Inside the Arc
“Riggie, Maynard & Me”
Ironically, there exist some individuals who have had a profound effect on the drum corps activity yet are generally unknown to many younger practitioners of the art. It’s the duty of the rest of us to pass along knowledge of their substantial contributions. That said, here’s a story about one of them, a man whose playing set a benchmark for performance on the bugle and whose style was emulated by everybody from Bucky Swan to Al Chez to Wayne Downey to the best soloist you heard at last year’s finals, whether they know it or not:
By the time I began marching with the St. Catherine’s Queensmen in the early ’60s, Riggie was already a star. We’d listened to his solos countless times on the Fleetwood and Stetson Richmond recordings of the Pittsburg Rockets, and vets like Bill Hightower would often speak of hearing his fluid technique and silky tone live on the field at the big shows.
Though we had performed at the same venues a couple of times during the ’60s and ’70s, we had never actually spoken. It wasn’t until the summer of 2005, on the occasion of the first Buglers Hall of Fame Induction, that another opportunity would present itself.
At the grand finale, several of us were to “sit in” with Maynard Ferguson’s Big Band, performing “Birdland” and “Rocky”…on bugles. An afternoon rehearsal was called and we all gathered down on the field where the temperature was 95 under a blazing sun. Maynard stayed in the limo until the entire band and all the buglers were set up. As he took the stage, a dapper gentleman strolled up next to me, wearing a white golf shirt and pale slacks, looking cool as a Pina Colada at the Country Club. “Hi”, he said, “Mind if I stand next to you?”
I nodded to him, Maynard gave a downbeat and we were off to the races. I recall holding on for dear life for the next several minutes, straining my chops and coming close to hyperventilating as I struggled to make it through the music in the baking heat. At some point, I became aware that the cat next to me was nailing every note and making it look and sound effortless. My fingers began to cramp towards the end and my 3 valve Dynasty got heavier and heavier. All the while, sweet, pure music emanated from my left.
Finally, we reached the last note. I was spent. I brought the horn down and panted. It was then that I noticed that my friend had played the entire set on a single valve slip-slide c.1962 soprano bugle, an instrument notoriously difficult to navigate, even for the best players…and he hadn’t even broken a sweat. The man was Bing Crosby with a Bugle.
He turned to me and smiled. “I’m Riggie Laus”, he said. “Yeah”, I replied, “I should have known”.
Frank Dorritie (grateful to have met the best bugler on the planet, at last.)
Find a photo of Riggie with Maynard and the rest of us at www.buglershalloffame.com
Frank Dorritie is one of the legends of the activity .... a performer, instructor, arranger, adjudicator, and observer over the past 5 decades. Frank has been playing the bugle and trumpet since the 1960s, and has performed with artists like Billy Cobham and Maynard Ferguson. He has instructed and/or arranged for the Blue Devils, Cadets, Santa Clara Vanguard, Cavaliers, Chesterton and Tenri High Schools, the Bushwackers, Bridgemen and a host of others. His audio production honors include 9 Grammy Nominations, 2 Grammy Awards and membership in both the World Drum Corps and Buglers Halls of Fame. He is active internationally as a clinician and adjudicator, holds the DCA Soprano/Trumpet/Tenor Individual titles for 2003, 2005 and 2006. Frank also chairs the Department of Recording Arts at Los Medanos College. His popular brass method book, “Power and Endurance”, is available from Xtremebrass.com. The opinions expressed in this column are strictly those of the author.
Posted by Frank Dorritie on Friday, February 5th, 2010. Filed under Inside the Arc.