Band of Gold Story - 1975

posted Jul 11, 2012, 9:56 AM by Largo Gold   [ updated Aug 11, 2018, 1:19 PM by LBOG AA ]

In January 1975, the band returned to play at yet another American Bowl game, followed by the American Invitational horse jumping show at Tampa Stadium.   In between, they traveled to Miami to perform at the Pro Bowl football game. Local fans were looking forward to the halftime show, but were disappointed when Howard Cosell showed highlights during the performance. The switchboard at WLCY, Channel 10, logged over 200 complaints, but nothing could be done. Network television no longer broadcast marching bands at NFL games. Later, the Band made their daily appearances at the Pinellas County Fair, marching over each day for a one o’clock performance.

With no big trip for the band scheduled in the summer, the band focused on the Festival of States, the Magnificent Sound of Gold, and its spring concert. 

The band rented the old Taylor Packing Plant at the corner of East Bay Drive and Seminole Boulevard.  After cleaning decades of bird droppings, the band moved the rummage store, and had an ideal indoor practice facility, marked off exactly for the Magnificent Sound of Gold. 

Cotter invited a band competing in the Festival of States to come early and perform in “Mag Sound” – the Dundee High School Scots, from Dundee, Illinois, winners of the 1973 Festival of States competition.   Mary Nic Shenk, music critic for the St. Petersburg Times wrote an antagonist review, describing the Magnificent Sound of Gold as “…a Big Band extravaganza, but not of St. Petersburg bands.”  Shenk praised the Illinois band for its musicianship and criticized the Band of Gold for its intonation.  She also raked the younger bands – the Blue Band and 9th Regiment – for their failure to be as good as the Band of Gold.  The sting of the editorial was offset by a generous gift for Cotter – a new Thunderbird, provided by Chick Smith Ford in Clearwater (Smith’s daughter was in the band).  The Band Boosters were determined to give every incentive they could to keep Cotter on board.  Smith promised to provide him with a new car as long as he continued to serve as Largo’s Band Director.

The Golden Strings did perform at the All-State Orchestra Convention in Orlando.  Cotter’s commitment to the orchestra continued, despite the added cost of running another 100 member ensemble.

As the school year rumbled to an end, Cotter began to cast around for another mountain to climb before returning to Europe in 1978.  The debt from the 1974 Europe trip had been paid down, but was not yet paid off.

With the bicentennial a few months away, a show was designed around a Fife and Drum Corps, drawn from the Band of Gold members (unlike previous years, when the Fife and Drum corps were freshmen).  There were uniform modifications for the first time: the cummerbund was replaced with a cummerbund/sash combo, sewn by the uniform Moms.

The new show was rolled out at Band Camp at the Edgewater Beach Motel in St. Petersburg.  In an effort to move toward current drum corps style, the drill featured more flowing lines, instead of the band’s traditional rank and file style.  The show lacked the Band of Gold’s traditional “wall of sound” impact, largely due to the featuring of the Fife and Drum Corps. The band came right out of Band Camp to perform at a Buffalo Bills/Atlanta Falcons exhibition football game at Tampa Stadium on September 6.

After the negative publicity in the fall of 1974, Cotter seemed to have scored a coup by having a St Petersburg Times reporter accompany the Band to the Southeastern Invitational in Abbeville, SC.  The band left early, arriving in time to play a concert at Furman University, where a number of former Band of Gold students attended. 

The Band took the field in Abbeville on October 21, 1975, and the unthinkable happened: for the first time, they finished second in non-international competition.  Sylva-Webster High School, though in a smaller class, had a field score of 88.15; the Band of Gold, though winning its class, finished second with 85.95.

For members of the band, it was as though the world had ended.  “We were the groups that lost the perfect record,” declared one student.

Cotter, never one to accept defeat, rolled into action.  He accepted some of the responsibility for the loss. The design of the contest show lacked the excitement that would score points in the General Effect category. So the Fife and Drum Corp was scrapped.  It would play only a minor role in activities for the rest of the year.  The show was revamped, and stalwart Band of Gold tunes like “Barnum and Bailey’s Favorites,” and “Battle Hymn of the Republic” were inserted into the drill.

This revised show was taken to the Florida Tournament of Bands in December, and the Band of Gold once again swept the Gold division, winning the parade and field competition.  The Band was once again named the Grand Champion.  This healed some, but not all, of the sting, of placing second in Abbeville.

The Band completed 1975 by performing at the Big Sun Basketball Tournament for the second consecutive year, and the Golden Strings Orchestra held their annual Christmas concert.