If the season of 1988 was a film it could have been called “Bush ’86 Part II”, or “Son of Bush”.
The corps had a small turn out in the winter. Whereas the ’85 season burnt out Bush, the ’87 season bummed them out. Major administrative changes occurred when Nick Yaworksi and Warren Pinder left the corps, Tim Bell joined the administration, and Jay Morlot became the Corps director, a position he held for the next 23 years. Jay had been in drum corps a long time with various junior corps before be came to Bush in 1982. And the instructional staff changed when Gary Oberwanowicz did the writing and arranging, and Roy Chambers and Jim Dugan both became the show coordinators. Jim had been a drummer in the Bridgemen and started instructing with Bush in 1983. He was now head percussion instructor. Also Randy Accardi became head color guard instructor after joining the corps in ’86. Randy is very well known for his guard work with the winter guard Conquest and other drum corps.
To make a long story short, the corps kicked and screamed and scratched and clawed through the winter and by the spring of ’88 the corps had turned another corner. The most challenging aspect to fielding a drum corps is getting enough bodies to start the show and work with it from there. The greatest show in design is not going to hit the field without enough bodies. In this respect the corps had two things going for them 1) a very talented small group of members and 2) a difficult but organized show. It took awhile before it got going, and it took imagination to visualize the show with 19 horns, written for 44, but once it started to snowball it became an avalanche that roared straight through to finals.
This year would be disappointing in that there would be two corps going down to the wire by the second half of the season. When it came down to it, there would be the Sunrisers and the Bushwackers. Sun had a good start and was coming off the victory in ’87. The Skyliners started off extremely well, but everyone caught up to them and they tailed off in the second half. And while the Empire Statesmen and the Rochester Crusaders made tremendous strides, the Caballeros just didn’t have a good year.
Bush was following Sun up until the regionals at Scranton. By then everyone knew the only corps that could catch Sun was Bush. Then, out of the blue, an incident occurred that kick started the Bushwackers.
Before Bush entered the field at Scranton an altercation erupted between a quad player from the Bushwackers and a member of another corps. As the quad player was entering the field the other individual followed him and this altercation spilled out onto the field itself. For those of you who are not drummers, it is extremly difficult to defend oneself when you are lugging around four drums. The corps was incensed that another corps member would enter the field, in full uniform, to pick a fight with a member of the corps before they started their warm-up. Eventually the other member left the field and the warm-up was a combination of vented anger and disgust.
This individual did more for the Bushwackers than he will ever know. The corps took their revenge out by smoking their performance and winning the show. It was their first win since the championship in ’86.
After beating Sun for the first time in Scranton the two corps locked horns two weeks later in Bridgeport, CT where Bush edged out Sun by .16 points. (Bush 89.66, Sun 89.50) By the following week in prelims both corps were ready to settle the matter once and for all. This time Sun took prelims in Hershey, PA by .36 points. Finals looked to be a great showdown, but then something totally unexpected happened. . .
For the second straight year it rained on finals and DCA moved it to Monday night. Believe me there was much concern with the Bushwackers after losing prelims and the rain on Sunday. But the field in Hershey was in better shape than Allentown, and since it wasn’t a school field we could use it without fear of fines.
Sunday late afternoon was chilly and windy. I can remember pit equipment being blown down and the honor guard of the Skyliners fighting the wind. Bush went on and turned the show up a notch in finals. The corps was satisfied they did their best job and now it would be up to Sun and the judges. The corps watched the Sunrisers from the back visitors stands. Since it was late, there was a drum major retreat. The Sunrisers stood at ease on the track.
The captions went as follows: Sun took high horns and M & M. Bush took high drums, high drums execution and best color guard. As an omen of things to come, both Sun and Bush tied for high GE. The fans expected close scores because both corps but on excellent performances in finals. The crowd was very upset when Fran Herring the announcer stated, after Rochester was announced in third, that there was a tie for first place.
If you thought the crowd was upset, you should have seen the Bushwackers and the Sunrisers. Both wanted themselves as clear cut winners but they had to share the title with a joint score of 96.36. Many people had left, due to the outcome and the lateness of the show, so the encore was received by less than 150 fans.
It was extremely interesting to watch Bush come down from the stands and line up facing Sun who had just marched onto the field. Each corps played one number to the other, trying to outdo the other. But this was not with the emotion of the ’86 Steel City Ambassadors. This rivalry would go on into the winter and be resumed the following season. It was not as though both corps hated each other, but more that they felt the other was in their way.
Back on the buses the Giants were playing the Redskins and the seasons had officially changed.
Pellet Suite, Inner Crisis, Mira Mira, Out of Africa
Drum Major: Laurie Kunzle
PRELIMS: 2nd – 93.44
FINALS: tie 1st – 96.36