Although the first DCI World Championship was held in 1972, no official video recording of the event was produced until PBS stations started broadcasting the Finals competition in 1975.
There are a few professional recordings surviving from 1974, with entire shows from three corps recorded at the DCI Midwest Finals in Whitewater, Wisconsin, and three corps recorded at the World Championship Prelims at Cornell University's Schoellkopf Stadium in Ithaca, New York. Recordings from Ithaca were made for an upstate New York PBS station's evening news. Unfortunately, the tape of three of the six corps recorded for the Ithaca Prelims was recorded over for later news broadcasts.
The Troopers placed sixth at the 1972 DCI World Championship and moved up to second in 1973. The corps placed fifth in 1974 with a show that opened with "(Ghost) Riders in the Sky," one of the corps' most popular selections. Troopers had already played the piece nine seasons prior to 1974 (and another eight since). Subtitled "A Cowboy Legend," the work was written in 1948 by Stan Jones, who had earlier competed in rodeos and primarily wrote Western music.
As was customary, the Troopers' color guard utilized one set of flags for the entire production. By DCI rules at the time, equipment (including color guard, brass and percussion) could not be set down on the field. Troopers' flags were adorned with the crossed sabers emblem of the 11th Ohio Cavalry that gave the corps its name and identity. The bottom of the flags was white and the top was yellow, which was also the color of the corps' scarves and the stripes on the musicians' trousers.
The next song in the show was a percussion feature of "Yankee Doodle, a traditional song from the mid-1700s that is often said to have first been sung mockingly by British troops during America's Revolutionary War. This was the first year that mallet percussion instruments were allowed in competition. At the time, only one set of orchestra bells and one xylophone were usable. Both had to be attached to harnesses and played and carried by corps members throughout the production.
Continuing the theme, the percussion feature led into a full-corps performance of George M. Cohen's "Yankee Doodle Dandy," written in 1904 for the Broadway musical, "Little Johnny Jones."
The next piece performed was variations on "The Yellow Rose of Texas," a traditional song from somewhere around the mid-1800s. After a Dixieland variation that featured members of the color guard doing a kick-step routine, those performers faced backward, bent over, and pulled up their skirts to reveal yellow roses sewn on their black panties. It was a moment of levity that seemed out of character for the traditionally stoic corps.
Next, "The Virginian," a piece written for the 1962-1971 television series of the same name that starred James Drury and Doug McClure, brought eight rifle bearers to the front of the field. Those color guard members formed a 10-yard circle around the drum major and performed the corps' famed "suicide toss," hurling their rifles across the circle to be caught by the person opposite them. The piece ended with the even more famous Troopers' trademark "Sunburst" drill formation, set to the final moments of the theme to "How the West Was Won."
A second percussion number featured Rick Oldfield's "Tubular Bells." The 19-year-old Oldfield wrote all the music and played most of the instruments on the 1973 progressive rock album of the same name. The work perhaps achieved its most attention in the 1973 film, "The Exorcist.
A brief 15-second chorale of Stephen Schwartz and John-Michael Tebelak's "Day by Day" (from the 1971 dramatic musical production of "Godspell") led into "Thanksgiving Prayer," the melody of which originated as a Dutch patriotic song in 1597. The tune came full circle back to "Day By Day" as the corps headed toward the back and right side of the field.
By 1974 rules, a presentation of the American flag was required as part of the corps' competitive production, which the Troopers set to the melody of "Battle Hymn," written by William Steffe around 1856 just prior to the Civil War. It is likely the single most played song ever to appear on the drum corps field, and one very much associated with Troopers.
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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.