The Defenders

history

The history of the Defenders Drum & Bugle Corps can be viewed as three distinct eras. The Rockland Rebels from 1959 -1960, Holy Family Defenders (1960-1975), and the Plymouth County Defenders (1975-1982).

As the organization and the activity evolved, the corps excelled to become one of the few organizations to achieve national recognition with its' 'home grown' performers. As the corps finally made national recognition, it disbanded in the winter of 1983, Never to be seen again in the vast competition arenas around the country.

 

 

First there was the

Rockland Rebels

Drill Team

 

The Rockland Rebels was established as a drill team. in the Fall of 1957.



Then there was the

Holy Family Defenders

Drum & Bugle Corps

 

The Holy Family Defenders were established as a drum & bugle corps in the Fall of 1959. Like many other drum corps of this time, the corps was sponsored by the local Catholic parish; Holy Family Church, in Rockland, Massachusetts. The corps competed in the Eastern Massachusetts and CYO circuits in the greater Boston area. During this period the corps rose steadily through the ranks of the local competitive circuits. These circuits were divided into three divisions; C, B, & A. The divisions were delineated by a combination of: the corps average age, size of the unit, and experience.

The Defenders began competing in Class C in '59 & '60, class "B" in '61 & '62 & class "A" in '63, '64 & '65. During those years the corps was consistently near the top in class "A" knocking off the "Reveries" and "Majestic Knights " on a regular basis. Members of the corps horn line took third place as a brass quartet at the VFW Nationals in Cleveland in "64.

After expierienceing a decrease in membership in 1966 the corps returned to Class B and met success once again. In the local circuits in 1967, the corps won both, the CYO and EMass championships. It was during the mid 60's the corps began its' feeder system. It was the success of this feeder system that catapulted the corps into the next era.

In 1968, turmoil within the management of the corps brought on the sudden demise of the "senior" Defenders. The senior corps was disbanded after the 1968 competition season. The jr. corps continued to practice and march parades throughout the following year.

In Summer of 1970 the Holy Family Defenders once again took to the Competition field in the local circuits as a Class C corps. 16 brass and 12 percussion made up the musical sections. The corps first brass instructor was Ed Denon, assisted by Steve Dorgan. Percussion was instructed by Kevin Shea. The visual instructor was Joe Casey.


 

And the final stage was the

Defenders of Plymouth County

Drum & Bugle Corps

Although the name change to the Plymouth County Defenders wouldn't' take effect for several years, the corps' identity and direction were notably different than its' then defunct parent corps. This was due largely to the vision of the new management team and staff. Under the leadership of Al King, the management recruited and secured a diverse staff of time tested experienced instructors like Ed Denon and Joe Casey, as well as group of talented unknowns like Jerry Hickey, Mary Berkley, Steve Dorgan, and home grown Kevin Shea to work with this new corps.

Over the years many up and coming instructors would have an impact on the corps' success. Names like Neil Smith, Don MacTaggart, George Zingali, Steve Covitz, Peggy Twiggs, John Sullivan, Vinny Radford, and Dale Powers contributed significantly to the Defenders consistent improvement. This combination of experience and youth in instructors helped formulate a corps' fundamental philosophy that would prove to be the reason for success of this 'hick town' corps. The difference between the new Defenders and the old was that winning was never preached as THE goal to attain. The focus was put on the details and perfecting those that contribute to the overall image. The winning would ultimately take care of itself. This attention to detail was reason for the squeaky clean image the corps was known for throughout the 70's.

In 1974 the corps began competing more and more outside of the local circuits. Although the majority of the corps was still form the greater Rockland area, a steady influx of members from outside were beginning to have an impact. Also, during this period, a combination of philosophical differences, less financial support from the parish, an influx of members outside the area, and a need for greater autonomy were reasons of strain between the corps' management and the parish.

During the Winter of 1976-1977, the corps severed its' relationship with the parish and took on the new name, "The Defenders of Plymouth County". The name change signified more than just a new identity. It represented independence as well as a commitment to this new direction. Over the next several years the Defenders would entertain audiences in every state east of the Rockies. During which, it was not uncommon to pick up members along the way to fill in the blanks. These new 'out of state' members were attracted to the corps by its' clean image and strong sense of family that were evident even to a casual onlooker. Often heard from the new members as a reason for jumping on board was a common theme... 'they were entertaining', 'they looked like they enjoy one another' and 'they know how to have fun!'

One of the more memorable times the corps experienced was when it made the World Open Finals for the first time in 1977. That same year the corps also made the US Open finals in Marion, OH.

In 1980, 1981, and 1982 the corps was able to consistently place in the top twenty-five, placing 18th, 17th, and 20th respectively.

In the Winter of 1982/1983, after falling short in set expectations of breaking into the elite top twelve the previous season, the corps’ membership was at an all-time low and deeply in debt, the corps’ management made the difficult decision to disband.