A season to remember!
A memoir by John Fisher
If you were to take a quick look at the archived scores from 1975 you would see that the Hurricanes competed in fourteen shows in this year. These fourteen contests comprised one of the most memorable, intense and emotional seasons in Hurricane history and what a wild ride it was. As you review the scores from this season it’s revealing that you won’t see slotting, as is more common for today’s competitive seasons, rather, several corps changed positions relative to other corps on a weekly basis. When the smoke cleared following the championships on Labor Day in 1975 it’s safe to say there were several corps that wished the season could continue…it was that intense!
The 1975 season began far earlier than you may think…Our first contest was on May 31st in New Brunswick NJ, but the foundation and profound influence affecting the outcome of this first contest was secured on September 1st 1974 in Rochester NY. You see, the 1974 Hurricanes fielded a very good drum corps in 1974 and placed fourth in the DCA prelims, 6.75 points behind the first place Caballeros. Although disappointing, our fourth place position as well as the score spread was in fact consistent with the results over our ten contests of 1974. It was, however, the results in the finals competition that soured the competitive spirit of the drum corps…when we dropped to sixth place, 16.80 points behind the champion Caballeros. In the long history of DCA championship scoring, you will not find a top five corps’ spread from the top increase by over ten points from prelims to finals….not before 1974, or since! The stark difference between prelims and finals was not only embarrassing, but inexplicable as there was no palpable difference between the two performances. This was the lowest finish incurred since 1968, though the sixth place finish in 68’ was only 3.7 points behind the champion Buccaneers, so this was certainly unfamiliar territory for these high octane Hurcs. As a result of the disappointing finish there was understandable outrage, as well as some regrettable and undignified behavior by a few disgruntled members at the hotel following the championship contest that night. The events of that night were quickly put in the rear view mirror for most, however, in the minds of the hierarchy of the DCA the memory stayed fresh.
The Hurricanes entered the first contest of 1975 in New Brunswick as a well-trained, confident drum corps chaffing at the bit to get the new season under way. We were confident and anxious to see how this first contest would shake out with our respected rivals. What we could not have foreseen was that by the end of the evening we would find ourselves standing on retreat stunned…no, not stunned, but absolutely dumbstruck beyond words to hear our name announced in last place with a score of 59.23…the lowest recorded score in the Hurricanes 21 year competitive history! The befuddled look of disbelief on the faces of every member of the drum corps is seared in the memory and begged for even an inkling of reason. For the Hurricanes, the 1975 season had hit a major speed bump, and it was only a few hours old at this point!
In the wake of this first contest of 1975, where no rhyme or obvious reason prevailed, it was quietly made known to the Hurricane management that the memory of what transpired in 1974 was still fresh in some minds, and the DCA hierarchy was not about to tolerate any repeat episodes, or any un-sportsman like behavior going forward. The warning was not subtle and the Hurricanes became a different drum corps as a result.
Director Bob Glovna and the three drivers of the corps, Joe Genero, Ray Luedee and Bobby Daniels, gathered the corps and laid out our situation. They had a damage control plan and it wasn’t a passive one. We would fight in the most effective way possible…by polishing and becoming so good that it wouldn’t be possible to tamp down our score. It was also determined that we would not interact with other corps; additionally, no one was allowed to enter a stadium in uniform, we’d isolate and stay very low key…we would communicate in one way only, loud and proud on the field! At every venue our camp was located as remotely as possible and we marched, in silence, to and from the field of competition. We were always accompanied to the starting line by our leaders, who would supply their own unique style of motivational influence…especially Daniels, who’s fiery style was an igniter. Following a performance, the corps marched back to camp to the soft rhythmic beat of the "Horse Walk", circled up at parade rest, and stood in silence reflecting until leadership arrived to address us. This approach was a departure from any past Hurricane corps and in essence, shrouded the Hurcs with a mystique that, in turn, made us somewhat of a curiosity…and we generated a positive buzz throughout DCA circles as a result.
Our new operating procedures were in sharp contrast to the past, but served us well, as the Hurricanes were transformed into an intensely cohesive, bonded, and unified drum corps. The ”us against the world” approach strengthened the organization on several levels; membership was committed on a higher level, management and instructors were also on a new level. Rehearsals took on a fresh level of intensity as well, as the entire organization acted on our intense need to rise from that infamous first night in New Brunswick.
There was one unintentional change that came into being following the New Brunswick debacle. Rehearsal had been called for the next morning at 10:00 am. One particular ten year veteran who was incensed by the events of the evening felt the need to speak up and admonish the corps, stating that practice was at 10:00 am, and everyone better be there at 10:00 am! Well, low and behold, the next morning at 10:00 am everyone was there on the starting line at parade rest, standing in silence waiting for one person…that person was the vet who had laid down the gauntlet the previous night. He had overslept and raced in about ten minutes late. He was met with silence and rehearsal began. For the rest of the year the corps would assemble on the starting line at the appointed time, and stand at parade rest until everyone expected was there…and it was very seldom that anyone was late! That misstep by the mouthy vet had inadvertently led to a significant change in procedure, and the quality of rehearsals benefited as a result. Oh, and that talkative veteran was me, and although I had been met with silence on that day, for the next couple of weeks my friends made me pay the price!
In retrospect, changes in marching style were imminent…”curvilinear” drills would become the new thing, so 1975 proved to be the final year of the classic old style drill maneuvers…i.e. straight lines, squads, echelons, wheels etc., but in 1975 we took full advantage of the impact this style offered by stepping off the starting line, crisp and blazing, executing a fifty yard company front. The other high impact move was our full corps wheel that we did with “Hang em’ High.” When done with proficiency these maneuvers were impressive. We worked many hours perfecting them and reaped the rewards from the paying customers. Closing out the show with the bouncy, happy circus tunes only added to the excitement that the show generated….it was just a fun show to perform.
By the time we reached our fourth contest, the Barnum Festival, the “unofficial” shroud of retribution we were enduring seemed to have lightened up. We placed a strong 2nd place at the festival. To have made such a great showing in front of a packed house in Bridgeport gave us the much needed lift we needed…our spirits soared! In addition, another great outing was our 2nd place finish at the coveted Dream contest, a mere two points off the win.
The following are the placements and scores from the fourteen times we took the field. As I said earlier, there’s no slotting. Placements, as well as score spreads were based on performance and they fluctuated weekly...for everyone. If any corps could be considered the favorite going into the championship weekend it would be the Skyliners. Sky was rock solid, very entertaining, and in their fabled big city style had chalked up five wins late in the season. Our Hurricanes did, however, travel to Rochester for the championships with the belief that we had a chance…we were in the mix. We were also buoyed by the fact that we had beaten every one of our competitors at least once during the season.
1975 scores and placements
May 31st New Brunswick, NJ June 14th Union City, NJ
1. Buccaneers 73.66 1. Caballeros 82.10
2. Caballeros 72.70 2. Matadors 74.00
3. Skyliners 71.25 3. Sunrisers 71.90
4. Yankee Rebels 62.96 4. Hurricanes 70.50
5. Hurricanes 59.23
June 21st Salem, Mass, July 5th Bpt. Conn. Barnum Fest.
1. Caballeros 77.18 1. Caballeros 82.51
2. Skyliners (.1 pen) 74.75 2. Hurricanes 81.50
3. Buccaneers (1.7 pen) 73.45 3. Skyliners (.9 pen) 80.05
4. Matadors 71.21 4. Matadors 76.06
5. Hurricanes 68.76 5. Yankee Rebels (.3 pen) 71.95
6. Yankee Rebels (.5 pen) 66.66
7. Crusaders (.5 pen) 65.80
8. Sunrisers (.1 pen) 65.55
July 12th Clifton, NJ. July 19th Providence RI.
1. Buccaneers 85.70 1. Skyliners 85.11
2. Skyliners 83.56 2. Hurricanes 81.50
3. Hurricanes 79.41 3. Buccaneers 81.03
4. Crusaders 76.43 4. Sunrisers 72.20
5. Sunrisers 73.16 5. Interstatesmen 44.80
July 26th Carlisle, Pa. August 2nd Schenectady, NY.
1. Buccaneers 80.05 1. Skyliners 80.10
2. Caballeros 77.90 2. Hurricanes 79.95
3. Skyliners 76.05 3. Matadors 79.73
4. Yankee Rebels 73.05 4. Crusaders 77.46
5. Hurricanes 72.20 5. Blessed Sacrament 57.90
August 3rd Jersey City, NJ. Dream August 9th Baltimore, Md.
1. Skyliners 83.15 1. Skyliners 87.50
2. Hurricanes 81.81 2. Buccaneers 86.05
3. Caballeros 81.80 3. Caballeros 85.28
4. Yankee Rebels 77.60 4. Hurricanes 82.93
5. Matadors 76.71 5. Matadors 81.85
6. Crusaders 78.40
August 22nd Quincy, Mass. August 23rd Amherst, Mass.
1. Buccaneers 88.05 1. Skyliners 85.60
2. Skyliners 87.15 2. Hurricanes 85.53
3. Hurricanes 85.95 3. Matadors 80.56
4. Matadors 82.26 4. Buccaneers 79.20
5. Sunrisers 79.18 5. Sunrisers 78.18
August 31st Rochester, NY……………….……………DCA Championships
1. Skyliners 88.50 1. Skyliners 91.28
2. Buccaneers (.3 pen) 88.25 2. Caballeros (.1 pen) 91.11
3. Caballeros (.1 pen) 87.20 3. Buccaneers (.6 pen) 89.55
4. Phoenix (.3 pen) 85.75 4. Hurricanes 86.98
5. Hurricanes 85.71 5. Phoenix 85.20
6. Yankee Rebels (.2 pen) 84.33 6. Yankee Rebels (.4 pen) 84.85
7. Sunrisers 83.33 7. Crusaders tie 80.70
8. Crusaders (.5 pen) 82.70 8. Sunrisers tie 80.70
9. Matadors 81.11 9. Matadors (.2 pen) 76.91
10. Thunderbirds 75.60 10. Thunderbirds (.1 pen) 68.03
11. Spirit of 76’ (1.7 pen) 72.71
12. Royalaires (.1 pen) 70.05
13. Blessed Sacrament (.8 pen) 67.05
14. Dunkirk Patriots 63.75
15. Westshoremen (.1 pen) 63.46
16. Hanover Lancers (1.1 pen) 61.66
17. Diplomats (.1 pen) 60.31
18. Blue Rock (.1 pen) 56.95
19. Interstatesmen (.1 pen) 56.55
On Labor Day weekend we travelled to Rochester NY for the final showdown…DCA Championships. This was the period in DCA history when prelims and finals were conducted on the same day. We had prepared on Saturday with lighter than normal rehearsal. The Hurricane strategy to prepare at the championships for many years was to rehearse just enough to keep it fresh and nurture a positive state of mind. There was no more learning. We were always told at the championship juncture…”if you don’t know it by now, you ain’t gonna know it! Joe Genero, Ray Luedee and Bobby Daniels were master motivators and could read the corps very well. The goal was for the corps’ level of performance to peak in the final contest. There was no need to grind out a long practice, we had done that all year and were now poised for championship competition. We were ready.
Sunday August 31st….morning was prelims and Sunday night was finals. The day was overcast and looking very ominous. We were up early, dressed in our pants and headed across the street from our hotel to a small strip mall to warm up and tend to final preparation details. The stores were all closed and the parking lot was empty. Luedee took his drummers off to the far end of the lot and guided them through their warm-ups, they did what drummers do. Genero lined his horns in a semi-circle, facing a store on the other end of the lot and conducted his warm-ups. He went through different parts of different tunes, refining until he was satisfied.
He ended the session demanding that we play Hallelujah with no mistakes. It was a challenge! He was upbeat yet dead serious, his eyes and expression said it all. Luedee, no doubt, was doing the same, and Daniels just paced…smoking cigarettes. We played a few measures of Hallelujah and Genero waved Stop….again!... we played….Stop…again! On the third or fourth try we played the song through…loud and perfect! In fact we enjoyed the power our forty six horns generated as we watched with delight the large plate glass windows of the store in front of us vibrate. When we finished we got the Genero approval…big smile, gravely laugh, and applause….it was now time to go to the stadium.
We finished putting on the uniforms and loaded the busses for the fifteen minute ride to the Hollander Stadium. Timing was crucial…we had a report time but didn’t want to arrive too early….standing around can make you stale. On the ride to the stadium the drummers never stopped…they merely shifted their incessant drumming from their drums to the backs of the seats on the bus. I can’t explain that, but that’s how drummers function. In this setting, the drummers doing their thing was welcome…the anticipation of the upcoming performance, as well as the drummers incessant pounding only accelerated the growing rush the entire corps was feeling.
It had been the long standing strategy of the Hurricanes to temper emotions prior to competition, believing that too much adrenalin, too much hype, too much excitement would negatively affect a performance. We were always taught to stay calm, be smart and perform with aggressive control. To get caught up in emotion would lead to mistakes, over playing and rushing so the Hurricanes never went over the top before a contest. Of course it never hurt to take the starting line with a little adrenalin, while still emoting an air of cool confidence and displaying the inherent swagger that was a Hurricane hallmark, so what happened at the 75’ prelims was an anomaly and is etched in my memory forever.
We arrived to the stadium under a light drizzling rain and filed under the backfield stands. I don’t recall who was on before us, and it doesn’t matter. We had about ten minutes to go. The high fives and hugs began as the focus on the task at hand elevated to a new level. What was soon percolating from every member must have been fueled by the emotion of the entire season; begun with adversity and progressively solidifying week after week through the comradery of intense competition. Daniels, by now, was standing on top of a fifty five gallon drum screaming encouragement as only he could…with vein popping, wild eyed emotion. He had led the way for us in 1975, navigating the season week to week and fostering the mystique of the Hurricanes. His emotions were as pent up as the rest of the corps…but in this moment he was crazed and it was infectious! It was now time, and every member was poised at this moment, with conviction and an unbending belief, that we were about to take the starting line and win a championship. Richmond signaled to Harvey to lead the way and gave the drum line “mark time march”… the thunder of the street beat, Downfall of Paris, ensued. The Corps let out a tremendous roar that continued as the drum line moved outside from under the grandstand. The noise was deafening, the adrenaline was surging, and the atmosphere was now insane. The horn line and color guard began streaming through the drum line, still screaming and hell bent to get on the starting line when the unthinkable happened….the heavens opened and a deluge of rain poured from the sky. DCA officials promptly waved us off and pointed us back under the stands. The street beat stopped and we retreated to the cover of the grandstand…the look on everyone’s face said “this did not just happen….but it had. We would now have to wait. We waited perhaps twenty minutes until the rain stopped, but it may as well have been twenty hours. We had been at our peak. To be cliche, it was a perfect storm! The mindset, emotion, and focus we were about to unleash in our performance was magical…it wasn’t manufactured; it wasn’t something that could be re-created, or turned on like a light switch. The phenomena we had just experienced was spontaneous…it was pure and real.
As the rain subsided we once again geared up to take the field. But we had come back under the stands with a little air let out of our balloon. We gave our best effort, put our game faces on and sincerely and whole heartedly tried to regain the magic that was propelling us to the starting line the first time, but as much as we believed, it wasn’t to be. Again, the fervor and singleness of purpose we had was truly spontaneous and couldn’t be re-produced, and though we tried, it was futile. It’s sort of like trying to put toothpaste back in the tube; you may get most back in, but you’ll never get it all. Please don’t misunderstand, the Hurricanes ultimately took the field and turned in wonderful performances in both the prelims and the finals…probably the two best performances of the year. We placed fifth behind the first place Skyliners, 2.79 points out in the prelims, and fourth behind the champion Skyliners, 4.30 points out in the finals.
The 1975 season started out rough for the Hurricanes but ultimately turned out OK. The competitions were hard fought and intense. The upper echelon corps were excellent. There is no dispute with the final outcome although many corps might have wished to continue the season indefinitely. As for me, 1975 stands out as perhaps my favorite year. I know I’m not alone in that sentiment. I’ve heard other veterans from that year state the same. Every member of that year is left to forever wonder... what would have been? We were certain of victory before the rains came. For many years at performance time a distant thunder, a sprinkle of rain or a little heat lightning illuminating the night sky was viewed with humor as a signal from the drum corps Gods that we were about to crack a job, so it’s ironic that the Hurricanes of 1975, as great as we were, had been betrayed by of all things…..the weather! When we gather and talk drum corps and 1975 comes up the veteran members from that year are left to reflect, share a knowing smile and silently wonder…what would have been? Myself...I imagine a championship title!
1975 Connecticut Hurricanes
Director…Bob Glovna Asst. Director…Arnie Juliano
Brass arranger & instructor…Joe Genero
Percussion arranger & instructor…Ray Luedee & Tom Wubbenhorst
Drill writer & marching instructor…Bob Daniels
Lead Drum Major…Al Richmond
John Glynn… Bob Bradley… Doug Oravez… Curt Golder… Bob Curtis…Neal Van Dusen… Frank DePatra… Chris Dunn…
Rich Vorel… Ron Kane…John Curran… Mark Paul… Bob Dargiewicz… Bob Glovna… Mark Burel…Carmen DeAngelo…
Joe Nicholson… Dave Younkin… Glen Morgan…Joe Convertito… Lenny Pavia… Fred Borches… John Gabaur…John Gore...
Skip Vargo…Howard Sederquist… Dave Wilcox…Gary Ferris… Raymond Flowers…Wayne Norman…Bob Rawden…
Ted Cornell… Arnie Juliano… Nick Pisani…Mike Morano… Tony Convertito… Glenn Broadbent… Paul Kasperzyk…
Doug Tones… Kenny Ruge…John Fisher…Mark Bonaventura…James Cross…Billy Way...Ralph Moore… Duke Sims…
Drum Major… Ray Luedee
Vic Kulinski…Bill Palumbo… John Brannigan… Danny Alcutt… Ray Crothers...Mark Convertito… Jerry Buswell…
Skip Krajza… John Serni… Don Gaines…Milton LaBonte… John Marchitto… Tony DeAndrea… John Alcutt… Phil Lechek
Bill Moleski… Paul Haluschak… Pat McNally… Tim Root… Bob Wilcox…Kenny DiChello… Mike Mycek…
John Cassidy… Lenny Kowalski… Albert Douglas… Jim Canganelli… Rich Mastroianni… John McLaughlin…
Tommy Gleason…Jim Poirier… Paul Gaffney… Butch Cantor… Duke Breon… Bruce Gordon…Paul Maxwell…
Bob Florintino… Dominik Copida… Victor Kulinski Sr.… Steve Smith… Butch Verdi…
Carmen Onofrio, Dick Parregeoux, Carl Pynn
The Hurricanes were led on the field by drum major Al Richmond and played a crowd pleasing, high energy show that was “standing O” worthy! Our prowess executing it, playing and marching, only enhanced the general effect it generated. The show kicked off with a jazzy version of “I Got Rhythm” followed by “Walk on the Wild Side”… a percussion feature of “He’s got the Whole World in His Hands,” “Hallelujah Chorus,” “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “Hang em’ High” and “Magnificent Seven.” The show culminated with a circus medley consisting of “Entry of the Gladiators” “Ballyhoo March” “Barnum and Baily’s Favorites” “Billboard March” and a sideline staged, in your face, closing fanfare statement of “My Way.”