Drum Corps International
West Coast memories

West Coast memories

by Drum Corps International

Ron Housley submitted this memoir of his West Coast drum corps experiences. I joined an Elks Club-sponsored little parade corps called "The Antlers" in Burbank, Calif., when I was 13-years-old. All the bigger Southern California corps were located further south. I stayed with them through the first part of high school, and at the same time I was writing a column for Drum Corps World and Drum Corps News. Lots of guys in California did this at one time or another, and this kept me in the loop with all the bigger corps. As soon as I graduated and got on my own, I went down and joined the Lakewood (Calif.) Ambassadors, which was pretty much the founding corps for the Anaheim Boy Scouts. This group was one of strongest field competition corps and one where a lot of future Kingsmen and Velvet Knights members got their early drum corps experience. After a season with Lakewood—which was pretty much on its last legs as a competitive corps—I went over to Anaheim Kingsmen for the 1967 season, but got drafted just before the corps went to American Legion Nationals in New Orleans, getting my draft notice at the same time I had passed my audition for the U.S. Air Force Drum and Bugle Corps. As the Air Force corps went on leave just after Anaheim's home show, I couldn't get verification of my audition to jump to the head of the recruiting list, which was full of people trying to avoid getting drafted into the Army for the Vietnam War. So, I ended up in an Artillery Battalion stationed in Germany. When my unit was ordered out of Europe to bring more troops to the Vietnam theater, we got transferred to Ft. Lewis, Washington, where they were picking us off one by one as replacements. While at Ft. Lewis, I made contact with the Seattle Thunderbirds and found a way to arrange some music for the Bellevue Sentinel (and even marched one gig with them), but broke my back in a four-story fall off a building in a construction accident, which got me out of the Vietnam War and out of the Army. When I got back home in 1969, I got a gig arranging music for and teaching the Lakewood Ambassadors, and in the winter of 1971 ended up arranging for and teaching the brass line of the Lynwood Diplomats, which used to be the Ambassadors' feeder corps before going out on their own. The next year, the Diplomats supplied a lot of talent to the Kingsmen, including the entire cymbal squad, some great percussionists and a few brass players in what turned out to be Drum Corps International's first World Champion corps. Moving to the Midwest, I stayed out of the drum corps loop except to attend a few shows. I went to the Stillwater, Minn., show where I got to see my good friend Wayne Downey, Blue Devils' brass arranger. He let me camp out with Blue Devils on the gym floor, just like old times. After moving back to California in the mid-1980s, I started searching for my drum corps "roots" and for recordings of 1967 Anaheim and the 1971 Diplomats, mainly to hear the corps with "fresh ears." Through that search, I hooked up with some old pals. It's nice to be in tune with the activity again and nice to know that my old-school reputation was good enough, still, for the guys to "let me in the playground again."


Editorial assistance by Michael Boo. View the Fanfare archives. Do you have a story for a future Fanfare article? Contact Michael Boo by e-mail at boomike@dci.org.