Remembering Bridgemen -- Part OneBy Michael BooIn the September 20 installment of ?Fanfare,? I reminisced about a 1980 road trip to go see 27th Lancers and Bridgemen at DCI South. I?ll reflect on 27th in the near future. This week and next week, I?d like to embrace myself in the warm memories of Bridgemen, a corps that revolutionized the concept of on-field entertainment, becoming a legend in its time that is unsurpassed in the hearts of corps fans.It doesn?t seem possible that it?s going on 20 years now since we?ve last seen Bridgemen in DCI World Finals. Nor does it seem, considering the huge imprint the corps made on the psyche of corps fans, that the corps performed in the DCI World Finals no more than ten times.Bridgemen are, in my humble opinion, perhaps the best overall reason to buy the DCI Legacy DVD collection. Editor?s note: You can purchase the Legacy DVD collection. The corps placed in DCI Finals in 1972 (11th place) and 1973 (ninth place) as the St. Andrew?s Bridgemen, but it wasn?t until 1976 that we were introduced to what we have come to remember as the Bridgemen, (minus the St. Andrew?s moniker).Coming off two less-than-stellar seasons, the corps brought in some ?name? talent on the creative staff, and totally committed itself to playing up an identity that was the polar opposite of ?stodgy.?It was actually shocking to see the corps for the first time in 1976. The members were wearing the long, school-bus yellow trenchcoats that earned them the nickname ?the Bayonne Bananas.? Their wide brim hats had psychedelic hatbands tied above the brims, fluttering off the back. Flags were equally psychedelic, an abstract representation of the Bayonne Bridge, as if painted by Salvador Dali and Peter Max.The corps embraced funk as a legitimate identity and waited to see how the rest of the drum corps community would react.I remember the reaction of many fans to be somewhere between amusement, stunned confusion, and mock indignation. Some people proclaimed, ?This isn?t drum corps!,? believing that corps should march in a rigorous military style befitting the activity?s heritage. The 1976 concert standstill production of ?Land of Make Believe? saw the horns in a simple large circle, rather than variations on the plain side-to-side arcs that were so common for the day. The guard poked a dagger in the eyes of traditionalists by riding their flagpoles like hobbyhorses during the ?William Tell? recapitulation. And, lest any traditionalists were not yet muttering that the corps had to be stopped before they contaminated the rest of the activity, the entire corps ?fainted? at the end of the show at DCI World Finals, dead to the world, spread out on their backs, the ultimate antithesis to how a show ?should? end.Those in the Philadelphia audience who weren?t biting their lips and trying to keep their blood pressure under control sat for a few short seconds in astonishment, then burst into wild applause. From that point on, the corps had a reputation to uphold. It had become an overnight sensation and sudden drum corps household name among fans that knew nothing of the old St. Andrew?s.We soon found out about the creative veterans who pooled their minds together to create something magical, but who then stood out of the way and let the kids take ownership of the show -- names like Bobby Hoffman, visual designer, Dennis DeLucia, percussion arranger and technician, and Larry Kershner, brass arranger.Since the corps placed sixth, they were now considered a major player.In 1977, fans were eagerly awaiting the corps? return to the field, wondering if 1976 was a fluke, wondering if Bridgemen would further pursue its excursion into the unexpected. The corps did not disappoint. Advancing on to the field to a ?Chiquita Banana? drum solo, arms knocking at an ever-advancing door, the brass stopped and unleashed a fiery rendition of ?Pagliacci.? The music was originally written about a clown, so the drum major sat at a Broadway-style make-up table on the front sideline and put on clown make-up during the piece.I remember standing next to a very traditional drum instructor the first time I saw the corps that season. The veins in his neck started to resemble an Interstate Highway map and he proclaimed something on the order that drum corps was going to hell in a handbasket, and Bridgemen were carrying the basket. Some thought the corps was making fun of the activity. Others thought they were trying to teach the rest of us that having fun was not against the rules.Unfortunately, what was against the rules for the day was an interpretation of the DCI overage member policy. In an action that reverberates to this day, the corps was disqualified during the week of DCI World Finals, but obtained a court injunction and was allowed to perform in Prelims and Finals. But no official recording existed of the corps on any of the DCI recordings.However, the corps? 1977 Finals performance IS on the new DCI Legacy DVD series, which is a blessing to all corps fans. While watching the DVDs of Bridgemen is perhaps the best overall reason to buy the DCI Legacy Series, to see this one special performance a quarter century later is perhaps the best single reason to do so.(Next week we?ll take a walk down memory lane with Bridgemen?s successful rebound in 1978, followed by the corps? last five years in DCI World Finals.)What is your funniest drum corps moment or memory of the past 30 years? Please share it with us for consideration in a future ?Fanfare? column. Send your contribution to Michael Boo at email@example.com. Please put Funniest Memory in the Subject heading at the top of your e-mail.Please include your name, hometown, corps affiliation (if applicable) and years marching with or working with the corps (if applicable). No anonymous comments, please. We will credit you for your contribution. Happy memories! Michael Boo has been involved with drum and bugle corps since 1975, when he marched his first of three seasons with The Cavaliers. He has a bachelor?s degree in music education and a masters degree in music theory and composition. He has written about the drum corps activity for over a quarter century for publications such as Drum Corps World, and presently is involved in a variety of projects for Drum Corps International, including souvenir program books, CD liner notes, DCI Update and Web articles, and other endeavors.Michael currently writes music for a variety of idioms, is a church handbell and vocal choir director, an assistant director of a community band, and a licensed Realtor in the state of Indiana. His other writing projects are for numerous publications, and he has published an honors-winning book on the history of figure skating.His hobbies include TaeKwonDo and hiking the Indiana Dunes.But more than anything, Michael is proud to love drum corps and to be a part of the activity in some small way, chronicling various facets of each season for the enjoyment of others.
Related NewsView all news
by Drum Corps InternationalKathy Black elected new DCI Board of Directors Chair