History of the Corps: 1970’s


The first uniforms of the Plymouth Fife and Drum Corps were sailor uniform replicas of the War of 1812, worn because of the historic significance to the Michigan area. The Corps played metal fifes in 1971-1972 from the Melody Flute Company in Laurel, Maryland. They soon converted to 10 hole chromatic fifes from Arizona. This model was named after John McDonagh, who designed and used them in the New York Regimentals Fife and Drum Band. The drummers used the high school drums the first year, which were later used for the drum band and junior corps. The New York Regimentals, US Army Old Guard and Connecticut Yanks were musical influences for the Corps during 1971-1973. The Corps copied and traded tunes with these groups.

The Corps emphasized music first, marching second and history third. Marching and drill came from Mark’s interest in drum and bugle corps. Since there were no musters in the Midwest, the Corps used summer marching band and drum and bugle corps shows for performances.

The first President of the Corps was Don Tripp who provided much support for the formation of PFDC.

The Corps formed on the following principles and stated purposes:

  1. To sponsor and promote the activities of the performing unit
  2. To provide musical training for youth regardless of race, creed or color
  3. To preserve the art of fifing and drumming
  4. To further the historical heritage of the United States of America
  5. To provide entertainment for public audiences
  6. To participate in community programs and activities
  7. To sponsor and participate in regional and national fife and drum competitions, musters and associated activities to further cooperation and camaraderie with other fife and drum organizations

The Corps increased in popularity during 1973, so they continued to book more performances. This is the year the Corps took its first trip out east and performed in the Deep River Muster. The drummers outnumbered the fifes so a second “drum band” formed. They traveled with the Corps as a separate performing group consisting of 15-20 marching performing instruments. They played jazz, rock and modern rudiment percussion music. The drum band was in fact a training group for the younger drummers. There was a place in the fife section for younger players playing easier parts, but there was no place on bass drum or snare drum to develop skills. Eventually younger fife players were added to the drum band and it was converted into a junior fife and drum corps. The Corps ordered custom made 16×16 Slingerland TDR-100s for the intent was to look like rope drums but have the tuning ability of rod drums.

The Color Guard was originally composed of younger brothers and sisters of the musicians.

1978_PFDC Colonials in Toronto cropped

PFDC 1979

With increased numbers in 1975, it was decided to divide the Corps into a junior corps and a senior corps. The senior corps consisted of 30 musicians. The junior corps consisted of 25 musicians. They wore typical colonial style dress consisting of beige knickers, a red and white checkered gingham shirt with a rope tie, red kerchief, white knee socks, black shoes and black hats. The first drum truck was purchased this year, used, from Consumer Faucet in Clawson.

1976 was an important year in the history of the Corps. The youngest members were in junior high and the oldest were 21 years old; the average age was approximately 17 years old. Problems of Corps size and uniforms became major concerns. New uniforms would be costly, so the Corps embarked on a massive fundraising drive. In the end, they came up short. The Corps then received a federal grant to purchase the uniforms. The new polyester replica LifeGuard uniforms debuted at the Cherry Blossom Festival in April 1976 on the steps of the Capitol Building in Washington DC. These new uniforms were blue and gold with red vests, ruffled jabots and tricorn hats. These uniforms were more traditional wear of the Revolutionary period.

The Corps had a record 39 performances in 1976, including Marching Bands of America Grand Nationals in Whitewater, Wisconsin in June and Drum Corps International Championships in Philadelphia in August. The Corps first played at Greenfield Village in September 1976.

In 1977, the 50 member Corps performed 2nd in the annual Detroit Thanksgiving Day Parade in downtown Detroit and emphasized precision marching techniques. Whitney Prince was named Director.

In 1978, the Corps decided the minimum age for members must be 12 years old. The drum truck, a 1971 vintage, was getting very old and rusting beyond repair. The Corps functioned without a music director but a former member and fife instructor, Allison Reilley, took over temporarily. The Corps was in bad financial shape almost forcing the Board of Trustees to dissolve the Corps.

In 1979, a new President, Neil Winters, took over the Board of Directors and turned the financial status of the corps around by initiating major fundraising activities. The Plymouth Rotary helped finance the purchase of a new drum truck that was outfitted for the Corps. Recruitment efforts were high and Len Goren was named Director.

History of the Corps | 1970’s | 1980’s | 1990’s | 2000’s | 2010’s | 2020’s