- 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 area 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.
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. In addition, 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. Similarly, the corps 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. Former hornline member Jeff Danchek is now the President of the new DCA corps, the Mon Valley Express.
In their heydey, the Royal Crusader's most popular tune was "The Coronation of Boris Gudonov." The Corps also played jazzy numbers. Their uniforms were Red, White and Blue Cadet style with a white plume. Not only were the Royal Crusaders the highest scoring corps from Western Pennsylvania, they were the also the largest. (Northern rivals the Vagabonds could never equal the numbers of the Finleyville Crusaders.) 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 and ill-funded. Project Percussion, an indoor drumline is 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.
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