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
Hamilton Civic Stadium for four years. This major senior
event hosted most of the top U.S. and Canadian drum corps of the
Lt.Norman Prince (Princemen), Niagara Memorial Militaires,
Musketeers, Geneva Appleknockers, Guelph Royalaires, Canada's
Ambassadors, Jolly Jesters, Rochester Grey Knights, Rochester
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.