), is not my nephew.” It was the only time I ever heard her raise her voice.
The following is an excerpt from “The March on Massachusetts,” a history of Massachusetts Drum Corps from the mid 1920s to the present. It will be available in early ’97.
In the Beginning There Was a King
*In the beginning, there was a king and this king ruled over a young band of crusaders. They all went off to a great war and returned victorious, but not without having paid a great price. The king gathered his troops and they collectively became known as “Prince.”
The king was Arthur “Scotty” Chappell. His vision, creativity, compassion, inventiveness, and oh yes, talent, had the most profound impact on the direction that drum corps was to take, not just in Boston and Massachusetts, but indeed the entire world of the marching arts!
On Saturday evening, August 31, 1996, Mr. Al Saia was inducted into The World Drum Corps Hall of Fame, founded in 1976. This is a most prestigious honor, as Al joins fellow New England corpsmen Scotty Chapell, Dom Bianculli, Earl Sturtze, Vinnie Ratford, Pepe Notaro, Alan Smyth, Tom Long, Darcy Davis, Dominic Del Ra, Joe McNaught, Ray Samora, Jack Whelan, Duke Ducharme, Ed Trainer, Cliff Fisher, Jim Pinette, Gerry Shellmer, and Gil Silva.
Al’s drum corps career had its start with the Sacred Heart Crusaders of Malden in 1937 and a life-long relationship began with Arthur “Scotty” Chappell, and the corps’ spiritual director, Father Sheehan. He started out in the horn line, but early on the powers-to-be spotted something special and he was promoted to drum major.
Gerry wasn’t like the other drummers and instructors. Hell, he wasn’t like anyone you ever met before, a unique, creative, intense and driven genius. He now resides in Wilmington, Delaware and his current passion is sailing. He screams at the waves, the seagulls, the sails, the sun, and anything else that amuses him.
New England has had more than its share of innovators going back to Chappell in the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s and too many others to mention here, but along with Chappell and George Zingali, the visual giant, Gerry Shellmer changed the face of marching percussion for all time.