1980 Blue Stars
I initially became involved in drum corps through a friend in high school who was obsessed with the activity and (true to his Southern Baptist background) proselytized for it tirelessly. He would invite me over to his house to listen to drum corps recordings for hours. Although I had never seen a drum corps live, the aural imagery created by those recordings and my friend's domineering personality convinced me that I should join him in the 1980 Blue Stars.
One problem was that I was a saxophonist, and there are no reeds in drum corps. So I talked my skeptical band director into letting me play tuba, since there is always a shortage of tuba players in high school band. By December of 1979 I was a good enough player to audition and be accepted for the Blue Stars of LaCrosse, Wisconsin.
This change in direction in my 15th year proved to be somewhat fateful. The move to brass distracted me from developing my not inconsiderable talents as a reedman. Personality and cognitive types gravitate to certain instruments and I was certainly better matched with the cerebral logic of the saxophone than the abstract primitivism of brass instruments. My musical life might have been quite different if I had concentrated on my playing and writing and not been running around the country lugging 30 pounds of brass in the hot summer sun. But I didn't know any better at the time and youth is wasted on the young.
I was also not particularly suited to the social structure of drum corps. As a creative, free-spirited kinda guy, I did not fit well in the social interdependence, musical regimentation and mind-numbing repetitiveness of drum corps. I was quite out of place in a foreign culture. It also did not help that life on tour was marked by a lack of sleep that left me with an even more dark and surly demeanor.
The season was also a disappointing one for the corps. Although they had spent many years as a top-12 finalist (which included participation in the nationally-televised final competition), lackluster material (the "Blah Stars") and a weak prelims performance led to a 13th place finish and an early start to the fall of 1980. After continuing as a smaller organization competing in divisions III and II, the corps returned to top-12 status in 2008.
Next: 1981 Louisiana Southernaires