I once went out for beers with a friend named Bob, who served as a U.S. Army military policeman in the Vietnam war. He told me that he joined a V.F.W. post after discharge and that some of the World War II vets at the place made him feel as if he were personally responsible for losing Indochina to the communists. He said that the ribbing became especially intense in 1975 when Saigon fell, and the TV at the post showed images of helicopters lifting off the U.S. embassy roof with desperate refugees hanging on to the landing gear.
Among the aspects of the drum corps activity that have changed over the past five decades, it could be argued that the visual elements have been the most affected. The standards “back in the day” included marching in straight lines, wearing uniforms that matched exactly in color and style, and adhering to extremely stringent rules. Today’s visual programs have changed so much that many alumni claim it is “no longer drum corps.” Admittedly, some of the changes have diverged glaringly from the activity’s original roots. And yet, many of the same elements that made people “drum corps nuts” back in the day still exist today. (more…)
In Part 4A we discussed Rules and Judging. In this article, we will cover Attire.
For decades it was easy to identify a corps marching into a stadium from a simple glimpse of their uniforms. Until the late 1970s most corps wore uniforms that were a part of their signature. Many were classics worn for decades. A majority wore cadet style uniforms with shakos while others had roots derived from other styles. There were the military inspired (Troopers, Knights), scout influenced (Madison, Racine, St. Paul), ethnic (Caballeros, Kilties, Muchachos), police inspired (Bluecoats, PAL Cadets), and nautical (Stockton Commodores, IC Reveries).
Up until the late 1960s, the equipment permitted on the field was quite limited. Other than “legal” musical instruments, color guards carried flags, rifles, and sabers and rarely anything else in terms of equipment or props. If you fast forward to today, the contrast is stunning. In addition to a much wider range of guard equipment, almost every corps brings additional non-musical items onto the field. (more…)
Design/Movement – 20th Century
The early years of “marching and maneuvering” in drum corps involved parade formations and straight lines with heavy military influence. Marching behind the corps proper and executing “the manual of arms” were often the extent of contributions from color guards. Most maneuvers involved platoons and squads at tight intervals. Drum lines were largely pinned to the 50 yard line. Fast forward to this century, and what is presented on the field these days is very different from those original roots. (more…)
Mars Free State, October 12, 2067
On a recent trip to Mars, I dropped in on Jim Wedge. We spoke at Wedge’s suite in the Emperor Bezos Home for Cranky Earthlings.
Dear Aunt Mildred,
Some people seem unhappy about some of the changes in drum corps over the years. I love all the changes. I see them as major improvements, with better instruments, better performances, and more interesting programs.
Wearing the same uniforms every year got boring and the addition of large props is awesome. I believe DCI has made drum corps better than ever.
Ralph from Bayonne
My dear Ralph,
Everyone is certainly entitled to their opinion, even when they are most misguided. Personally, I much prefer the gloriously “boring” uniforms of years past to the hideous abominations worn recently by the Madison Scouts. I welcome input from our readers on the state of our activity. Meanwhilst, I shall forward this missive to Uncle Phineas to obtain his viewpoint as well.
Thanks for including me in this discussion. I have not paid much attention to drum corps for a while, but I did watch a video of the 2019 DCI Finals. And all I can say (quoting the late Vince Lombardi) is “WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON OUT THERE”?!?
I saw more dancing than marching and at times it looked like they were stomping on bugs and had ants in their pants. Half the corps now wear pajamas and it looks like a gosh darned costume party out there.
I saw trombones and gold curly instruments and one corps had a guy playing a violin. And THEY WON! Don’t get me started on the music. It seems like everyone is trying to see who can play the most notes. Will we ever hear ‘Stars and Stripes’’ or ‘Yankee Doodle’ again? I’d even settle for ’76 Trombones’ as long as they don’t play dog gone trombones!
Ralph from Bayonne says he believes DCI has made drum corps better than ever. He probably also believes in the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and is likely a member of the Flat Earth Society. If we are giving opinions, I’ll give you one: I think DCI now stands for Disappointing Changes Implemented. I have more thoughts, but right now I need to listen to the 1965 Royal Airs before my head explodes.
By Jim “Mac” McKenzie
By 1968 Jack Whelan was already known nationwide as a potential Drum Corps Hall of Fame member. His years marching with the Lt Norman Prince “Princeman,” being a local and nationally known judge, M&M instructor of award-winning drill teams and drum corps, and owner of one of the most friendly personalities in the drum corps world, he was certainly a person I have been proud to know. I was fortunate to have Jack as my M&M instructor when I marched with St. Mary’s Cardinals in Beverly, MA.