This article was featured in the Royal Airs Program Book at their Blue Review Show
"Too Many Drums..... "
by Ron Green
Des Plaines Vanguard
1962 - 1969
Royal Airs Alumni Corps
2004 - present
There were nine years in my life that I did not know what a drum and bugle corps was. Sometime during the tenth year of my planetary stroll, a now faceless and nameless kid came up to me in the playground at school in Chicago and asked, “So you wanna play a drum?” I asked about it. “It hangs in front of ya and ya get two sticks with it”, he replied.
What a salesman! I wanted to leave for practice instantly. However, I waited two more days with great anticipation that I was about to give a drum the beating of its life! As soon as we hopped off the CTA bus at the Columbus Park fieldhouse.... I could hear the pounding, the clashing and the blatting of my first look at a drum and bugle corps.
It was the winter of 1960 and I was about to pay my first twenty-five cents dues to the Windy City Cadets. Drum corps had entered my bloodstream and was invading all of my senses in an incurable, lifelong attack.
Within the first five minutes, I was informed that they already had 22 kids signed up for drums and that I would have to play the bugle. I felt dizzy, confused .... my life was passing before me. I had nothing more to live for if a drum was not available! Then someone gave me a black case. I opened it and there it was ... shiny, silver-plate, and sleek ... a soprano bugle ... one valve, no rotary, not even a slide ... but the key to my new persona.
This was the object to which I would cling tighter and longer than a thin jacket at a cold windy bus-stop. This horn was to take me to new friendships, far away places, and parade routes lined with envious kids wanting to be me. This horn was my escape from the neighborhood bullies, my dad’s alcoholism and my shy insecurities all in one glorious velvet-lined case. The drum was quickly forgotten ... the bugle was coming home!
We spent most of the evening learning how to get the spit out of the horn, and then how to get sound out of the horn. Needless to say, we got a lot more of one out of the horn then the other! The drummers sounded better than us buglers because you couldn’t tell when they were playing a wrong note ... but sometimes they missed the head of the drum and hit the rims. We knew that was the equivalent of a wrong note!
John DeVito was one of the older kids there that night (probably 12 years old), and I liked the way he played and marched. He was my first drum corps role model and we stayed in B corps together as Windy City became the Chessmen and we all got better with time, practice and leadership from some kind and dedicated instructors and parents who instilled pride as they walked alongside us in dozens of parades.
We B Corps kids were the lifeline for the great competition corps of the near future. We were trained to get better. It was our goal and vision. So is it any wonder then when a parade came down Chicago Avenue one early evening in 1962 and the Chessmen were all standing outside their VFW post watching the units pass ... and suddenly, this thundering sound of a well oiled drum line, led by a color-coordinated guard rifles, topped off by a horn lie playing a sound I had never heard before and wearing the greatest red and black uniforms I’d ever seen ... we knew at that moment it was time to move on.
We began our slow exodus one by one: Craig Rennack, Ron Green, Mike and John Krueger, Lenny and Glenda Henderson, John DeVito and others into the Vanguard ... into the history of a true drum corps legend.
To all my brothers and sisters who have worn the Red and Black and to those who chose Royal Blue, Green or the Maroon and Gold, or simply gave it a season out of your life. I thank you for sharing that magical time with me ... for making me a better person for having known you. And to that kid who came up to me in the playground that day so long ago ... thank you ... I don’t even remember your name ... but I will never forget what you introduced me to on that cold winter’s night at Columbus Park when there were too many drummers.
In loving memory of Hy Fligelman, Dick Snyder and Edgar Henderson who managed and taught all of us kids in the Chessmen with talent and love.