Argonne Rebels Drum and Bugle Corps
|Location||Great Bend, Kansas|
(Current World Class)
|Championship titles||American Legion Nationals Champion
1971-72 in competition
1973 by proclamation
The Argonne Rebels Drum and Bugle Corps (also known as "Argonne" or "The Rebels") were an Open Class (now World Class) competitive junior drum and bugle corps. Based in Great Bend and Barton County, Kansas, the Rebels were one of the thirteen founding member corps of Drum Corps International.
In August 1947, musician John Taff and the Rev. Joseph Tockert of the St. Rose Catholic Church started a drum and bugle corps for the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of the St. Rose Parish to operate under the sponsorship of the Knights of Columbus. The corps had its first public performance on November 26, 1947. When American Legion Argonne Post 180 took over the corps' sponsorship in 1949, membership was opened to all area youth, and the name was changed in recognition of the Legion Post, which had been named after the Argonne Forest, the site of major U.S. military action during World War I. At that time, Glenn Opie(See Note A) became the corps director, a post he would hold through 1973.
Argonne (See Note B) competed with others in the Great Plains area in the 1950s and 1960s. They also competed in numerous VFW and American Legion, championships, and, in 1955, the Rebels won the first of thirteen Kansas State American Legion championships. From the mid-1950s, Argonne was also a major corps on the national scene. They were a finalist in the American Legion Nationals in 1955, '56, '61, '63(See Note C), '65, '71, and '72; a finalist at VFW Nationals each year from 1968 through 1972; and were Legion National Champions in 1971, '72, and '73(See Note D).
In 1971, two organizations were started with the intent of giving drum corps more control over their activity, which was then largely governed by the veterans organizations. The Midwest Combine was made up of the Blue Stars, Cavaliers, Madison Scouts, Santa Clara Vanguard, and the Troopers; and the United Organization of Junior Corps (also known as the "Alliance"), was formed by the 27th Lancers, Garfield Cadets, Boston Crusaders, Blessed Sacrament Golden Knights, and Blue Rock. In 1972, the ten corps from the Midwest Combine and the Alliance were joined by the Anaheim Kingsmen, the De La Salle Oaklands, and the Argonne Rebels as founding members of Drum Corps International (DCI), which remains as the sanctioning body for junior corps in North America. At the first DCI World Championships, held in Whitewater, Wisconsin on August 17 and 18, 1972, the Argonne Rebels finished in fifth place. The brass was instructed by Sandra Opie(See Note A) and was considered to be the premier brass section in drum corps; on several occasions, they received a perfect score of 5.0 for Content Analysis.
In 1973, the expectations for Argonne were extremely high; not only had the corps finished in fifth place at DCI, but most of the members would be returning for the new season. When the expected new musical arrangements were not received from the arranger, the corps turned to Frank Minear, lead trumpeter for the Stan Kenton band, who had offered to write charts for the corps. Minear's arrangements of "Fanfare For The New" and "Malaga" were transcriptions straight from the Kenton band's arrangements. When combined with Ken Norman's arrangement of "Stars and Stripes Forever", the 1973 Argonne Rebels had what was almost unquestionably the most technically complex musical program that had ever been performed by a drum and bugle corps up to that time. Unfortunately, although things were changing under the new Drum Corps International, technical difficulty was not yet taken into consideration in judging a corps' performance. Additionally, the arrangements made getting the sounds to the fans in the stands in proper synchronization difficult at best, so that the field show was redesigned in mid-season by Drum Corps Hall of Fame senior corps designer Vince Bruni. Although Argonne would finish in eleventh place at DCI World Championships at Whitewater, the season was a disappointment for the members whose early expectations had been so high. Although future DCI Hall of Fame members Truman Crawford, Bernard Baggs, and Don Angelica addressed the corps immediately after the show and attempted to console the members, the corps would never recover from the blow.
With the Opies' departure from the corps and Sandra Opie's move from instructor to judge, the corps' brass would never again approach its excellence of the early 1970s. In 1974, Argonne would drop to thirty-third at DCI. The corps would recover somewhat, finishing twentieth in 1975 and eighteenth in 1976, but it would fall to the lower levels of Open Class in 1977, '78, and '79 and would cease operations following the 1979 season. The Argonne Rebels would return as a Class A corps in 1983 but would leave the field for good following the 1984 season. Although the Argonne Rebels have not been in field competition since 1984, its organization still exists to serve the alumni, since more than 3,000 youth from Great Bend and Barton County marched in the corps during its more than forty years of competition.
Note A: Both corps director Glenn Opie and brass instructor Sandra Opie are in the Drum Corps International Hall of Fame.
Note B: Legend has it that "Rebels" was added to the corps' name after an enthusiastic parent yelled, "Go, you rebels!" during a 1952 contest. Although some did not like it, the name stuck.
Note C: On the way to the 1963 Legion Championships in Miami, Florida, the corps stopped for dinner in Birmingham, Alabama, several members of the corps were attacked by a group of white supremacists because some members of the corps were African-Americans. Although one member of the corps required medical care, the corps continued to Miami, where they finished in tenth place.
Note D: After the Argonne Rebels had won the American Legion title in 1971 and '72, the Legion national convention was held in Hawaii. Since few, if any, drum corps would travel to Hawaii for the Nationals, they were not held, and the Argonne Rebels were awarded the 1973 American Legion Championship by proclamation.
- A History of Drum & Bugle Corps, Vol. 2; Steve Vickers, ed.; Drum Corps World, pub.; 2003