“The Beat Goes On” historic CD collection adds 12 new titles, bringing total to 220 discs, 459 corps by Ken Mason, Drum Corps World staff (audiodb@yahoo.com)

“The Beat Goes On,” the digitally-upgraded versions of historic drum corps recordings from the Stetson D. Richmond/Alf Wateska collection, is happy to announce the 18th batch of new CD releases. Many corps never available on CD before have been added to the list by virtue of these new offerings (23 new junior and senior corps). Satisfy your curiosity, or surprise someone you know, with a holiday gift from our audio library. Corps listed in RED have not been available prior to this set of CDs being released.

Since the release of two CDs featuring classic 1952 senior recordings, we knew we owed a similar treatment to the top junior corps of that time. But rather than rush out a product based on archival tape copies, we dug through reel after reel, seeking the original masters for best overall fidelity and developed painstaking restoration methods to cope with the 60-year-old tapes. At long last, it is here. All the big names have been hand-picked from among recordings of the top finishers from the American Legion Nationals and the Dream Contest.

The Dream CD (#5204) leads off with the uniquely inspired performance of St. Joseph’s Cadets from Newark, NJ, rebounding from a fifth-place finish at American Legion Nationals three days earlier to win their most significant victory. Bracken Cavaliers had the most successful season of a long history in 1952 and proved their runner-up nationals finish was no fluke by doing the same at the Dream. Hardly anyone has ever heard a decent recording of the Osmond Cadets in their prime; the original master was stowed in an unlabeled box where it remained unplayed for over 50 years. You can hear it now. The legendary work of Liberty Bell and Audubon fill out that disc.

The Legion Nationals CD (#5203) highlights St. Vincent’s Cadets with their best recording, captured in exhibition at the senior finals. Also of historical significance are Mel Tierney, leading the Midwest with their third-place finish and a rare chance to hear another Philadelphia area power, McCall Bluebirds, as 1952 would be their final competitive season. In contrast, this CD contains the earliest existing recorded sounds of the Chicago Cavaliers, a newcomer to national competition at that time. And of course, no collection would be complete without the snappy Holy Name Cadets, perennial title contender in that time period.

Back in the day, preliminary contests were shorter-length programs compared to the full field show. For instance, in the case we are presenting here, the 1955 American Legion Nationals (#5506) senior preliminary contest, performance time was 6:30, half of the prevailing 13-minute minimum for the finals and most other 1955 contests. We can fit 10 of these shorter shows onto a CD. Good thing, too, as these prelim recordings are the only 1955 performances for some of the corps. More importantly, this disc contains the only recording you’ll find of any year for the Bell, CA, Rough Riders, California state champion in 1955. Rare recordings of other state champs like the Plainsmen of Emporia, KS, and the Jolly Rogers of Chattanooga, TN, are captured here. Ohio had their two top corps in attendance, as state runner-up Massillon Golden Trojans finally got revenge over Satan’s Angels of Bellefontaine by jumping six spots from prelims to finals at these nationals.

Indiana is also doubly represented, by the Portland Comets and La Porte Lancers, missing the final cut by one spot. Among other near-misses, the Edison Lamplighters would get their turn in finals in later years, while the Sharvin Red Jackets were a near-miss each of the three times they competed at nationals. Rounding out this CD are the Marion, OH, Cavaliers, patriarch of their hometown’s rich drum corps heritage.

In contrast to the previous CD, the 1959 Illinois VFW State CD (#5911) contains fewer than the usual six corps, as VFW rules still stipulated 13- to 15-minute shows. But for these corps, you’ll want to hear some extra material, especially when recorded at Ken Kobold’s quality standard. Chicago Cavaliers and Belleville Black Knights were the number one and two finishers at VFW Nationals that year, just like in the state contest. Quincy Debutantes were the finest all-girl corps in the Midwest in the late 1950s. Rounding out this disc are the Norwood Park Imperials and Skokie Vanguard.

Next, we move north into Wisconsin to check out another VFW state championship (#6013) lineup. If you haven’t added the 1960 Madison Scouts or Kilties to your collection yet, here’s your chance. If not for Herb Lathrop’s field recording work, corps like the Kenosha Vigilantes, Racine Junior Scouts, La Crosse Commanders and Iron County Ambassadors would not have this opportunity to be heard today.

Stetson D. Richmond headed just north of the Jersey border to capture the 1967 “Music in the Valley” contest (#6709). Bronx-based New York Kingsmen won this show with their Latin-themed presentation and this August performance features them at their best. This disc also offers the only available full-show recordings in any year for the OLC Ramblers and host Queens Village Queens. St. Joseph Patron Cadets offer adventurous music that may keep this disc in your CD player for an extended time. Lakeland Goldenaires and Sacred Heart Crusaders fill out this volume.

By popular demand, we continue to add to our Garden State Circuit coverage with a CD from the 1968 championship (#6810). Fans and alumni of the Riversiders and St. Martin’s Troubadours don’t have to be reminded how 1968 was a particularly solid year for their corps. In the absence of recordings for 1967, these recordings have added significance. While Secaucus, NJ, Meadowlarks are more fortunate in having a 1967 recording, they were much improved in 1968, as their audio illustrates. Also included on this edition are the Falcon Cadets, Travelers and Imperial Guardsmen.

Collectors will want to look at the 1971 “Pow-Wow of Junior Champions” (#7106) disc for a number of reasons. First, this CD contains the only field recording of the CMCC Warriors from 1971, one of their finest seasons. In a sense, it is the only chance to hear what La Salle Cadets really did in 1971 as well; repertoire changes and supercharged dynamics transformed this corps into something completely different from their June version. Particular attention is deserved for the recordings of the Poughkeepsie Vagabonds and Speigleaires here, both the best-ever recordings of these corps in action. Stetson D. Richmond had the unusual opportunity to add the L.A. Chinese Imperial Dragons to his collection, captured here just after a long trip to the World Open contest. Host Kingston Indians put the finishing touch on this disc.

Our “March of Champions” series of choice recordings for top senior corps from the Baltimore-based contest continues with a key edition, 1972 (#7210). If you feel that other 1972 DCA recordings do not completely capture the power of the era’s top senior corps, this disc is a must-hear. Make sure your fire extinguisher is handy, though. These recordings, straight from Stetson D. Richmond’s original high-speed masters, convey the full ferocity of the senior activity’s biggest and best. New York Skyliners were on top of the senior world and this performance exudes all the energy, confidence and crowd rapport of performers who are at the very top of their game and know it. Meanwhile, several other heavyweight contenders were elevating their game, too, like the dramatic Connecticut Hurricanes, the fiery Hawthorne Caballeros and the Reading Buccaneers with their monstrous-yet-musical sounds. (Apologies to Reading, as their tape was so horribly defective as to jeopardize ever getting this CD released; after excruciatingly detailed restoration work, the first few minutes are still a little rough, but the remainder of the show is clean and every bit as robust as the other corps.) Though trailing among this competitive field, Les Diplomates’ show-stopping color presentation and top-notch drum line are just as essential listening, presented here in stark clarity. Host Yankee Rebels blew down whatever was left of the stadium in their exhibition performance to conclude this show.

The 1972 “Salute to Youth” (#7211) was two contests in one, serving both the Greater New York and Garden State circuits. As the GSC corps are already featured on previously released CDs, this disc focuses on the GNY portion of the event. Newly-inspired St. George Olympians sound larger than life as they cross the cavernous Lewiston Stadium field and charge front and center. Classic Hy Dreitzer arranging was now given voice by a veteran St. Ignatius Girls’ horn line. Kingston Indians were moving up in the ranks in 1972. Long Island Kingsmen had complex, showy arranging of their own. Trumbull Cadets and Fire-ettes also feature their shows on this CD.
Alf Wateska’s recording work contributes with two new 1977 discs, both from his recordings at the American International Open contests in Butler, PA. “West Penn-New York Selections” (#7705) groups six corps from that area together — talent-laden Syracuse, NY, 76ers, aptly-named Mighty Liberators from Rochester, Butler’s own Catholic Daughters of America in their finest form, resurging Cambria Cadets, Buffalo-area Niagara Frontiersmen and Erie, PA, Mavericks.

Meanwhile, AIO volume 6 (#7706) covers other corps hand-picked as deserving the coverage. Black Diamond Regiment was a merger of the Belvederes and Highlanders, not far out of open-class finals. Falcon-Ridgemen were also a merger, combining Falcon Cadets and Ridgemen. Golden Knights of Southgate, KY, added another state to the lineup in class A finals, while Devil Dogs from Clearwater, FL, sounded a lot better than their class A prelim score would indicate. Willingboro, NJ, Black Watch and the New York Lancers complete this disc.

“The Beat Goes On” is a series of recordings digitally remastered from the original tapes of Stetson D. Richmond and Alf Wateska, not scratchy albums or secondhand copies. Tapes are played on professional-line, open-reel decks, with careful handling, monitoring and repair for flawless playback. Advanced digital audio workstation tools are brought into play to fix otherwise irreparable tape defects, restore full dynamic range and mitigate tape noise.

The resulting digital product provides a vastly-improved listening experience over the technology available when Richmond and Wateska reproduced these recordings personally. Look for the ad with our product listing in the latest version of Drum Corps World’s on-line magazine (see page 17 in the November 2013 issue). Or search for your favorite corps at the DCW on-line store (www.drumcorpsworld.com), where you can view the full list of over 220 CDs.