World Drum Corps Hall Of Fame Drummer John Dowlan Passes

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John Dowlan, a member of the World Drum Corps Hall of Fame since 1987, passed away in Weeki Wachee, Florida the morning of Wednesday, December 21 after suffering a series of strokes over the past few years.

He was nicknamed the ‘baron of back sticking’ after developing the technique in the late 1940s, then teaching it to the United States Air Force drum and bugle corps snare drummers in 1958. Although the technique of striking the drumhead with the butt end of the stick was initially used in practice sessions to develop drummers’ wrists, it quickly spread across North America because of the showmanship value. The first back sticking exercises were used to accent triplets.

His interest in drumming began at age 10 in 1935, when he heard the distant sound of drums then watched with his friend and neighbor Lee Wolf, who also became a member of the World Drum Corps Hall of Fame, as Osmond Post Cadets paraded down the street in front of his house.

After playing with Osmond, he joined a Boy Scouts drum corps, where he learned to play the bugle and qualified for a merit badge in bugling. During the years before he enlisted with the United States Army to serve in World War II, he practiced long hours to obtain a firm rudimental drumming foundation. During this time he also developed and refined his back sticking practice techniques.

In 1946, following his service in the Philippines, he returned to Osmond and became drum instructor. He auditioned for and joined a new senior drum corps, known as A. K. Street Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) senior corps. The name was later changed to the Reilly Raiders, in memory of a former junior corps member, Frederick J. Reilly. During his seven-year association with Reilly Raiders, he won many snare drum awards, including the VFW Senior Individual National Snare Drum Championship in 1949 in Miami, again in 1950 in Chicago and again in 1951 in New York City. Displaying his great musical versatility, he also played soprano bugle in the National Championship Senior Brass Quartet.

In 1957, John was selected by Master/Sergeant Truman Crawford, who was inducted into the World Drum Corps Hall of Fame in 1979, to arrange and teach percussion for the drum line of the United States Air Force Drum Corps in Washington, D.C. During his four-year term, the Air Force drum quartet introduced and quickly popularized his back sticking techniques.

During his drum corps career, he instructed more than 50 top junior and senior drum corps including such well known groups as Osmond Post Cadets, Bracken Cavaliers, Vasella Musketeers, Reilly Raiders, Archer-Epler Musketeers, Pittsburgh Rockets and Baltimore Yankee Rebels.

He also served as the editor and publisher of Bugle & Drum Corps Times, one of the very first drum corps publications in 1948, focusing on Philadelphia and area drum and bugle corps. He also wrote regular columns for another early drum corps publication.

The World Drum Corps Hall of Fame is a non-profit organization honoring those individuals who have contributed significantly over many years to the development and continuing excellence drum and bugle corps activity. The organization also seeks to preserve the history of the drum and bugle corps movement in North America by selecting a noteworthy junior and all age (senior) corps of the decade.

Regular World Drum Corps Hall of Fame members are honored for their dedication, contributions and achievements over a long period of time in categories including administration, arranging, adjudication, instruction, innovation and design. Associate members have dedicated at least five consecutive years of service to any drum and bugle corps as a performer or in a support role.

For more information about the World Drum Corps Hall of Fame visit the web site at

Posted by on Saturday, December 31st, 2016. Filed under Current News, DCA News, FrontPage Feature.