Building the Green Machine
by Colt Foutz
Now Available Nationwide.
Visit Your Local Bookstore Today!
480 pages, 70+ photos
In trade hardcover: $32.95
In trade paperback: $19.95
Can’t wait to get your glimpse inside Building the Green Machine? Read excerpts from the book here, and check out exclusive content not within its pages – outtakes, interviews and special insights from author Colt Foutz.
Gary marched in the 1972 edition of the Cavaliers, the first year of Drum Corps International. The experience forever changed his life. Today, he is the award-winning author of Playing with the Enemy: A Baseball Prodigy, a World at War, and a Field of Broken Dreams, soon to be a major motion picture.
Don founded the Cavaliers as a teenager. Sixty years later, he’s still the only president the corps has ever known. In 1971, he and four other daring corps directors started the Midwest Combine, which morphed the next year into Drum Corps International. The story of the Cavaliers is, quite simply, the story of his life, one spent enriching the lives of others.
The Cavaliers of today are a musical juggernaut, a Green Machine that churns out breathtaking field performances and future band directors with equal aplomb. But the corps’ long lineage of dedicated members begins with the young ruffians who knocked about Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood in the 1940s. Read how Colt Foutz’s introduction ties it all together, and raises the curtain on the life of Don Warren, known to Cavaliers sixty years running as “the Old Man.”
Even a book as comprehensive as Building the Green Machine can’t fit every story. Browse below for exclusive behind-the-scenes outtakes and material that didn’t make it into the book, but is too good to leave out here!
Editor’s note: Bob Hoehn, former Cavaliers member and manager, passed away on Sept. 26, 2007. The following is excerpted from a memorial Colt Foutz wrote on that occasion, which included an anecdote told by Hoehn during their May 2007 interview for Building the Green Machine. This story, as well as a few others from Hoehn regarding the 1970 season, could not fit into the book. Check back here for more.
Bob Hoehn Jr., or Tootie, to his corps brethren, was one the first “ringer” Cavaliers, recruited by buddies Dan Horst and Bill Dragland to bring his baritone-playing chops to the Cavaliers ranks from Miami. This was back in 1960, when traveling to Logan Square from Evanston was seen as nutty. Bob was part of two Cavaliers’ VFW national championships, in 1961 and ’62, and took individual honors on baritone at the big contest before aging out in 1962.
Bob stuck around in Cavaliers management through the early 1970s before leaving to help found and serve as first director for Spirit of Atlanta (now Spirit from JSU), with whom he was active at various times in the last three decades. He later founded DCI South.
I spoke to Bob for Building the Green Machine several times in the past few months, primarily to interview him about his time in the Cavaliers’ first golden age and also to hear his perspective on the formation of DCI. Bob was essentially running the buses in the early 1970s, along with Monk and other on-the-road assistants before Dan Heeres succeeded Don Warren as director in 1974. The Old Man wasn’t traveling much, and Bob saw a lot of hijinx. Which probably shouldn’t have surprised him. Back in his marching days, he’d created plenty himself.
But his family was instrumental in helping Don Warren’s fledgling Combine – later to become DCI – gain a foothold in 1971. Without Bob Hoehn Sr.’s seat-of-the-pants sponsorship of the Wheeling, Ill. home show that season – one of the first to feature the Santa Clara Vanguard, Troopers, Blue Stars, Madison Scouts and Cavaliers on the same lineup, with unprecedented participation money – there may not have been a DCI. The Hoehns took out a second mortgage on their home to back up ticket sales. There’s a longer saga here – and Bob told it well – with rain clouds parting, and the whole bit, but it comes down, as it often does, to one family’s unshakable faith. That was the Hoehns.
Bob and I had an extended interview on May 1 for the book. Some of what he said you can read there. As is the case, though, with nearly 2,000 pages of notes I took, a lot of it was squeezed or cut in the final revision. I was planning on excerpting some of that interview – “Tootie Uncut” – later this fall in the countdown to Building the Green Machine’s release. But I’m moved today to share a bit of it here. What follows is an episode from Bob’s account of his favorite season in management, 1970. May he rest in peace.
“1970. In the years when I was there, I thought it was the most fun I ever had with the drum corps, because so many things happened that year. With Bobby Morrison, and The Chicken. This is the year we left out of upper state New York heading down to Miami for championship (they also went west to Casper, WY), deadheading it down. We were gonna stop somewhere in south Georgia, or north Florida at a motel. That trip is the most fun I ever had in drum corps, and I’ve had a lot of them. … Roger Roussell was drum major, so he was basically the other one I was relying on to run the corps on the road. …
“We were somewhere in Carolina, we had stopped to eat. And we get everybody back on the bus, and it was starting to get dark. So everybody was starting to fall asleep. We had already been on the buses quite a while and we still had quite a ways to go to the motel. I think it was in Jacksonville, Fla., and I’m sitting on the bus, and all of a sudden somebody in the back says, ‘What the hell is that? What’s that smell?’
“I walked to the back of the bus, and I say, ‘What’s going on back here?’ and stuff like that. Everybody was laughing and carrying on. Bob Morrison looks at me and says, ‘I’ve got a chicken.’ And under his seat, the kid had a live chicken in a box! And he had, like, a twenty-pound bag of corn feed, the smallest bag you could buy. And I said, ‘Morrison, why do you have a chicken?’ And he went, ‘Well, I was walking down the street, and I walked past this store, and I looked in the window and I see this chicken. And I looked at the chicken, and the chicken looked at me, and we fell in love!’
“And I went, ‘Get the chicken off the bus!’
“And he went, ‘Oh, Hoehn, please, please don’t do that. I named him after you!’
“Well, one of the kids bought an alligator somewhere along the way. We had an alligator and chicken on the bus. They had them at all these different stops – ‘buy a live baby alligator.’ People buy them down in Florida, take them back to Chicago, then flush them down the toilet! I told them, ‘OK. No more pets on the bus. Everybody get rid of the pets!’
“And we stopped at this motel. And sometime during the night, a bunch of guys got into the sheets, like the Ku Klux Klan, ran into Morrison’s room, grabbed the chicken and hung it. On a tree. Outside the motel. When I walked out the next morning, first I saw the chick hanging from the tree. The older guys told me what had been done, they were kind of laughing. As we were pulling out, we spotted one of the maids at the motel down there with scissors, taking the chicken off. It was going to end up as her evening dinner.
“Morrison was devastated. But he was the most fun. Him and Zoomey and the young Gengler kids. Those baritone players! And being a baritone player myself… .”
Editor’s note: This was posted by Colt Foutz following the 2007 DCI quarterfinals, during which Cadets director George Hopkins pulled his corps from the field following a debate over yard lines that were being worn away throughout the night, an action that was roundly booed in the Rose Bowl and throughout theater broadcasts of semifinals around the country. Foutz contended that Don Warren was no stranger to sticking up for his kids, no matter what fans or rivals thought.
Before the fight with St. Vincent’s and other corps from the East, and following the Cavaliers’ fortuitous switch to plastic drum heads -- to name two of the many rainbow colors that aligned that stormy day in Miami Beach -- there was the timing penalty incurred by the Cavaliers.
Supposedly, the corps wasn't on the field long enough; they crossed the finish line before the time gun went off, a big no-no in those days. Drum major Bruce Tietgen says that if he had held up his hands to slow the guys coming off, nastier penalties might have resulted from any shuffling or mangling of the ranks; so he did what he could and led a clean, powerful show to its conclusion.
Now, Don Warren had been very active politically already that night. When he saw all the priests from the church-sponsored corps congregating around the scorers' table during prelims, he petitioned to have them removed. When he was denied, Warren returned with piece of cardboard stuck under his shirt -- a makeshift priest's collar -- and made his case. He won, and the scorers' table was freed -- imagine that! -- from participating corps looking over their shoulders.
Well, Don was talking just last night about how the initial scores came out in 1957 finals, or at least the debate that went on. Apparently, judges penalized the Cavaliers for not marching the required time. But when Don asked the judges for the specific time the Cavaliers entered, and the specific time they exited, guess what? No one had the data. "Well, how can you say we didn't march the required time?" Warren asked. They couldn't. Penalties stricken from the record. The Cavies won. The Fight was on.
Editor’s note: It’s a good thing drum corps put thousands of miles on tour buses every summer, because Cavaliers founder Don Warren wouldn’t board a jet to save his life. This anecdote was cut from Chapter 14, “Standing Man Takes a Stand,” which begins with the Cavaliers’ 1970 trip to Casper, WY. Don’s wife and four kids piled into a station wagon while he road the buses.
Flying would have been impractical for the Cavaliers on such a long trip, anyway, with a whole store of instruments and equipment, and dozens of heads to count. But the Old Man wouldn’t fly if you spotted him the harrowing takeoff and landing and declared unequivocally there would be no turbulence. Don Warren is scared to death of airplane travel.
“My son-in-law is a jet mechanic and he gets so ticked off at me,” Warren said.
“Three of our four kids today will not fly anywhere,” Jan affirmed. “Our adopted son thinks they’re crazy.”
“I’ve never gotten on a plane,” Warren said. The one time he came close was years after the Casper trip, when his daughter booked a fight to see her boyfriend. “I took her to the airport, and I was helping her with her stuff and, you know, you go down to the plane through that enclosed thing. I couldn’t go any farther. I couldn’t even get into that airplane to help her with her stuff.”
“We thought she wasn’t going to go,” Jan said of their daughter. “But she got on that plane. She wanted to see her boyfriend!”