Now in existence for over 50 years, the Seattle Cascades Drum and Bugle Corps is the oldest nationally touring corps in the Pacific Northwest. The corps was founded in 1957 by Jack Avery as the all-male Greenwood Boys Club Drum and Bugle Corps in Seattle’s Greenlake area. In 1958, Roderick Stubbs became the director of the corps and changed the name to the Seattle Thunderbirds. With no other drum corps in their region, the corps existed as a parade and stand-still exhibition unit. The corps raised money to support its operations by holding bingo games at the Greenlake VFW, which became one of the corps’ sponsors. After witnessing the VFW Junior Drum and Bugle National Championships in Seattle, the Thunderbirds leadership decided to put the corps on the competition field.
The Thunderbirds began competing in 1961. In the following year, the corps captured the American Legion State title. Soon after, the group earned the VFW State title in 1963 and 1964.
1964 was a groundbreaking year for the Seattle Thunderbirds. Under the leadership of George Laumin and Jack Little, the corps entered the field with a program of show tunes and modern field drill. They were the first west coast corps to use contrabass bugles and multi-tenor drums. They traveled by train to Cleveland for VFW Nationals. The following two years concluded with 1st place finishes at the AA Nations
Additionally, a feeder corps, named the Thunderbird Cadets, was under the direction of Rod Stubbs and Jack Avery, The first major performance during the Thunderbirds' inaugural season was when they participated in the Rose Festival Parade in Portland, Oregon.
In 1966, amid much dissension, Rod Stubbs left the Thunderbird organization, and with some of its marching members, started a new corps, named the Cascades Cadets. In 1970, many staff and marching members of the Seattle Thunderbirds defected to the Cascades Cadets, which then changed its name to the Seattle Cascades, After the 1972 season, the remnants of the Thunderbirds organization were absorbed into the Seattle Cascades. In 1977. In 1977, the Cascades traveled to Denver to compete in American Legion Nationals and also witnessed the fledgling DCI finals at Mile High Stadium. In those days VFW and American Legion continued sponsoring national championships in conjunction with their national conventions. However, VFW and American Legion refused to change the performance rules and DCI began to flourish. Soon after, VFW and American Legion Championships became a memory.
The Cascades was caught between the old and new guard of drum corps. In 1985, the corps reorganized as a Class A60 (later Division III) corps. They returned to marching parades until 1991, when they reentered the competition field in Class A60. In 1992, the corps moved into Division II, eventually placing 6th in 1996 before taking another year off to reorganize. The corps returned as a Division II corps, earning a 9th place finish in 1998 and 6th in 1999. In 2000, the corps stepped down to DIII and was crowned DCI Division III World Champions, also receiving the Spirit Disney Award, given to the corps with the most entertaining family-oriented show. In 2001, the corps membership nearly doubled, and the corps finished a close second to the perennial DII champions, advanced to the Division I preliminary competition, and gained a 17th place ranking in DCI.
In 2002, the Cascades moved into DI (now World Class) competition and became the first corps from the Pacific Northwest to earn a place in Drum Corps International’s Top 12. Its rise from DIII to DI is currently the fastest advancement of any drum corps in DCI history and the first PNW corps to ever receive finalist status. However, in 2008, the corps once again took a year off from competition in order to stabilize their finances, but returned to the field in 2009 and now remains more competitive than ever.
In 2011, the drum corps reclaimed their Semi-Finalist position and repeated the same accomplishment the following year. 2015 issued #NEWCascades. While thinking with a forward mind set, the drum corps paid a nod to Seattle Cascades' past with a new uniform and new image. The new leadership of the drum corps carried the group back into Friday night's performance in 2015, leading the drum corps to one of it's strongest finishes and one of the most successful seasons in it's recent years.
The Cascades have become known for creative, entertaining, and accessible shows. The 2015 “Intergalactic” show will be remembered for the robot dance. In 2016, the corps celebrated its 5Oth anniversary with “O” and a field covered with Os symbolizing a milestone anniversary and our area code, the 2O6. There’s much more to come as we celebrate 2017!
Imagine the possibilities...