In the winter of 1981-82 the hornline never surpassed 22 horns, the drumline never had more than 15 drummers and the colorguard never more than 15 guard members. But we had a drum corps, a small drum corps, but a drum corps nevertheless. Al DiCroce got Larry Kerchner to arrange two numbers for us, “Clash of the Titans” from a movie of the same name and “Fishlegs” from who knows where. We learned them and they became our OTL and production number for 1982. Both were performed at the debut of the Bushwackers in Upper Darby, PA at the Archer-Epler standstill show on April 17th 1982. While we didn’t set the world on fire, we surprised many people by showing up and performing two numbers. Officially we were for real.
Anyone who marched in drum corps in New Jersey in ’82 knows that spring it rained almost every weekend. It was uncanny, and while it hurt most every corps it hurt the Bushwackers more. Since this was our first season we had nothing to fall back on from previous years. If some corps had problems they could always bring back a number from the year before, it meant less work. We didn’t have that luxury in ’82. Needless to say we rehearsed in the rain for hours on end. You can only get so wet and then after that it just doesn’t matter. Since then the Bushwackers have always been use to working in the rain and putting in long hours at rehearsals. In fact the night before our first field show we rehearsed from 7pm to 4am. This was something we did the night before our first show of the season the following year in 1983.
Our first show was in Ramsey, NJ at Don Bosco High School on Saturday June 12th. It was an afternoon show sponsored by the New York Skyliners and we went on first. I can remember the excitement before we went on as we lined up behind the home stands. As we approached the field it began to rain lightly for a few minutes, but it stopped as we left the track. We considered this a good omen.
We performed our show to a bewildered, small but considerate crowd. We were not as good as we had been previously in rehearsal. Perhaps first time jitters took effect, but we got through the show without any breakdowns. To us this was a success. The crowd was polite and appreciative. As the scores were announced we came in last with a 52.55 which was very forgiving. All in all, we were very happy and went back to Harrison to celebrate. That night we were the happiest last place corps in North America.
The remainder of the season we took our lumps and paid our dues. Performing at ICA shows and a few DCA shows (we were not a DCA member and therefore could only slip into a DCA show when a member corps pulled out). We traveled to Pittsburgh PA and Alliance OH. Like most corps we improved as the season progressed and by Labor Day weekend we had a shot a making finals.
The top six corps in ’82 were all very solid, in fact they may have been the best top six in a long time. They included the Sunrisers, Westshoremen, Skyliners, Caballeros, Hurricanes and Buccaneers. The Matadors were securely in seventh place, but eight through ten were open between Archer-Epler, Steel City, L’Odysee, Erie Thunderbirds, Hanover Lancers and us.
At prelims in ’82 non-member corps went on after the associate members and members. By going on after the block of ten, and in fact dead last, Bush had an advantage. We put on our best show of the year and posted a 74.05 and charged into 8th place. By doing so we pushed Archer-Epler into 9th, L’Odysee into 10th and Steel City into 11th and out of finals altogether. With the exception of L’Odysee we didn’t make too many friends that weekend.
The euphoria of prelims had a drawback in finals. We arrived late to the stadium, rushed around to warm-up and ran into a few difficulties getting onto the track and onto the field. Our performance in finals was not as good as prelims and we did not have the drive we had in prelims. But we still came in 8th place with a 70.55. More importantly, we made a statement; the new corps with the funny name was to be taken seriously. In our first year of field competition we made DCA Finals.
Clash of The Titans, Fishlegs, Mickey Mouse, That Cat is High, Snowbird Fantasy, Chariots of Fire
Drum Majors: Jim Jordan & Mary Ellen McCann
PRELIMS: 8th – 74.05
FINALS: 8th – 70.55