New CD releases bring total collection to 100 recordings

“The Beat Goes On” now contains an even 100 CDs, with the addition of the 12 discs described below. If you like the sounds of drum corps from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, check back every three or four months, because there’s a lot more material in the archives of Stetson D. Richmond and Alf Wateska that we hope to make available to you.

Yankee Rebels, Syracuse Brigadiers, New York Skyliners, Westshoremen, Pittsburgh Rockets — the 1956 “March of Champions” has them all. These are classic recordings of classic, hall-of-fame caliber senior corps in late-season form. Hard to believe these recordings are 50 years old, judging from their fresh, powerful sound.

The Northeastern Circuit was a hotbed of senior competition in the 1950s and the 1960s; however, it was originally known as the Yankee Circuit before changing its name in 1960. The “Pageant of Drums,” one of many 1959 Yankee Circuit contests, demonstrates the strength and variety of the participating corps. Hear the rainy repertoire of the Connecticut Hurricanes, the inaugural effort of the powerful Interstatesmen merger, the original incarnation of the Fitchburg Kingsmen with their fabulous mid-voice soloist, the aggressive Springfield Marksmen, the French flavor of the Sunrisers and the inimitable swing style of the Peabody Clippers.

The split-circuit situation among top Eastern junior corps in 1960 had no effect on the state championship shows. As a result, the New Jersey American Legion state contest turns out to be a definite highlight of Stetson D. Richmond’s 1960 coverage. Not only does this two-CD treatment bring together Blessed Sacrament, Garfield and St. Vincent’s in head-to-head competition, it also features brilliant clarity in what must have been calmer air on that typical Wildwood day.

State championships were climactic events in the 1960s, and not just in New Jersey. The Pennsylvania VFW state contest brought many of the finest junior corps together. Ironically, most of the junior units at this Pittsburgh-area event came from the opposite half of the state, as the Vasella Musketeers, Ridley Park Rangers, Sahler-Sedan Cadets, Easton Chessmen and Rising Sun Cadets will attest. This was Alf Wateska’s first full season of field recording and this show proves how instantly he got the hang of it.

Las Vegas, NV, was host to the 1962 American Legion Nationals, resulting in a fascinating collection of corps from far-off lands earning prime positions in finals. Volume 1 of this CD pair includes the top four senior competitors — mega-champion Hawthorne Caballeros, Midwest leader Boys of 76, the colorful Hamm’s Indians and the Laidlaw Toreadors (predecessor of Minnesota Brass, Inc.).

Also present was the U.S. Air Force Corps from Bolling Field in Washington, D.C., performing a legendary 25-minute exhibition that is also included on this disc. Volume 2 focuses on the juniors, where future household names like Troopers and Sky Ryders tested their mettle against current powers in the form of the Garfield Cadets and Royal Airs, with both the Northwest and California represented as well.

Rare recordings of Ohio and Michigan corps were captured by Alf Wateska in “Great Lakes Grab-Bag.” The 1966 scene had the Marion Cadets and Bellefontaine Angels in close competition for Ohio state leadership, while the Marauders and Green Hornets were two of Michigan’s finest lower-peninsula corps, and the Maple City Cadets were many-time Indiana champs. Cleveland Caballeros round out this volume.

The 1967 New Jersey VFW state championship has a number of corps to offer that weren’t part of the AL state contest already offered in “The Beat Goes On.” Whether you are a connoiseur of quality corps like the O.L P.H. Ridgemen or Stratford Vagabonds, a holdout for more widely traveled names like Blue Rock, or a collector of rarely-heard units like the Imperial Guardsmen or Bayshore Buccaneers, this CD has something for you. Also included on this issue are the Shadettes, yet another fine all-girl unit from Audubon’s neighborhood.

The 1969 Garden State Circuit championship was a hotly-contested event — before, during and afterward. Over the years, the post-show fracas has become the most vivid memory of that day. But perhaps the field action during the contest is what should be remembered best.

Perhaps this CD will change that. Check out the sounds of St. Andrew’s Bridgemen, already starting to climb the open class ranks; the Polish Falcon Cadets, vastly improved in 1969; the surprising St. Martin’s Troubadours in their finest-ever recording; and the next generation of circuit leaders like the Imperial Guardsmen, Valley Grenadiers and Riversiders.

With so much activity on the drum corps scene, Stetson D. Richmond simply couldn’t cover all the important contests personally, so he teamed up with several other people. The 1970 Greater New York Circuit championship CD is our first release of Bill Domler’s work in that regard. Richmond was in Wildwood recording that same day, yet still made it up to Connecticut to assist late in the show. Poughkeepsie Vagabonds and Wynn Center Toppers were having banner years, surprising in their sound quality, while a rare Emerald Cadets recording is another attraction.

Richmond’s 1972 work, his final year of recording, offers recordings of unique presence and clarity. He usually recorded two live masters, recycling duplicate tapes the following season, so each 1972 recording has the luxury of choosing the better of two master tapes. The “Rose City Festival of Music” CD brings together a number of top 1972 juniors that are mysteriously hard to find. Audubon Bon Bons were in peak form, but didn’t travel much that year, while the Beverly Cardinals ended up a smidge short of the finals cut at more than one major 1972 contest. New York City had a bunch of open class units, of which the Ridgemen and Knickerbockers were two examples. Fire-ettes and Fletcher Raiders round out this volume.

“The Beat Goes On” is the official collection of CDs digitally-remastered directly from the original tapes of Stetson D. Richmond and Alf Wateska. While these are the same recordings Richmond himself made available on custom-cut records back in the day, the full quality and impact of the master recordings was never really available to the public until now. Check out these historic recordings by clicking on the buttons “New CD releases” or “Historic Richmond/Wateska CDs” below.