- The corps was formed in 1969. The Royal Crusaders were the highest scoring Drum Corps from Western Pennsylvania to compete in Drum Corps International. Along with the General Butler Vagabonds, Cambria Cadets and other corps, Western Pennsylvania was a thriving Mecca of drum corps in the Royal Crusaders heyday of the mid-1970s. Unfortunately, all of these fine corps have followed the Royal Crusaders into oblivion. Nevertheless, the Royal Crusaders set a high standard for excellence that future corps can use as a benchmark.
The Royal Crusaders began as a local corps from Finleyville, a small town in South Western Pennsylvania in the late 1960s. Later, in the 1970s, the corps purchased a corps hall in Clairton, a nearby industrial town and changed the name to "Pittsburgh" Royal Crusaders. Nevertheless, the corps most often was referred to as "Finleyville."
The Royal Crusaders made the "Guinness Book of World Records" in the early 1970s when they marched for 20 miles consecutively through the streets of Fineleyville. Although this is an impressive achievement, the corps scored well in DCI competition where they were generally associate members, placing in the top 25 for eight straight years from 1972-80. The Royal Crusader's best year was in 1975 when they placed ninth in DCI competition thus making the finals.
Although the Royal Crusaders had success on the competition field, they were in serious financial trouble by the late 1970s. The corps collapsed after the 1980 tour due to financial impoverishment. The Board of Directors attempted to field a corps in 1981, but pulled the strings when low numbers (particularly in the hornline) and a weak bank account combined to sink the corps for good. * For all intents and purposes, the orignal version of the corps folded after the 1980 season.
After the collapse of the touring corps in 1980s, the corps came fairly close to fielding a smaller version in 1981. However, the corp's financial woes coupled with small hornline members sealed the deal. The corps was inactive during 1981. During 1982, a small group of younger members marched in local parades using the Royal Crusaders equipment, but were referred to as the Royal Crusaders Cadets. Even this small effort, about the size of a modern day mini-corps folded after one year. By this time the Crusader's corps hall in Clairton was sold and by 1982 even the buses were gone.
The Royal Crusaders were known for several drumline innovations. They were among the first drumlines to switch to a matched as opposed to traditional snare grip in the mid-1970s. By the early 1980s every significant drum line in the region including the Vagabonds, University of Pittsburgh drum line, and most local drum and baton corps had followed the Royal Crusaders example of using the matched snare grip. They were that influential in marching circles.
In addition to pioneering the matched snare grip, the Royal Crusaders, along with the Santa Clara Vangaurd pioneered the shift away from snare drum slings and began to use harnesses in the late 1970s. The snare harnesses in particular were outstanding original designs featuring a clear plastic body plate that eliminated the need to wear the harness under the uniform. Technical and stylistic innovations aside, the corps also developed a strong drumline that produced two outstanding late 1970s tenor players, Brian Berry and Doug Jefferson. Other drummers who would be influential in the Western Pennsylvania corps scene were Tom Milchek, Vince Schaeffer, Frank Miller, Scott Koter, and Mark Ortega (Blue Devils). Former hornline member Jeff Danchek is now the President of the new DCA corps, the Mon Valley Express. Many other members of the Royal Crusader family remain active in marching circles in Western Pennsylvania fully twenty years after the corps' demise.
In their heydey, the Royal Crusader's most popular tune was "The Coronation of Boris Gudonov." The Corps also played jazzy numbers, and had a very crisp M&M style. Their uniforms were Red, White and Blue Cadet style jackets, white slacks with a red stripe and topped by a blue hat with a white plume.
Not only were the Royal Crusaders the highest scoring corps from Western Pennsylvania, they were also the largest. (Northern rivals the Vagabonds could never equal the numbers of the Finleyville Crusaders.) The Royal Crusaders toured extensively, and were clearly a top level competitive corps even when they collapsed after the 1980 season. When the corps folded, members joined the Crossmen, Blue Devils, Santa Clara Vangaurd, North Star, General Butler Vagabonds, Steel City Ambassadors, and other corps.
Following the corps' collapse in 1980, former corps members tried repeatedly to revive the corps in different areas of Western Pennsylvania, and with different management, but the results were generally short-lived, ill-funded and with very few members. Management tried a feeder corps approach during the summer of 1982 with a very small group marching in parades in Western Pennsylvania, but ultimately this effort failed. Bt the late 1990s, Project Percussion, emerged as an indoor drumline related to the final incarnation of the Royal Crusaders. While Project Percussion has enjoyed sucess in the indoor arena, the drum and bugle corps appears moribund.
By 2006 the Western Pennsylvania region is without a competitive junior drum and bugle corps. Nevertheless, with many former members and instructors still active in the scene, the Royal Crusaders-the most succesful DCI corps from the region--continue to cast a long shadow over the Western Pennsylvania marching scene.
entry for Royal Crusaders - corpsreps.com