When you are a new corps and not a threat, other corps pat you on the head and suddenly they’re your best friends. But once you improve and beat them, then you are no longer the cute little corps they have come to know and beat. The Bushwackers learned this lesson early on in 1983.
Over the winter the corps pulled in some talented people from Garfield, Bayonne and Royal Brigade. As if by word of mouth the corps grew and made high strides from the ’82 corps. This year we were ready and talented. Looking back Bush probably matured 2-3 years in the span of one season.
On the other hand a few of the top corps had a rough winter and a slow start. The Caballeros, Buccaneers and Hurricanes all were in this category. The Cabs made more progress early on, but the Bucs and Hurcs were smaller and less prepared for the ’83 season. Reading had members of the U. S. Marine Drum & Bugle Corps join them to increase their numbers and the Hurcs did not come out until mid-July due to a shortage of members. Once the Bushwackers faced them both, it was only a matter of time before Bush beat them.
This did not sit well with most senior drum corps fans. After all, the Buccaneers won DCA in ’80 and the Hurricanes won DCA in ’81. Who were these upstarts to come in, and in their second season, beat these two established powerhouses?
At first it was hard to try and understand some people. We had been accused of having all Bridgemen alumni, when in fact we had as many Bridgemen alumni as any other DCA corps. Three facts stood out: 1) we had improved immensely, 2) other corps were off to a bad start or a bad year and 3) the Bushwackers have always had a very hard work ethic. The corps was being blamed for being good. As an example, to this day the 1983 hornline is considered one of the best hornlines the Bushwackers have ever produced.
So the year went on with the Hurricanes and the Buccaneers and the Bushwackers slugging it out. Each corps took turns getting the upper hand on their opponents for a week or two and then that corps would be overtaken. It made for good drum corps. By the end of the season all three corps were in the 5-6-7 slots and when Labor Day Weekend rolled around there were less than two points between all three corps.
At prelims, the Bushwackers performed very well and we placed 5th with the Bucs in 6th and the Hurcs in 7th. In fact, we were closer to 4th and the Westshoremen than we had been all season.
Here is a unique sideline never before released. Prior to the championship, serious consideration had been given to out-fitting the entire corps in bald skull caps. It was proposed that at the conclusion of the show the entire corps would remove their black hats and expose our bald heads to the audience. The idea was dropped when we had performed so well in prelims. Had we pulled this off it would have been considered another “link to the Bridgemen” which we were trying to discourage. The corps was trying to build an identity of its own and this would have diminished any credibility we had hoped to create.
At finals Bush went on after the Buccaneers and they did a tremendous job. This was a true test of the corps, to follow the Bucs onto the field after their standing ovation. I truly believe that this moment was a turning point in the history of the corps. As we took the field our fans were beginning to chant for us and we went out and performed a show better than prelims.
When the scores were announced, we had beaten the Hurricanes, whom I was told were extremely good that night, and we were tied by the Buccaneers for 5th place. The Bushwackers had jumped three spots in just one year and were making a name for themselves. As the corps stood at retreat no one could imagine how much further we would advance this same time next year.
Cleopatras Asp, Emerald Eyes, Egyptian Danza, Quensabe, Las Suertas de Los Tontos, Chariots of Fire
Drum Majors: Dave Kapp & Al DiCroce
PRELIMS: 5th – 82.75
FINALS: tied 5th – 82.65