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Tommy's Story


The Loud ‘n’ Proud organisation is the brainchild of Tommy McGrory, who manages the music charity and takes care of the day to day running. Here in his own words is the story of how we came to be what we are today, from what was originally intended to be a very different type of organisation....



My playing and marching experience started where most of the early (or older) players came from, the Boy`s Brigade. I was a member of the 2nd B.B. in Paisley. I played a B-flat Bugle and was the Paisley and District champion 2 years in a row.

I always thought that there was more to church parades than playing Burma Rifles and Be Prepared, and when I was 16 I saw an advert in a magazine for E-flat bugles (1 valve). Realising that this could open up the range of tunes that we were able to play I suggested to the Captain that we should go down that route. The resounding answer was NO. I also suggested that we all play trumpets rather than bugles. Same answer. Although I stayed in the B.B. until I was around 20 I always felt held back by the lack of support and vision by those in charge. This would have been the late sixties. Perhaps if I had seen a film of an American drum corps I would have gone for it all those years ago and tried to put a corps together. However I was young and didn’t have any role model to look up to. All I felt at the time was that there was something better than this but I didn’t know what.

That was until I saw my old B.B. playing at an event at Bellahouston Park. They were playing E-flat at the time and I was simply knocked out. This was what I wanted to do all those years ago. That was when I met Ian Blue the Paisley Corps Director for the first time and talked to him about the Drum Corps movement in Britain. Ian was a huge influence and help when I decided to start my own Corps.

My first band

I was working in Springburn Sports Centre at the time. My job was to promote sport. When I approached my boss, Willie Baxter and suggested a ‘marching band’ he was very supportive although he probably thought I was off my head. My reasons to him was that although Springburn Sports Centre was intended for sport the building was originally a public hall and rooms or space within the building was unused as they were not suitable for sports activities.

So I set about the task of recruiting and put two posters up outside the Sports Centre. The posters were hand done on Day-Glo paper. There were quite expensive at the time because I had to pay for them of course and access to fancy printing and computer design was still a costly and hard to come by thing then.

This should have set alarm bells off in my head. I knew what I wanted the end result to look like but how was it going to be financed? Well the short story was ME. Every month I spent all the money I earned from overtime on brass and drums. It was a large amount of money as I worked weekends and evenings to finance the whole thing. Contrary to popular belief I was not very successful with grant aid, in fact before our first competition we only received one and that just managed to pay for the uniforms.

The start of the corps was a nightmare. I would build a group up and then half of them would leave. After a while things were going slowly until one night I got a visit from a bunch of ex B.B. boys who had a little experience in a bugle band. This was to push the whole thing forward as they brought their friends and family along.

We had our sights set on our first performance at the Scottish Championships and everything was going great. That was up until I heard there would be no competition as all the big corps were not competing in B.Y.B.A. any more. So I approached Barry Barr and George Ferguson with the proposal that I run the competition at Bellahouston Sports Centre and have The Shadows, Blue Barons, Fantasy and the 3rd Glasgow performing as guests. The competition was back on.

I had the competition date set and everything was organised. The sponsors for the event was Arpal Chemicals. There were a few guys that used the gym that worked for Scottish Television, so I approached them to see if I could get some exposure for the competition. Bob Clyde was the programme editor on Scotland Today and he was promised me a mention. I received a phone call from Bob asking if he could shoot a little film of my band practising as he wanted to do a little article on the competition. When the camera crew turned up and met the kids Bob decided there and then to make a film. We arranged for all the kids to get a week off school so that they could shoot us practising.


A newspaper article charting the current fortunes of that original band, click to read the full article.

It worked out well for us as we had six hours every day of practice for a whole week leading up to the competition. We were well prepared for the competition, without that week of practice we would never have been ready. Sunday 18th April 1982 and it was a beautiful sunny day.

It was unknown territory for me as well as the kids. They didn’t know what we were up against and I hadn’t organised a marching band competition. However the day was a huge success, the audience was great, all the bands taking part had a good time and we won.

The film became ‘The Story (so far) of Mr and Mrs Thomas and Natalina McGrory’s Amazing Marching Band’ and won a B.A.F.T.A. nomination and film awards from all over the world for the best documentary in it’s class. The film brought marching brass into people’s homes on a scale that had not happened before so therefore was a milestone in the history of drum corps. The film also had an influence on the decision to make the series ‘Bands of Gold’. Twenty years on I still get people saying to me ‘I know you from somewhere’ and it turns out to be from the film.

We changed our name to The Clansmen as I intended to go for a Scottish look and eventually a Scottish sound. Our first year in Drum Corps went well and the corps was expanding fast. Well they were the good days but the bad days were still to come and there were a number of problems looming.

I had been moved to a new job and started to work shifts and could not make every practice session. After a while I decided that I could not give the band the time they deserved and I dissolved it.

It was the saddest time of my life and at the time I was left shattered. Not just because of the corps dissolving but the loss of friends that I had grown to like and love.



The start of Loud ‘n’ Proud



Early Loud 'n' Proud Logos

You would have thought I would have learned my lesson by then, well apparently not because in 2001 I had an idea.This idea came about when I was at The Scotland v Lithuanian world cup match and the half time entertainment was a bunch of guys from local pubs taking penalty kicks at the Scotland under 16 goalkeeper. The prize was a whole load of beer.

Nobody was interested in the competition, and no wonder. This was a world cup qualifier and the best we could offer at half time was that. Being a football fan and having a background of field entertainment I thought that I could better than that. So I went home that night and put pen to paper and worked out exactly what I needed.

Loud ‘n’ Proud began to take shape.

My aim at that time was to put together a half time entertainment show at football stadiums like Ibrox, Celtic Park and Hampden with a cast of 200 young people. To my knowledge this is the only tailor made football show for football fans in the world.

A secondary and much wider aim of the project was to re-establish Drum Corps as an art form to Scotland once again and to provide opportunities for 150 young people to play brass/percussion and 50 to be taught dance/visual arts.

There were, at that time, an estimated 25,000 young people who participate in this unique community art form in villages, towns and cities throughout England in long established youth organisations, and as new independent units. Playing a wide range of instruments, styles varied from the traditional, to the interpretative show bands and many include dance groups to further enhance performances. In Scotland however there were no Drum Corps organisations available for young people to take part in.


An early information booklet used for a funding application, showing the original aims that we still hold true to today: creating positive change and giving young people an outlet through music and creative arts. The full booklet can be downloaded here

I intended to work closely with the Music Advisor for the relevant education authorities and the Heads of Music in schools in all of this, ensuring that our training programme mirrored the school curriculum. We would be offering an alternative style of music and performance our goal was to encourage students to choose music as a subject at school and to give extra support to students to prepare for exams. Drum Corps offers a safe and inexpensive extension to existing training programmes and provides the central core of any youth organisation’s aims – health and fitness, raising self-esteem, leadership, working as a team, responsibility and pride in achievement. It provides a recognisable focus for family involvement and community recognition.

This also then formed the core or our third and final aim, which was to promote inclusion and motivation amongst young people through the medium of musical education and performance. They would have the chance to participate in a project where their involvement and contribution would motivate them to develop skills and discipline, and develop a sense of belonging in our society.

Support

While there were no more Drum Core bands left in Scotland there were still 2 senior music groups who still played that style of music, all be it now in a big band format, and they were made up of ex members of the Drum Corps that they once played for. The members of these two groups were the only ones left in Scotland who had the experience to teach this unique form of music on to a younger generation, and so contact was made with both the “Brass Monkeys” and “Jock Hocket Beat Ensemble”.

Neither of the two had ever had a youth section, and so Loud ‘n’ Proud agreed to become a quazi-youth section for both groups. They offered support in the way of volunteer instructors, loan of equipment and joint workshops, and when our young players reached a certain standard as well as continuing to work with Loud ‘n’ Proud they would be able to join these older organisations to experience a higher level of competition and playing.