History of the Phantom
and Bugle Corps is an original American art form. The
beginning can be traced to veterans organizations such
as the VFW and the American Legion, as well as organizations
such as the Catholic Youth Organization. Soldiers returning
from World War I celebrated Veterans Day and the Fourth
of July by marching parades to the drum and the bugle,
just as they had done during the war.
The first two corps in the area, the
VFW Post 342 and the American Legion Post 62, were comprised
of veterans who were male and members of those particular
posts. There have been many drum corps in the Rockford
area since that time. By far the most prominent has
been the Phantom Regiment.
Formed in 1956 by a group of VFW 342
members who wanted to see a competitive drum corps,
it was named the Rockford Rangers, with an all-girl
color guard to be called the Rangerettes.
Many of the members did not feel the
name "Rangers" was appropriate for their corps.
Some of the members had been listening to some Stetson
D. Richmond records, and were impressed with a tune
the Syracuse Brigadiers had played entitled "The
Phantom Regiment." Thus, before the corps had made
any public appearances, the corps name had been changed
to the Phantom Regiment and the all-girl color guard
was called the Phantomettes.
While the corps was in its development
stages, a great emphasis was put on the competition
guard aspect of the activity. Almost overnight, the
Phantomettes became very successful on their own. An
all-male comp guard made up of members of the Regiment
horn line, called the Raiders, also had a brief success
drum and bugle corps itself, however, struggled competitively.
In 1962, the corps bought a set of high quality bugles
from the Commonwealth Edison Drum and Bugle Corps. With
quality instruments and the addition of a new brass
arranger, the corps began to improve.
Also in 1962, the original Phantom Regiment
Cadets were formed, using the old set of bugles. In
1963, the Regiment fielded an all-male corps, including
the color guard, with mixed results. The all-girl guard
returned in 1964 and, with the help of a very successful
recruiting drive, the Phantom Regiment, sporting a new
set of military uniforms, had its most successful year.
But, just as is looked like the Regiment
was on its way to becoming a championship-caliber corps,
a fire in the corps hall took away the corps home, along
with the uniforms and the instruments. The Phantom Regiment
tried to field a corps in 1965, but eventually was forced
to cancel the season due to lack of finances.
A new Board of Directors, comprised
of former members and staff of the original corps, reorganized
and incorporated the Phantom Regiment on Sept. 11, 1967,
with the following mission statement:
organize, maintain, and operate a musical marching unit,
band, color guard, and related activities, and in general,
promote and encourage drum and bugle corps activities,
parades, concerts, contests, and to further the musical
talents and interests of young persons."
The original Board of Directors could
not have imagined that 30 years later their corps would
have a budget of well over half a million dollars, nor
could they have imagined that the Phantom Regiment would
one day be competing for the drum and bugle corps world
The reorganized Phantom Regiment began
its first season in three years with a small corps that
signed the first roster Jan. 10, 1968. There were 28
The first season for the corps included
many parades and a few contests. The corps uniform included
black pants with a red wind breaker. There was a black
and white vertical stripe on the left side of the wind
breaker. The guard wore the same wind breaker with black
Bermuda shorts and an Aussie style hat. The equipment
truck was a red step up van and was the only vehicle
owned by the corps.
As the years passed, the number of contests
grew, the distance covered in the tour increased, and
the Phantom Regiment began to creep up the ladder of
New in 1970 was a cadet-style uniform,
including black pants with a white stripe, a jacket
with a diagonal sash of red dividing the black right
side and the white left side. On the sleeve of each
jacket there was a chevron. White bucks were worn on
the feet and new shakos with 12-inch plumes decorated
the head gear. The guard wore identical uniforms with
the exception of Bermuda shorts and white 10-inch high
corps included 40 horns, 24 color guard, 14 drums, 10
rifles and 1 drum major for a total of 89 members.
During the fall and winter of the 1974
season individual marching and brass lessons were given
to each member of the corps which had grown to the maximum
128 members. The Phantom Regiment made finals at the
Drum Corps International World Championships for the
first time in1974, finishing eighth in prelims and 11th
The years between 1967 and 1974 were
some of the most exciting in the history of the corps.
They were the formative years and defined the style
of the Phantom Regiment. Those years saw the growth
of the young nucleus of members to a mature world-class
In the fall of 1974, a new uniform was
conceived for the 1975 corps. It was a uniform that
would give the Phantom Regiment its identity. Long white
jackets with a black sash, a two-colored cape with red
on the inside and black on the outside, black pants,
and the one element that remains today: the pith helmet.
The remainder of the 1970s would be
years of rapid advancement for the Regiment as the corps
matured to become a contender for the DCI crown.
In 1975, the corps placed 10th. In 1976,
it placed 4th. And in 1977, 1978 and 1979, the corps
placed second, only a tenth or two from becoming World
the early 1980s, the Regiment produced some of the most
innovative programs ever to grace the field of competition.
The corps was well ahead of its time with the 1981 and
1982 productions of the ballet Spartacus, a project
two years in the making. Critically acclaimed and loved
by audiences everywhere, the Regiment fame grew throughout
The corps that is recognized today began
After a difficult 10th-place finish
in 1986, the corps took a fresh new approach. The corps
made a dramatic change inspired by Michael Cesario,
with new all-white uniforms more closely resembling
costumes. This new look and approach led to three years
of dramatic improvement, culminating in 1989 with a
second-place finish and the second highest score ever,
The 1990s have proved to be a time of
continued success and evolution, when in 1995 the uniforms
changed again. The same style was used, however the
color became all black.
In 1996, the goal and dream of everyone
involved with the organization over the past 30 years
came true. The Phantom Regiment tied the Blue Devils
of Concord, Calif., for its first DCI World Championship.
The corps took on a new look in 2000
with another Michael Cesario-inspired uniform. The all-black
was replaced by tan jackets and white pants with a red
baldric. The traditional Phantom Regiment helmets remained.
Now into the 21st century, the Phantom
Regiment is ready to continue its past success and strive
for future goals.
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