The Carver Gay Blades Sr. Drum and Bugle Corps


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The following is from an article posted on the African Americans In Drum Corps site on facebook. Thomas L. Brown did the research behind the article and wrote it. I am happy to re-post the article over here for all to read. Enjoy our history in Drum Corps.

In 1957, the George Washington Carver Gay Blades, an African American senior drum and bugle corps; were formed as The Masonics out of the Prince Hall Masonic Temple, Belmont Ave., Newark, NJ. Their original 27 horns and 7 drums, won the first contest that they entered.

In the late 50's, the name of the corps was changed to the George Washington Carver Gay Blades, sponsored by the Washington Carver Chapter, Order of Pythagorean, P.H.A. Newark, NJ.

The Carver Gay Blades won championships in both the Yankee and Northeastern Circuits. In 1959, they were undefeated in the Yankee Circuit and were champions in both the Yankee and Northeastern Circuits. In 1960, they repeated as champions in the Northeastern Circuit.

By the mid sixties, the Carver Gay Blades were faced with dwindling membership and soon out of existence. However, in their brief tenure, the Carver Gay Blades managed to: win their first show, win multiple circuit championships, go undefeated in the Yankee Circuit and gain the love, respect and admiration of both the Newark and drum corps communities. And boy could they swing and they were rocking the timbales, with a harness, long before others caught on to the concept (see photo).

Business Manager: Joseph Tucker

Members (partial): Drum Major: Charles Hampton; Color Guard Captains: Thomas Drummond and Charles Davis; James F Jordan, Cliff Humphrey, Hubert McQueen, Charlie Hampton, Burnell "Big Man" Henry, Dave Blocker, Walter Caldwell, Sonny White, John & Jerome Cherry, Woody Shaw, Ray Dandridge, Dr Gene Grant, Joe 'Red' McDonald, Henry Grant, Eugene Bennett, Roy Dandrige Jr (father in Negro Baseball Hall of Fame) and Roland Casey.

Instructors (partial): Victor Casella, Dominic DelRa, Hugo Evarelli, Frank Luke (drums), and William Carrig (drill)

Repertoires (partial):

1962 - Theme from Samson and Delilah, King of Kings, Sincerely, Temptation (from Singin' In the Rain), Sweets for my Sweet, Rock Around the Clock, Keep Your Sunny Side Up (from Good News!), To the Ends of the Earth.

1963 - Sweets for my Sweet, Miserlou, Temptation (from Singin' In the Rain), What Kind Of Fool Am I (from Stop The World I Want To Get Off!).

I loved me some 'Sweets for my sweet!'

Yankee Circuit Champions 1959, 1961 and Northeastern Circuit Champions 1959 & 1960.

3 September 1959 - Northeastern Circuit Championships - Agawam, MA

1 85.630 George Washington Carver Gay Blades, Newark, NJ

2 85.420 Interstatesmen, Troy, New York & Pittsfield, MA

3 84.750 Amboy Dukes, Perth Amboy, NJ

4 83.160 Springfield Marksmen, Springfield, MA

5 80.310 Connecticut Hurricanes, Shelton, CT

6 78.370 Colonial Cavaliers, Port Ewen, NY

7 75.950 Sunrisers, Long Island, NY

8 73.800 Fitchburg Kingsmen, Fitchburg, MA

4 September 1960 - Northeastern Circuit Championships - Agawam, MA

1 80.780 George Washington Carver Gay Blades, Newark, NJ

2 80.730 Interstatesmen, Troy, NY & Pittsfield, MA

3 80.260 Springfield Marksmen, Springfield, MA

4 78.610 Connecticut Hurricanes, Shelton, CT

5 78.400 Criterions, Newburgh, NY

6 77.850 Amboy Dukes, Perth Amboy, NJ

7 74.710 Sunrisers, Long Island, NY

8 71.160 Fitchburg Kingsmen, Fitchburg, MA

15 September 1961 - Northeastern Circuit Championships - Agawam, MA - 3rd 83.28

2 September 1962 - Northeastern Circuit Championships - Agawam, MA - 4th 83.830

1 September 1963 - Northeastern Circuit Championships - Agawam, MA - 2nd 83.290

15 September 1963 - World Open Finals at Roosevelt Stadium, Jersey City, NJ

1 87.033 New York Skyliners, New York, NY

2 83.483 Reading Buccaneers, Reading, PA

3 80.850 Syracuse Brigadiers, Syracuse, NY

4 80.766 Sunrisers, Long Island, NY

5 77.900 Pittsburgh Rockets, Pittsburg, PA

6 77.150 George Washington Carver 'Gay Blades,' Newark, NJ

6 77.150 Springfield Marksmen, Springfield, MA

8 76.583 Amboy Dukes, Perth Amboy, NJ

9 50.663 Keesler Air Force Base Blue Knights, Biloxi, MS

6 September 1664 Northeastern Circuit Championships - Agawam, MA 4th 76.680

Disclaimer: The info above is only as accurate as its source material.

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Thanks for sharing that... As a kid in the 80s I would see that name and thought they were an early Gay (as in homosexual) group. I was amazed that drum corps was that liberal in the 60s. Later I found out that it was a different type of diversity. :). Great corp's history!

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The Long Island Sunrisers benefited greatly when they picked up some folks from the Gay Blades in the 1960s.

Two of them... Gene Bennett and Alfred "Uncle Nick" Nichols... are both in the World Drum Corps Hall of Fame as well as the Sunrisers Hall of Fame.

Two of the best Sunrisers, and best people, ever.

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Thanks for sharing this. I always knew of the corps, and tried to pick up some memorabilia on EBay, and had to explain to the seller just what they had and why it was so cool.

Perhaps you could explain to me the meaning of the button, here's a link to an image of it:

http://thumbs1.ebaystatic.com/d/l225/m/mAWXETA4vQaZqPjsjjp504A.jpg

In case you can't see the image, it's a white button, with "GAY BLADES" on the top in blue, the Top hat, Cane, and gloves, and below, the numbers "20/4". What the heck does that mean? :satisfied:

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Downtown, there is a rich history involving the Gay Blades. Thank you for sharing some of it. "Sweets For My Sweet" which was a marginal hit record for the Drifters back in the 60s was brilliantly interpreted for the Gay Blades as I recall. One of my all time fav drum corps tunes!

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One tiny clarification:

The Carver Gay Blades won championships in both the Yankee and Northeastern Circuits. In 1959, they were undefeated in the Yankee Circuit and were champions in both the Yankee and Northeastern Circuits. In 1960, they repeated as champions in the Northeastern Circuit.

There was no Northeastern Circuit in 1959. The Yankee senior circuit changed their name to the Northeastern Circuit after the 1959 season.

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Not sure what that button means.

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You are right on point with Gene and Uncle Nick Fran. Gene is a great inspiration to me in this activity and everything I am in Drum Corps I owe to Gene Bennett and Barry Swain. Uncle Nick was so special and always looked for my brothers and I whenever we came off the field during my time in the Reading Buccaneers. I miss him a lot.

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Not sure what that button means.

Bah! I have a guess- and unfortunately I know no GB Alumni.

My guess is that it might be Masonic related. I'll ask a couple of my Past Worshipful Master friends and see what they think. :satisfied:

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You are right on point with Gene and Uncle Nick Fran. Gene is a great inspiration to me in this activity and everything I am in Drum Corps I owe to Gene Bennett and Barry Swain. Uncle Nick was so special and always looked for my brothers and I whenever we came off the field during my time in the Reading Buccaneers. I miss him a lot.

Gene was fabulous with the Long Island Kingsmen staff, Our Lady of Assumption in Copiague guard, and a number of L.I. High school bands and winter guards. He, his wife Vivian, and son (who ultimately marched Crossmen I think) have helped shape so many in the activity and always with the respect of the members and families associated with these units. It was always "Mr. Bennett" said with respect and admiration.

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