Band of Gold Story - 1978

posted Aug 12, 2018, 7:04 PM by LBOG AA

The year 1978 proved to be an emotional roller coaster for the Largo music program. First, anticipation as the Band of Gold prepared for the long awaited return to Holland. Next, the euphoria of a triumphant trip to Europe, followed by controversy as the year drew to a close.

For the first time since the beginning of the program, there would be no trip to Tampa for the American Bowl. The game was being restructured, and was now called the Can-Am Bowl, which was an American bowl game played with Canadian rules, and without the Band of Gold. Instead, there would be a string of performances and fund raising events lasting right up until the departure for Europe. Some new ideas included paper drives, hole-in-one putting contests, and even a Band of Gold night at a Dunedin Blue Jays baseball game.

In the meantime, the musical preparations continued. Results of the World Band tryouts were announced on February 15. A special demonstration field show was held for Cecil Korer of the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) on March 9. Mr. Korer also attended the annual performance of the Magnificent Sound of Gold on March 11. In reality, Korer was here to scout out the Band for a possible documentary on British television. Of course, the Mag Sound was a huge success, and highly anticipated due to the band’s upcoming return to Europe. After Mag Sound, all of the members of the Largo music program participated in the Festival of States. This was the eighth year that Largo was the Festival’s Pageantry Unit.

After all of the hard work leading up to the July 11 departure date for Europe, there was bad news. On June 9, a meeting was held in the auditorium, where Bob Cotter announced to parents and supporters that the fundraising was still $60,000 short. Without these funds, it would be necessary to either cancel or curtail the trip. To raise money, parents were asked to invest in ten tickets for $25 each (for a total of $250) for a special sendoff concert. They could either sell the tickets or just count the money spent as a donation. They also had the option of purchasing tickets for an exclusive party at $1000 per person. A Ford Thunderbird would be raffled as part of this final drive. Cotter then wrote a personal check for $1000, waved it in the air, and in a move worthy of a Billy Graham revival, waved for the audience members to come forward with their checks. Barry Ford and Joe Donahey followed next, and soon the money was rolling in. When the weekend events came to a close, $42,000 had been raised. On June 12, Al Schroeder, President of the Band Boosters, announced that the trip would proceed in its entirety. Any shortfall in funds could be made up when the Gold Medal house was sold.

The Band of Gold arrived in Holland on July 12, with contest events being held on the weekend of July 15. Unlike their trip in 1974, the Band had an advantage by performing last, something that Cotter had demanded before agreeing to return to the contest. 

The concert competition was held at the Roda Hall, and the Band’s performance was outstanding. They scored 317.5 points out of 360, taking first place and winning a gold medal with distinction. 

The parade and field show competitions were held at the Kerkrade Sports Park on July 16. The Band of Gold won another gold medal in the parade competition, however finished third to the National Band of New Zealand and a Band from Oslo, Norway. 

Finally, the field show competition, which proved to be a showdown between rivals Band of Gold and the National Band of New Zealand. Both shows were amazing. At the award ceremony, the score for the Kiwi’s was

announced first: 171 out of a possible 180 points, which was the highest in the history of the competition. It seemed unlikely the Americans would be able to top such a lofty score. However, the unlikely happened, and the Band of Gold scored 175 points, an all-time high, and another Gold Medal with Distinction. Largo was to be crowned World Champion with wins in two of three events. That evening, the Band sipped champagne to celebrate their victory. In ten short years, the 77 member Packer Band had transformed into the 210 member World Champion Band of Gold!

Even though the contest had concluded, the trip was far from over, with touring and performances in Paris, Britain, and Ireland. Two of the performances were especially noteworthy. First, the Band performed twice at Earls Court in London on July 21. The Royal Tournament was held at this venue, which was the oldest and largest Military Tattoo in the world. The Band of Gold was the first group that was not part of the British commonwealth of countries to perform at the event. The Cecil Korer visit to

Largo during the spring resulted in the “Sounds of Gold,” a thirty minute BBC documentary on the Band of Gold. The show was taped at Alexander Stadium in Birmingham, England on July 22, and then broadcast throughout Europe. The band’s triumphant trip to Europe would end with concerts in Ireland, and then a flight home to Tampa on July 27. A hero’s welcome was planned at Tampa International Airport and Largo High School. Unfortunately, there were late flights and rain. Still, a large crowd waited until after midnight to celebrate the achievements of this remarkable organization. On July 29, 1978, the World Band of Gold performed for the last time to a standing room crowd at Largo’s Packer Stadium. And finally, there was another television show, this time a thirty minute documentary on WLCY, Channel 10, titled “Solid Gold Salute.”

Less happy times awaited band members as the 1978-79 school year started. Bob Cotter in effect resigned his position, in part so that he could run for the school board. Cotter also wanted to start a drum corps, and announced in November the formation of what would become the Suncoast Sound. Assistant Director Roy Aerts took charge of the music program and Cotter continued as a consultant. On the first day of classes Mr. Cotter stated, “One of the hardest things to do this year was to stay in the band.” There wasn’t much money to work with after returning from Europe as World Champions.  Additionally, the Pinellas County School board had imposed new restrictions with regard to “community bands,” and while not naming the Band of Gold, it was clear on whom these new policies were focused.  There were now limits on type of fund raising that could be done, and distances the bands were allowed to travel. In the meantime, Cotter’s run for school board started with some success as he narrowly defeated republican Joann Florin in the primary. He would eventually loose in the general election to democrat Betty Hamilton. Responsibility for the loss fell in part to the teacher’s union, which didn’t endorse Cotter because he was in fact a strike breaker in 1968. After the election, Cotter would return to Largo, but this caused confusion with Roy Aerts. In addition, some of the band boosters became concerned about possible conflicts of interest between the Suncoast Sound and the Largo music program. These controversies would continue into 1979.

In the meantime, there were still some positives to complete 1978. On October 21, WEDU, Channel 3 broadcast the 6th annual Golden Invitation Band Contest. Congressman Bill Young was in attendance to hand out gold medals to World Band members. The Largo bands also participated in the Florida Tournament of Bands. Finally, due to scheduling difficulties, for the first time the Band of Gold was not to appear at any Tampa Bay Buccaneer games. The sting of this was lessened however, when the Band was invited to appear on the Dinah Shore television show. The episode was taped on November 20, and would be broadcast in early 1979.