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The Archer-Epler Musketeers Senior Drum and Bugle Corps traces its origins back to April 18, 1932. On that date VFW Post 979 of Upper Darby, PA. formally organized a junior drum and bugle corps. This site is intended to serve as a tribute to the people and organizations who have made "Archie" a legend in the history of drum and bugle corps.

The attempt of this web page is to recognize and partially organize the rich heritage of our own members, both living and deceased, along with contributions provided by others.  The support of fans and friends is attested to by the ads and patrons, indicating another dimension of experiences shared by our membership outside the realm of drum and bugle corps. This support has inspired the performances and innovations of "Archie" from its inception.

In addition to providing a history of Archer-Epler this site also seeks to honor the contributions of the charter members of the Archer-Epler Hall of Fame. These individuals and corps were selected on the basis of several criteria: (1) long standing service to Archer-Epler; (2) outstanding contributions to the corps; (3) outstanding contributions in fields related to drum and bugle corps; and (4) outstanding service to the community. Limited space permits only the most cursory descriptions of the accomplishments of each Hall of Fame inductee in the context of the history of Archer-Epler.

It is a proud occasion to reflect back over the accomplishments of the past 74 years. Without the dedication, talent and hard work of our members and friends, none of this history would have been possible. We hope that our traditional spirit of "ALL FOR ONE... AND ONE FOR ALL" and future generations of similarly gifted and committed individuals will see the corps reach its 100th birthday in 2032.


1938.jpg (34279 bytes)Like so many other corps, the Archer-Epler Junior Drum and Bugle Corps had its humble beginning during the dark days of the "Great Depression". Almost all corps of that period were associated either with veterans'organizations such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion or with the Catholic Youth Organization. As the large list of Philadelphia-area corps in this book indicates, most pre-war corps were "neighborhood" groups and represented a meaningful outlet for youthful energies in an era before formal activities like Little League had yet been organized. In the cases of poorer communities drum and bugle corps often provided one of the few ways a child could travel to distant towns and cities.

Although a community-based drum and bugle corps like its contemporaries, the Archer-Epler corps achieved some of its early successes because of several innovations and traditions initiated by the corps. First, the corps was fortunate to acquire the services of Walter A. Fuller, a talented young horn instructor and a recent graduate of West Chester State Teachers College, who along with Arthur "Scotty" Chappell in the Boston-area became one of the most distinguished instructors. Walt combined his knowledge of music and superb teaching ability to produce one of the gifted horn lines of the pre-war period. Among the innovations for which he was responsible were the introduction of valve bugles to the Philadelphia-area and perhaps the first use of classical music ("The Unfinished Symphony") by any drum and bugle corps. With Walt Fuller began the Archer-Epler tradition of inspiring musical programs, which was carried on by Lee Wolf in the 1950's and more recently by Ray Fallon. This tradition led to top-flight horn lines with numerous individual national champions and represented a mutual admiration between instructor and player as well as an appreciation for the desire of drum corps fans to be entertained. In 1981 Walter A. Fuller was present to accept his induction into the Archer-Epler Hall of Fame.

The Archer-Epler junior corps was also able to gain the membership and later instruction of a similarly gifted drummer, Bill Reamer, another charter inductee into the Archer-Epler Hall of Fame. In addition to instructing "Archie" and being primarily responsible for introducing rudimental drumming to the Philadelphia area., Bill was noted for his production of outstanding students, including such noted drummers as Jack Cory, Don Mihok, and Dick Filkens. Among the corps Bill taught were the Howard C. McCall Post of Philadelphia and the Audubon (New Jersey) Bon-Bons,the world's first all-girl drum and bugle corps formed by Mr. and Mrs. J.B. Bernert.

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Perhaps the most unique Archer-Epler tradition that began with the junior corps was the loyalty and dedication to the organization shown by its membership and management. This is best illustrated by the lengthy service given to Archer--Epler by several of its Hall of Fame inductees--Dan Goettel,Thomas and Anna Ward,Earl and Mary(Lamb)Ziegenfuss. These individuals and their families continued their support and interest in the various Archer-Epler corps throughout their lives. Most importantly, these same individuals were also active in twice re-forming Archer-Epler--first after World War II and again in 1974.

Dan Goettel was an original playing member of the junior corps and later played an instrumental role in organizing the senior corps. He also participated in the formation of Drum Corps Associates (DCA). Danny served the corps for years as either director or business manager, 'Thomas and Anna Ward, along with Colonel Walsh arid George Ritchie, were the "backbone" behind the parents organization that administered the junior corps. Mrs. Ward's book ("By Words Possessed"), in particular, contains a most humorous description of the trials and tribulations associated with pre-war junior corps and remains one of the few references to drum and bugle corps in serious literature. She was also the lyricist for the first Archer-Epler song (an original by Walt Fuller, nicknamed "Romance" ' which became the Most often played number in the history of drum and bugle corps). The final inductees of the pre-war period, Earl and Mary Ziegenfuss, both joined the junior corps in the late 1930’s. Despite the duties of raising a family they stayed active in the corps and still found time to distinguish themselves in community service service, particularly in the American Legion.

From its first contest in Allentown, Pa. in 1933 the Archer-Epler junior corps went on. to become perhaps both the most successful and most innovative corps of the pre-war period. They were the first corps to hold a summer camp. In addition to winning numerous state and local championships the corps captured the VFW National Championship in 1938 and 1941 and participated in the 1939 World Is Fair. Because of rather rigid rules in those days (for example, cadence and inspection were mandatory captions) competition was especially keen and some fine rivalries developed among the many Philadelphia-area corps, most notably "Archie’s" contests with the Upper Darby American Legion Past 214 and Osmond Post. Nonetheless ' Archer-Epler dominated contests in the area and pioneered in the musical and marching fields up until the conditions of World II forced the corps to disband in 1943.


When World War II ended the returning veterans expressed a desire to re-form the Archer-Epler corps as a senior unit. At the same time a number of other pre-war junior corps had also begun to re-organize, most notable the Reilly Raiders from the A.K. Street Post junior corps. Although the beginning of "Archie’s" first rebirth was difficult, an influx of members from Upper Darby Post 214 and other rival junior corps which did not form senior corps enabled Archer-Epler to compete in the 1946 VFW National Championships in just six short months. Of course, many of the people mentioned earlier such as Walt Fuller, Bill Reamer, Dan Goettel, Mr. and Mrs. Ward, and Mary Ziegenfuss (the original drum major of the senior corps) were also instrumental in helping the corps achieve its early post-war successes.

It didn't take long for an intense rivalry to develop between Archer-Epler and the Reilly Raiders of Philadelphia. This most famous pairing in the history of drum and bugle corps went on to dominate senior corps competitions until the early 1960's. At the prodding of the Reilly Raiders, Archer-Epler soon adopted the name "Musketeers"--before Reilly, corps were known simply by their affiliated organizations. Except for occasional victories by Lt. Norman Prince (Malden, Mass.), the Hawthorne Caballeros (New Jersey), and the New York Skyliners, "Archie" and Reilly typically fought each other for first place, with the higher placing corps gaining one-weeks' rights to the "crying towel" that was exchanged in a formal ceremony at Retreat. Led by "Wild Bill" Hooten, Reilly often gained the upper hand, but the contrasting musical and marching styles of the two corps always provided considerable enjoyment to the fans. In appreciation of the inspired competition that resulted from this awesome rivalry, both Bill Hooten and the Reilly Raidiers were inducted into the Archer-Epler Hall of Fame in May of 1981.

When the 1950's rolled around "Archie" was building towards its all--time peak in 1954. During that year the "Musketeers" won all contests except the first in Hershey, Pa. Among the corps' titles that year were the Dream Contest and the first March of Champions (the corps went on to retire the huge trophy of that Baltimore contest after subsequent victories in 1955 and 1956, a feat that was never to be duplicated). The Musketeers" secured the VFW National Championship by overwhelming Reilly, by 1.70 with a score of 90.45. Unlike the large corps of the present, that championship corps consisted of 51 marching members: 33 horns, 3 snares, 3 tenors, 2 bass drums, 1 cymbal, 8 color guard, and 1 drum major. At the time it was not realized that "Archie" had reached yet another milestone probably never to be reached by any other drum and bugle corps--winning national championships as both a junior and senior corps.

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                                          1954 VFW NATIONAL CHAMPIONS

The 1950's are also the period that drum corps fans associate with "Archie’s" preeminence in music and that tradition continued to evolve with the addition of Lee Wolf to the corps instructional staff. After first introducing "Broadway" and "Show Music" to drum corps with an arrangement of Richard Roger's "Slaughter on 10th Avenue'' for the Osmond Hurricanes, Lee began an association with Archer-Epler which was to change the very face of drum corps music. Perhaps among his most daring innovations was the use of the "King and I" for the corps entire show in 1957, a show that featured Vince Deegan as a Yul Brenner look-alike. Lee's full-bodied approach to instrumentation and his introduction of Jazz ("The Dipsy Doodle") and Dixieland ("The South Rampart Street Parade") idioms have influenced and been imitated by drum and bugle corps to the present day. In recognition of his numerous accomplishments Lee was also a charter inductee of the Archer-Epler Hall of Fame.

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Many other innovations emerged from the "Musketeers" of the 1950's. William ("Rip") Bernert and Bud Johnson devised new drill concepts and, along with several others, were active in teaching a host of junior and senior corps. Similarly, spurred first by Bill Mullen and later by Bill Lawler, "Archie" also produced a large number of judges and, thus, influenced the future direction of competitive corps as well as high school bands. The 1959 show of Archer-Epler probably was the most influential point in changing the shape of the drum corps activity forever, especially in emphasizing the first "total show" concept. In that year the corps' show simultaneously introduced a varied and popular musical program (including "The Queen of Sheeba, "The Dipsy Doodle", and "Speak Low", among other favorites), a brand new and somewhat controversial non-traditional uniform (sometimes referred to as a "maternity blouse"), a beautifully-designed drill, and the thrilling leadership of Jimmy McConkey.

1960 brought about a new decade and a new musical theme for the "Musketeers"--"April in Paris" and "The South Rampart Street Parade" were added that year. Unfortunately, the 1960's also foretold the eventual demise of the corps along with that of its arch-rival, Reilly Raiders. To be sure, there were still plenty of highlights in store for the corps' fans: Lee Wolf duplicated his earlier "King and I" successes with the timely "Camelot" productions of 1962 and 1963; new concepts in drumming were being pioneered by such "Musketeers" as Bill Kaufman, John Flowers, and Dick Filkens; and the 1963 and 1964 corps still exemplified "Archie’s" remarkable spirit. Nonetheless, the demise of the corps was inevitable and its last contest (prior to 1981) was at the DCA Championships in Bridgeport, Conn. on September 3, 1967. After a brief merger with the Reilly Raiders in 1968 both corps disbanded, thus seeming to end two drum corps legends at the same time, two "greatest of the greats". It was not yet realized that a host of other senior corps (Lt.Norman Prince, Syracuse Brigadiers and Geneva Appleknockers, among many others) would later suffer the same fates.


Not having an "Archie" corps around was a melancholy experience for many "Musketeers" and fans alike. Fortunately, the corps spirit and long-standing loyalties and personal friendships led to occasional social gatherings. Finally, in February of 1974, it was decided that an attempt should be made to bring back the corps. At the outset the corps had little other than its tradition of song, led enthusiastically by "Big Jack" Werner, and the determined leadership of Mark Fulcomer, Mary Mathias, Jack Reilly, John Bartolomeo and Dan Goettel. By the first practice in October of 1975 the corps was able to practice by borrowing some rather-used G-D bugles.

While the process of resurrection seemed uncharacteristic for such a "legend", this rebuilding produced a renewed sense of pride and determination--no other corps had ever sustained a successful "comeback'', especially one starting with no equipment at all. Of course, the corps was able to benefit from the "rebuilding" experience of the same individuals who had earlier re-formed the corps in 1946 after World War II. It wasn't long before the instructional efforts of Lee Wolf, Charlie Dreher and Bill Kaufman, combined with the hard work of alumni and new "Musketeers", produced a respectable parade corps and led to the issuance of bumper stickers audaciously proclaiming to all that ARCHIE IS BACK!
Most noteworthy in the corps' early comeback was its participation in the 1976
Bicentennial Parade in Philadelphia, during which the corps (not Memorex) shattered a plate-glass window in Lit Brothers Department Store (probably due to the poor intonation of the bugles being played!).

Although there were persistent rumblings about "Archie" returning to the field of competition, the corps opted for a long, often painstaking route of first building a firm organizational foundation--too many other senior corps had failed to anticipate and avoid organizational and financial problems. As the corps continued to grow and improve it was also able to acquire better equipment. By 1978 the corps was prepared to take its first major step toward competing. Using a show concept developed by Howard ("Whitey") Roberts, Ray Fallon, and Bill Kaufman, the corps produced an exhibition. show entitled "Nostalgia"--a musical, drill and uniform tribute to the corps' past rivals; Lt. Norman Prince, the "Yankee Rebels", and, of course, the Reilly Raiders. For his years of instructing the corps and role in helping "Archie" to get back on its feet, Bill Kaufman was also honored as a charter member of the Archer-Epler Hall of Fame. 

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Corps first parade Memorial Day May, 1976

In 1979 the corps continued to perform in parades and exhibitions. However, a serious move in the direction of competing was still avoided--that decision came about in 1980. In preparation for returning to competition in 1981 the 1980 version of the "Musketeers" participated in numerous parades, bought large amounts of modern equipment, completely revamped the color guard uniform and equipment and set out to complete the instructional staff. Dale Adair joined the well known Eric Landis on percussion while Bruce Silfies and Dave Light were retained for the marching program, complimented by Donna Borrelli on color guard. Most importantly, that year the corps began an active recruiting program which has helped to fill the ranks with "new" members, but new members who share the same famous spirit and determination of their predecessors of earlier decades and periods.

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Finally, in Hershey, Pa. on June 20th, 1981, the Archer-Epler "Musketeers" made their long-awaited debut, performing an exhibition of their competition show. The 1981 membership consisted of 56 horns, 17 percussion, 22 flags, 5 in the American Flag Section, and 3 drum majors. Included in the historic repertoire were: "We Are The Musketeers".. "Coronation March".. "Schelierezade", "God Bless 'The Child'', and "Stars and Stripes Forever". It was an interesting, frightening, elating, educational season, but it was not without its disappointments. After competing in several earlier shows,, the corps arrived at the DCA Championships in Philadelphia on September 6th, 1981. Despite missing full DCA membership by a scant .5, the corps was buoyed by their rapid improvement and by the response of the fans. All in all, l981 was a profitable year and marked a major point in the resurrection of "Archie" and its long dormant legend.

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In 1982 the corps fielded the largest complement in it's long history and has continued to improve in all areas. Among the selections included in the musical program were "We Are the Musketeers", "Corination march", "Spain", "God Bless the Child", "Slapstyx" (Drum Solo) and the ever popular "Stars and Stripes". "Victory At Sea" will be incorporated later as the corps' exit production. With the combination of the famous traditional spirit of "ALL FOR ONE, AND ONE FOR ALL" and the hard work of active members and alumni alike, the "legend" has returned. As much as "Archie" prides itself for accomplishments of the past 74 years, the corps views the future every bit as eagerly and hopes to celebrate many more "Brass Reunions" with its fans, friends, and families for years to come.

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Home Who are We ? Links Schedule News Personal Note Photos View Guestbook 99-2008 Musketeers Serving Our Country CORPS  SONG