For those who may not be familiar with bugle bands or scout troops, you might not guess that, in their heyday, being part of a premiere bugle band was the equivalent of being in a popular rock band, only with more prestige.
The similarities between mid-20th century bugle bands and your modern rock band are quite remarkable!
Bugle bands toured extensively around the U.S. and Canada like rock bands do today, consisting of young and musically adept young men, playing their marching band music, which was all the rage at the time.
This was all done for the entertainment of whichever populace or town they were gracing at that particular time, who would come in droves to see them play!
Today, marching bands and bugle players may not inspire quite the same fervour as they once did when they were at the peak of their powers, yet we still see evidence of that former adulation when certain talented bands wow crowds at a sporting event or festival.
That said, in the 1940’s and 50’s, having the reputed bugle and drum corps come to town was an event that drew in scores of onlookers and fans or you might even call them “superfans”, including legions of screaming teenage girls (and, yes, grown women), who went wild for these scout troops as they marched on by.
What was the exact appeal, you might ask? Besides the fact that live music was more of a rare occurence in most small towns back then (where bugle corps often frequented), part of the appeal was in their flamboyant nature.
By wearing their tight, black short shorts, white gauntlets, and their maroon tops, as the renowned Preston Scout House Band always did, these charming bugle boys arriving en masse and marching down your street, if you were a girl, had a similar effect to Elvis Presley when he wore his sequined rhinestone outfits and wiggled his hips on live TV, strumming the guitar and curling his lip in a sultry sneer.
Girls in attendance literally went bananas when the bugle band hit the town, some of them shrieking and crying the way they would when the Beatles played Ed Sullivan in the 1960’s. Of course, the bugle boys certainly had no qualms about all of this female attention!
The Preston Scout House Band – A Brief History
As far as Canadian boy scout bands of the ’40’s and ’50’s, one of the most fabled was the Preston Scout House Band, who were a bugle brigade hailing from Preston, Ontario, Canada.
The 1st Preston Boy Scout Troop, as it was first called, began in 1938 when the local druggist in Preston, Wilf Blum, took an interest in starting his own band, after seeing a band from nearby Waterloo perform.
You might say this band had humble beginnings, as boy scouts joined the band, and, at first, had no musical know-how per se, only being admitted to the new scout band on the basis of being able to produce sound with the newly acquired bugles, as we found out from our interviewee, Jack Whitefoot, who was a member of the band from its early days.
The Preston Scout House Band, named after a local stable for brewery horses, went on to great acclaim, winning dozens of international awards and prizes, as they competed in various competitions across the land.
We were fortunate enough to sit down with Jack, and grill him on matters pertaining to what it was like being in the Preston Scout House Band.
Indeed, he had many interesting anecdotes to share, making us ponder what glories and accolades might await us in the bugle corps of today, were we to sign up.