In 1972, Canton police officers Babe Stearn and Ralph McCauley, the director and assistant director of the Canton Police Boys' Club, met with Canton businessman Art Drukenbrod to discuss an idea they had for a music program at the old Boys' Club.
Besides being a businessman, Mr. Drukenbrod was a musician who had played his drum with many of Canton's big bands over the years. He was also a member of Canton's American Legion and VFW's national champion senior drum and bugle corps. Drukenbrod provided the drum corps knowledge and instruction, with some help from his old drum corps buddies, while Stearn and McCauley provided the future musicians.
The young musicians chose the name "Bluecoats" in tribute to the police department's retired police officers and as a program of the Police Boys' Club, they made their drum corps debut in competition in 1974. Over the next several years, the Bluecoats organization transformed from a caterpillar into a beautiful butterfly. As community support grew, so did the size and stature of the corps. By 1976, the Bluecoats were recognized nationally as an up-and-coming organization as they competed around the country and in Canada making the U.S. Open finals that year.
Old surplus army buses painted blue (one with trademark whitewall tires was commonly referred to as the "suburban" bus) carried the corps throughout the country. The army buses transformed into used school buses and then bloomed into air-conditioned motor coaches.
Three meals a day while on the road came from an abandoned U-Haul trailer, pulled by parents' cars which sometimes hauled fresh eggs, purchased a few pennies cheaper due to volunteers agreeing to collect and clean the eggs themselves. The old U-Haul eventually became a van and then an old travel trailer, before it blossomed into a restaurant kitchen on eighteen wheels.
The evolution of the Bluecoats was greatly encouraged and promoted when in 1984, another Canton businessman, Ted Swaldo, took the reins of the organization. Swaldo's management abilities and enthusiasm became the catalyst which not only propelled the Bluecoats into national recognition as a competitive unit, but also as a role model for other youth organizations throughout the country.
The first corps from Ohio to make the DCI finals, the Bluecoats have continually found themselves in high acclaim around the country for their crowd-pleasing jazz. Always a crowd favorite, applause for the Bluecoats soon grew into roaring chants of "Bluuuuue" as the corps continued its rise to international prominence.
Founded in and supported by the people of the "Hall of Fame City," Canton, Ohio, the Bluecoats and their world-renowned "Big Band Jazz" style have become Stark County's musical ambassadors, instilling excellence in youth through the challenge, excitement, creativity and self-discipline of drum and bugle corps.
Honors: DCI World Championship Finalist: 1987 - 1998, 2000-2005 Great Lakes Drum Corps Association Champion: 1987, 1986, 1985 DCI East Finalist: 1993, 1992, 1991, 1988 DCI Midwest Finalist: 1991, 1990, 1989, 1988 DCI Canada Finalist: 1991, 1988, 1987, 1986 DCI South Finalist: 1987 US Open Finalist: 1993, 1987, 1986, 1976 US Open Class "A" Champion: 1981 American International Open Class "A" Champion: 1978 DCM Championship Finalist: 1986 through 1993 DCE Championship Finalist: 1985 Ohio VFW State Champion: 1976 through 1984
In 2006 they made history as the first "new" corps to enter the top 4 at DCI finals since Star of Indiana did it in 1990. The last corps to be in the top 4 without winning a championship at some time was the 27th Lancers in 1981.
- The Bluecoats Drum and Bugle Corps provides a program for youth in music and performance training. Leadership, personal, character and social development skills are emphasized through the challenge, excitement, and self-discipline presented by the corps through travel, competition, and pursuit of excellence.
When the corps enters the field for competition, and following their performance, it is customary for the audience to chant "Blooooooo!"On a DCI PBS Broadcast, commentator and designer Michael Cesario once explained to the television audience, "They're not booing, they're Bloooing."
The Bluecoats gather in the parking lot after every show to sing their corps song, Autumn Leaves. The lyrics are as follows:
The autumn leaves drift by my window,
The autumn leaves of red and gold.
I feel your lips, those summer kisses,
Those sunburnt hands I used to hold.
But since you went away the days grow long,
And soon I'll hear old winter's song.
But I miss you most of all, my darling,
When autumn leaves start to fall.
In 1992, corps staff member Sylvester "Sly" Sybilski suggested to the current drum majors that a new tradition be started in order to raise member morale during what was becoming a rough season for the corps.
All current corps members receive a blue shoelace after their first show to commemorate their first experience as a marching member. A link from the helmet is placed on the shoelace, usually given to the new member by a veteran. On finals morning, each member is given a silver-dipped penny from the current year to attach to the link. Five-year members receive a nickel in addition to their fifth penny.
Bluecoats: Official website