Band of Gold Story - 1973

posted Jul 14, 2012, 7:47 AM by Largo Gold   [ updated Aug 11, 2018, 12:50 PM by LBOG AA ]

The hectic pace of activities that ended 1972 continued into 1973 for the Band of Gold. This started with the usual performances at the American Bowl in January, and the America’s Cup horse jumping championship in March, both in Tampa.

Since the announcement was made that the Band would be competing against the world in Holland in 1974, a greater emphasis on fund raising began in 1973. After all, it was going to cost well in excess of $100,000 to send the Band to Europe. The Band had already been engaged in standard fund raising activities, such as “Tag Days” at local supermarkets, where customers were asked to donate in exchange for a paper tag that said that showed their support, candy bar sales, and a rummage room, in which clothing and used household items were donated and then sold for profit. The Band Boosters also staged another “Golden Invitational” band contest after the success in 1972. As usual, the Largo Bands, both Blue

and Gold, were performing at many functions for the St. Petersburg “Festival of States” in March. During the Festival of States Parade, the Band of Gold performed twice, once at the beginning and again the end. One Festival event was added in 1973 that turned into a great fundraiser and also a way to showcase all of the units of the musical program at Largo. The first “Magnificent Sound of Gold” was staged at the Bayfront Center in St. Petersburg on March 24. This revue type of show featured all of the musicians from Largo right down to the choral department. One of the highlights was a contest in which four breakout units from the Band of Gold competed against each other for the Grand Prize; the Gilded Gizmo, which turned out to be a garbage can stained in gold. This event entertained thousands of people, not only during 1973, but also for remainder of the band’s history during the Bob Cotter era.

The Golden Strings Orchestra jumped into the limelight in May 1973. The orchestra had developed a fine reputation of its own during the early years of the program, and was rewarded with an invitation to travel to Norfolk, Virginia to perform at the Music Educator’s National Conference. Famed American composer Aaron Copland was a speaker at the conference, and sat on stage as the Orchestra and chorus performed a program of his compositions. Another performance followed in Abbeville, South Carolina, which held an annual contest in which the Band of Gold would eventually compete.

The fall of 1973 brought a certain amount of controlled chaos to Largo High School.  Overcrowding throughout Pinellas County led to major changes.  Junior High Schools were converted to Middle Schools, ninth grade was moved to High School, and most High Schools ran on double sessions.  Seniors and juniors began their day at 7:15 and finished at 12:15; freshmen and sophomores began at 12:30 and finished at 5:30.  However, the Band of Gold simply adjusted its process and took it all in stride.  As Cotter used to say, “The program works, rain or shine.” 

The adjustment started in the summer of 1973 with a band “pre-camp” for rising freshmen and sophomores, even though the ‘Boss’ had not yet figured out exactly how he would handle a whole new grade of students.  Because of the increase in student numbers, an additional instrumental teacher was hired: Roy Aerts.  Mr. Aerts was a woodwind specialist and joined Mr. Cotter that summer, coming from Sarasota High School.  Bob Cotter eventually decided on how to handle the new students. He added a ninth grade “Fife and Drum Corps,” under the direction of Mr. Aerts.

An evolution started to take place at the Band of Gold band camp in August 1973. Parade and field performances of the Band during the earlier years were highlighted by sheer power. This “shock and awe” type of sound certainly got the attention of audiences, but Bob Cotter realized that the quality of this sound would need to evolve in order to impress the judges in Holland. It was during this period that the band developed a powerful, but more controlled sound. With sophisticated instrumentation, this sound became more concert-like, but still with the “shock and awe” factor of the earlier bands. So, it was at this band camp that the first “World Show” and two other drills (after Cotter’s usual multi-show approach) took shape.  

In the fall of 1973, Joe Donahey Jr., a Clearwater attorney and graduate of Largo High School, volunteered his services to Mr. Cotter.  Both Donahey and Cotter had a background in Junior Drum Corps.  They forged a partnership that led to many more championships.

In October, the Band of Gold traveled to Abbeville, SC, to compete in the Southeastern Invitational Band Competition.  The Band placed first, in a narrow win (1.5 points) over the Sylva-Webster High School Golden Eagles, from Sylva-Webster High School, NC.  Cotter was displeased with the performance.  Many of the 1973-74 Band of Gold members remember Cotter’s post-performance statement: “You all know me pretty well, and you know I will never lie to you.  That was LOUSEY – you’ll be lucky to place third.”  Fortunately, the judges didn’t agree with his assessment and the Band scurried to the buses and took off with the first-place overall trophy.  

In December of 1973, the Band traveled to Miami to compete in the Winter-Nationals, a regional contest that had invited a number of bands

from around the State of Florida to compete.  Notwithstanding the rumor circulating in various circles that the Dunedin High School Black Watch (the local kilt band) had been working for months to beat the band from Largo, the Band of Gold notched another first-place trophy that evening.   The “Boss” was using these smaller competitions to get feedback on the World Show.  As the winner, the Band once again played a nationally televised halftime show for the Miami Dolphin’s home game that followed the competition. Pictured is Bob Cotter and 1973-74 Drum Major David Brittain, holding the Winter-National championship trophy at the Miami Orange Bowl.