Chick joined the St. Rose Scarlet Lancers in the Fall of 1956, and left to take a job with his father and uncle at a dance club in Hyannis during the mid-1959 season. He marched the entire 1957 class B season, 1958 class A season, and part of the 1959 season.
Two things that stand out with me about Chick were his incredible sense of humor and his love of the Drum Corp activity.
On His Sense of Humor
We had a cheer that we used for our Color Guard at guard contests. It started out, “Alamen, Alamen, Alamen si con die ip skiddy boom boom……” Some of you old timers may remember it. It was usually conducted by Herbie Mullally. Chick decided he was going to write a new cheer. Every rehearsal he would give us an update of how it was progressing, although with no hint of what it was about. This went on for about a month until we were told it was ready for prime time. Chick said he would yell it out at the next guard show. He stood up and introduced the new cheer for all to hear. “Rah, Rah, de Dah” then he sat down. We took him out back and beat the shit out of him.
He also convinced us he put a prescription windshield in his car so he could drive without wearing glasses, however all passengers would have to wear glasses. And so on!!!!
After rehearsal at East Newton Armory, we all jumped into our cars and raced back to St. Rose School. The first back won. I don’t know what they won, but they won. Chick gave himself a little advantage. He would drive through the toll booth without stopping and throw a handful of change into the booth as he went by.
On His Love of Drum Corps
He fell in love with drum corps as soon as he started really seeing it. His first introduction was when the 1957 season started and he saw the local corps. His favorite corps was the Hyde Park Crusaders, requiring us to give him another beating. St. Rose ran a contest in Chelsea Stadium that year. He brought his father and uncle to see what it was all about. This was the first time they saw Chick in a contest. After we went on, they were going to leave, but Chick made them stay to see the Crusaders. His uncle was actually impressed.
He once came to my house to talk to my father. My father was on the Board of Directors of the corps. Chick was getting a lot of pressure from his family to quit the corps because they thought he was wasting his talent on something like drum corps. He wanted my father to talk to his father to convince him to let Chick stay. I don’t remember what actually transpired, but Chick stayed with the corps.
Toward the end of the 1957 season, a bunch of us, including Chick, went to Atlantic City as spectators at the American Legion Nationals. It was his first exposure to out of state corps. His favorite, by far, was The Archer Epler Musketeers. Unfortunately, they were disqualified from the finals, along with Reilly, for not having the required number of veterans necessary to compete. At that time, I believe the required number was 80% veterans. Archie won the prelims and was allowed to do an exhibition before the start of finals. The consensus was they would have won.
My favorite of all Chick Corea stories, which I’ve told many times, was leaving the Convention Center after the senior corps finals. The center emptied out right onto the boardwalk. As we pushed our way through the crowd, Chick saw a man in front of us wearing an Archer Epler overseas cap. Chick wanted the cap. He took off running, grabbed the cap right off the man’s head, and disappeared onto the boardwalk. In 1961, Howie Darish and I went to visit Chick in New York City. He had the Archie cap framed, and hung on his wall.
In 1958, most of the same people, including Chick, went to New York City to watch the VFW Nationals at Ebbets Field. All of our instructors were there to compete with the Princemen. We stayed at the Warwick Hotel with Prince. They needed some of us to fill blanks for the Tuesday night VFW parade. The VFW people counted heads in the parade. When the corps competed the following night, they couldn’t march any more people than they had in the parade. Chick marched the parade to fill a blank of someone who was coming in on Wednesday morning, although they did make him take off his sunglasses. They didn’t have a uniform to fit me. So “What senior corps did Chick Corea march with?” Lt. Norman Prince Princemen, Malden, MA at the 1958 VFW Nationals parade.
1961, when Howie and I went to visit Chick in NY City, was the last time I saw or talked to him. We were together for only a short time. I was starting my Drum Corps teaching career, and he was, ah, I forget what he ended up doing, but we had a lot of fun during the time we had.