Drum & Bugle Corps

1959 - 1964

Original crest/flag design by David Peters.
Formerly with
the RHLI Bugle band,
The Viscounts Drum Corps,
The Canadian Commanders Drum Corps.
Currently with
Mighty St. Joe's

Spring 1959

In 1956, Frederick J. Hawkes, who at the time was the Bugle Major of the R.H.L.I., formed the Viscounts Senior Drum & Bugle Corps.  This resulted in an organization with a dual role, under one roof, the James Street Armouries in Hamilton, Ontario.

Although all military duties and requirements were met by the Bugle Band, this dual situation still gave rise to a number of objections from the militia command.  These problems eventually resulted in the voluntary separation of the Viscounts from the militia in 1961.

At that time, there were 36 brass, 14 percussion and approximately 12 colour guard.  All were active, paid members of the militia.  At the time of the separation, everyone was given the choice of staying with the militia, or separating as unpaid members with the Viscount organization. Of the approximately sixty members of the R.H.L.I. Bugle Band, all but three chose to leave with the Viscounts.

In the first year of senior competition, the Viscounts placed in the top five at the New York-Canadian Championships in Rochester, N.Y.   The Viscounts went on to compete in many events in Canada and across the northeastern United States in their short four-year existence.  In their first competition against the Hawthorne Caballeros, in Bridgeport, Conn., even Ralph Silverbrand said he was worried, but just for a little while.  Each year, the Corps' favourite competition was the NY-Canadians, in Rochester.  This show eventually graduated into what is now the Drum Corps Associates Finals, held every Labour Day weekend.

The Viscounts sponsored and ran the annual "International Pageant" in Hamilton Civic Stadium for four years.  This major senior drum corps event hosted most of the top U.S. and Canadian drum corps of the day, including: Lt.Norman Prince (Princemen), Niagara Memorial Militaires, Archer-Epler Musketeers, Geneva Appleknockers, Guelph Royalaires, Canada's Marching Ambassadors, Jolly Jesters, Rochester Grey Knights, Rochester Crusaders, Kingston Grenadiers.

Photo courtesy of Gary Zoskey

In 1960, the Viscounts ran the Canadian Championships, under the name of
"The Royal Hamilton Light Infantry Bugle & Drum Corps".

The photo on the above poster is of the Guelph Royalaires. The second man from the left end of the back row is Earl Bodden.
Earl, at that point, was playing in the Royalaires and the Viscounts/RHLI, all at the same time, learning three repertoires.
Earl Bodden is still a marching member of the Hamilton Firefighters and Earl also holds the enviable title of "Mascot" of the Bon Bon's Alumni Chorus (See the G.A.S. page).

At the time, the Kingston Grenadiers Senior Drum Corps was the Viscounts' sister corps. They traded appearances at each others' sponsored shows in Hamilton and Kingston.  When the Viscounts amalgamated, the Grenadiers took over the Viscounts uniforms, because of the very military styling.  Three Viscounts here pose for the camera in the Hamilton Spectator article promoting the 1960 annual national championships held in Hamilton, sponsored by the Viscounts (R.H.L.I.).
Photo courtesy of Gary Zoskey

Unfortunately, financial instability presented a dim future for the Viscounts so, in late 1963,  Fred Hawkes arranged an amalgamation with the "Jesters" of Toronto, (nee Jolly Jesters).  This amalgamation formed the first Canadian super corps, the Canadian Commanders, under the sponsorship of the Metropolitan Toronto Police Association.

The Viscounts organization was testimony to the dedication and energy of Freddy Hawkes.  Fred mortgaged his house to buy the original uniforms and instruments for the Corps.  Fred served on the Board of Directors of the Canadian Bugle & Trumpet Association, which evolved into the Canadian Drum Corps Association.  Fred was Vice-President, and eventually, President of the New York-Canadian Drum Corps Association; Corps Director and business manager of the Viscounts Drum Corps; Corps Director and business manager of the Canadian Commanders Drum Corps.  And, as knowledge serves the surviving members of the Viscounts/RHLI, Fred was also the only Canadian to be elected to Drum Corps Associates, serving as Secretary until his retirement in 1972.   F.J. Hawkes, one of the unsung heroes of Canadian Drum Corps.

This is a recent photo of the original Viscount flag. It disappeared many years ago but resurfaced in Dave Peters' basement?

This page is under constant construction.  We realize that, to many past Viscounts, it may be inadequate, and probably contains errors.
If you have anything that you would like to add, or any corrections you would like to make, please e-mail to me, and I will incorporate it.
Please send me any materials that you can spare: photo's, anecdotes, statistics, membership rosters, e-mail addresses, whereabouts of ex-Viscounts, etc.

Send your comments and suggestions to: Peter Mason,
Last Updated on March 28, 2014 by Peter Mason