Drum Corps International was just in its third season in 1974, when Madison Scouts made a big lunge for the World Championship title at Cornell University's Schoellkopf Stadium in Ithaca, N.Y. That year, four corps made the Finals for the first time: DeLaSalle Oaklands (which would become Oakland Crusaders the following year), Purple Lancers (in their last season), Blue Devils and Phantom Regiment (each being finalists ever since). 1974 was a tough one for corps that had been World Championship finalists in DCI's first two seasons: Blue Stars, after placing 2nd and 3rd at the first two DCI World Championships, slipped to 12th. But four other corps fared even worse: Black Knights fell from 10th in 1973 to 15th. 27th Lancers had an off year and slipped from 7th in 1973 to 20th, (rebounding the next year to 4th). Bridgemen (still known as St. Andrew's Bridgemen), fell to 26th after placing 11th and 9th in DCI's first two seasons. Argonne Rebels, 5th and 11th the previous two seasons, slipped to 33rd and never did recover. Although 4th in 1973, Madison Scouts placed 14th at the first DCI World Championship in Whitewater, WI in 1972. The combination of future DCI Hall of Famers Ray Baumgardt writing the brass arrangements and brass staff member Jimmy Elvord instilling a power into the horn line's performance made the line the envy of the activity. Projected by many to win it all in 1974, the corps won the DCI World Championship Prelims by 0.90 over the Kingsmen and 1.15 over Santa Clara Vanguard, but lost to SCV in the Finals by 0.65. At a post-season show in Syracuse, N.Y. the day after the World Championship Finals, Scouts beat Santa Clara Vanguard, the winner the night before, by 1.40, with the fourth-place Muchachos slipping in between those two corps in second. We are quite fortunate to have any visual recordings from DCI's third season. At the time, it was still considered somewhat of a stretch that anyone would have an interest in watching old drum corps shows in the future. The first two DCI World Championships in Whitewater were not professionally recorded. In 1974, a local upstate New York PBS station recorded the DCI World Championship Prelims on videotape for its own news segment to promote the Finals; then used all but one of the cartridges to record over for its news broadcast. An employee of the station had the idea that someone might be interested in seeing some of the performances some day, and "borrowed" the remaining cartridge, preserving the World Championship performances of the Scouts, Santa Clara Vanguard and Anaheim Kingsmen.
1974 Madison Scouts
Professional recordings also survived of Madison Scouts' entire show from the DCI Midwest Finals, as well as that for Santa Clara Vanguard and Troopers. (That is the performance utilized for this week's video clip.) In addition, you'll find on the 1974 Legacy Collection DVD excerpts from Colt .45, Americanos, Bleu Raeders, Black Knights, Phantom Regiment, Kilties and Kingsmen. Victor Shoen's "Ballet in Brass" was brought back from the Scouts' 1973 show. The piece was first performed by the corps in 1962 and has re-appeared in the corps' productions in 1984, 1985 and 2001. The piece was written by bandleader Schoen as a single movement in his "Stereophonic Suite for Two Bands," featuring his band playing simultaneously with Les Brown and his Band of Renown on "The Big Record" TV series, for which Schoen was musical director. Each band was lined up opposite the other in a "V," with each rhythm section in the middle and Schoen and Brown sharing the conductor's podium. Interestingly, the 1974 Scouts show started with the color guard flag line opening up a giant "V" in front of the rest of the corps. The horn sound, even on tape, is searing. "Bond Street," falsely attributed throughout the years to piano jazz great Fats Waller, (he wrote a "Bond Street" as part of his "London Suite," but this isn't it), started with a short drum solo before the brass took over. The whole piece was only 50 seconds long. The concert standstill number was "God Bless the Child," co-written in 1939 by soul singer Billie Holiday and her longtime collaborator, Arthur Herzog, Jr. Covered by a multitude of famous singers, the work was re-introduced into popular society as a jazz-rock vocal and instrumental feature by Blood, Sweat & Tears in 1969. This is the version Madison utilized. After a bluesy opening chorale and statement of the melody, the tempo kicked up and lots of wailing horn solos — often at the same time — thrilled the fans with a high-powered, tumultuous, in-your-face jazz treatment new to the activity. "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue" was written as part of Richard Rodgers' ballet music to the 1936 Broadway musical, "On Your Toes," choreographed by the famed George Balanchine, who had earlier become known for his collaborations with composers as diverse as Rubinstein, Prokofiev, Satie, Debussy, Ravel and Stravinsky. (Although Rodgers' music was featured in the 1958 film of the same name, the plot was not based on that of the earlier ballet.) This work — frequently updated by the corps, but essentially unchanged — was brought back in 1975, 1982, 1989, and most recently in 2010. The company front push from 1974 and 1975 is still regarded as one of the loudest things ever heard on the field. After a brief drum feature came "Brian's Song," first heard in the corps' program of the year before, and moved from within that program to be the closer ballad in 1974. Sneaking off to the upper right corner, as was the custom of the day, the corps turned around for the traditional re-entry and still blew the stands down from afar, aptly demonstrating the horn line's power, even at the end of the show. For years after, this is the sound people came to expect from the corps, from its first DCI World Championship the following season in 1975 to the reincarnation of the sound during the corps' 2010 and 2011 seasons. For this week only, you can save on the Legacy Collection DVD that contains two complete Madison Scouts performances, (from DCI Midwest Finals and the DCI World Championship Prelims), along with two full performances by Santa Clara Vanguard from the same shows, one each of Troopers and Kingsmen, and excerpts from the DCI Midwest Finals of Colt .45, Americanos, Bleu Raeders, Black Knights, Phantom Regiment, Kilties and Kingsmen. Buy the 1974 Legacy Collection DVD. (Available this week only for $28. Regular price: $35.)
Performance excerpt of the 1974 Madison Scouts.
Discount DVD offer ends Monday, July 9 at 8:30 a.m. ET.
Michael Boo was a member of the Cavaliers from 1975-1977. He has written about the drum corps activity for more than a quarter century and serves as a staff writer for various Drum Corps International projects. Boo has written for numerous other publications and has published an honors-winning book on the history of figure skating. As an accomplished composer, Boo holds a bachelor's degree in music education and a master's degree in music theory and composition. He resides in Chesterton, Ind.