The idea of performing with a fife and drum corps had been a dream of 1st Michigan founder and director, Mark Logsdon, for many years. As a young 13-year-old drummer, Mark would hear the sounds of fifes and drums for the first time during a movie entitled “Time of Trouble.” The movie was about a young boy that ran away to become a drummer during the War of 1812. Mark knew then that he wanted to be a part of that sound. Unfortunately, fifing and drumming in the Midwest was pretty much unheard of.
It would take many years for Mr. Logsdon to finally connect with the right people that could help make the dream a reality.
During a lunchtime discussion at work, people were talking about their dreams. Mark spoke about fifing and drumming and finally, someone knew what he meant. A co-worker had just returned from Colonial Williamsburg and had seen a performance of the fife and drum corps. Slides were brought in the next day, and a few days later Mark was on the phone with Colonial Williamsburg. Mark and his wife Mary journeyed to Colonial Williamsburg on Thanksgiving weekend, 1974. They would spend much of their weekend discussing the ins and outs of fifing and drumming with Williamsburg’s then director of music, John C. Moon, and the initial seeds of the 1st Michigan were planted. In January, February and March of 1975, auditions for the original members began. From these auditions, 25 members, from 7th through 12th grade, were chosen for their desire and musical ability.
Practices began in April of 1975 in the Logsdon home with the soon-to-be fifers playing flutes and the drummers playing modern, rod tension drums. Practices continued and the search for fifes and drums began. Mark was given the number of a man named Pat Cooperman. It seems this man made drum sticks and fifes, but what to do about the drums? Pat frequently repaired other makers’ drums, but was not yet constructing drums of his own. Finally, after several phone conversations on the topic, Mark gave Pat a check for $2500 to make the Corps’ drums. The Corps still owns and plays the first set of Cooperman drums ever constructed –snare drums, numbers 16 through 23 and bass drums, numbers 8 and 9. In 1999, to mark their 25th Anniversary, the Corps purchased a second set of Cooperman drums – snare drums 2016 through 2023 and bass drums 508 and 509. On August 23, 1975, the 1st Michigan proudly celebrated its debut performance. Sight unseen, Greenfield Village and Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan allowed the corps to become a part of their Military Muster. The fifes had arrived only two weeks before this debut performance. The Corps’ drums were not yet completed so drums were borrowed from several re-enactment groups. The corps knew only 5 tunes and proudly repeated them over and over again during the two-day event.
The corps went on to complete 13 performances by the end of 1975, and in 1976, 64 more performances were completed. In 1977, the 1st Michigan would venture to Guilford, CT, to complete their first East Coast muster. They received a standing ovation that remains a highlight in the Corps’ history. Having experienced its first muster, the Corps returned home with the dream of hosting their own muster in Michigan. By July of 1978 that dream was realized when the Corps hosted its first muster on the grounds of Greenfield Village. There were 15 Corps in attendance that day including: Charles W. Dickerson, Junior Colonials, Joshua Huddy, Stony Creek, Nutmeg, Colonials of Alton, Moodus, Plymouth, Mount Kisco, Coginchaug Ancients, C.A. Palmer, Morris County Militia, Kentish Guards, Courthouse Volunteers and Tippecanoe. Through 1999, Greenfield Village remained the setting of the Corps’ annual Muster. In 1980, the Corps began hosting a second muster at Fort Niagara in Youngstown, New York. The corps also continued to return to perform in the East Coast as often as possible, participating in such musters as Camden, Carmel, Huntington, Bloomsburg, Montpelier, Monmouth, and Westbrook.
The Corps does a variety of events each year, and maintains a year-round active schedule. Many special performances have highlighted the Corps’ career. In 1981, the Corps began yearly excursions to Boston and Concord, Massachusetts to participate in the Patriot’s Day celebrations. For many years this has included a performance inside the Old North Church for the Lantern Ceremony, as well as participation in the Concord parade. The Corps has performed as the “opening band” for the Black Watch and the Scots Guards as well as for the Royal Marines and the Argyll & Southerland Highlanders during the Detroit performances of their North American Tours. The Corps has completed four concert tours of England, Scotland and Wales; performing at multiple castles and historic sites including the Headquarters of the Black Watch, Chelsea Hospital (a home for the veterans of the British Military Service), and the Royal Tournament at Earls Court. The Corps also served as the American organizers of a Muster at the Honorable Artillery Company in London, England.
In 1980, the 1st Michigan recorded its first album, entitled “1st Michigan Volume I.” This was followed in 1983 by Volume II, “A Matter of Pride” and in 1995 by their third album, “Reflections of the Past.” In 2004 the Corps gathered members, alumni and friends together to record a very special album “Love Forever, The Sweetness of Mary” in honor of their co-founder, Mary Logsdon, who passed away from Ovarian Cancer in April of 2002. This fourth album features almost 50 musicians, including a piper and organist, performing some of Mary’s favorite songs, and includes “Jam” session tunes outside of the Corps’ normal musical repertoire. The proceeds from this album go directly to the Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit, Michigan for funding for Ovarian Cancer Research. In 1996 Mark organized the first Midwest winter fife and drum conference. It was christened the Freezer Jam the next year, and has been hosted by corps all over the Midwest. 2010 marked Freezer Jam’s 15th anniversary , which was celebrated in Monroe, Michigan where the River Raisin muster takes place. This, the newest muster in the Midwest, was started in 2007 in the hometown of General George Armstrong Custer, and will be the National Fife and Drum Muster in 2012. The 1st Michigan is also the musical host of Drums Along the Maumee at Fort Meigs in Perrysburg, Ohio.
Since beginning with those 5 tunes many years ago, the 1st Michigan has continued to research and add to its repertoire. The corps has chosen to play only those pieces that can be documented to the 18th century time period. Even with this chosen limitation, the present performing repertoire consists of approximately 200 pieces. Each concert or parade is different than all others with the fife sergeant (a rotating position) choosing the pieces to play. During any given parade route, the Corps strives to not repeat a single tune. Muster medleys are arranged by the members, with there generally being a different medley for each muster. Since the first year of the Corps’ existence each performance has ended with their traditional piece, Harum Scarum. In 1998, to honor the memory of their dear friend, David L. Boddie, the Corps began a new tradition of starting every parade with the playing of the Downfall of Paris. In honor of their co-founder, Mary Logsdon, the Corps now plays the song “Sweetness of Mary” at the middle of every parade, about the time that Mary would start her ever-faithful encouragement of members to help them through the rest of the parade.
The dream of one man is now the reality and enjoyment of many. The 1st Michigan is still growing, changing and developing. New members continue to join, retired members return to ranks and sons and daughters of previous members are now joining the Corps.