The Day The Music Almost Died

Image Source: Lewiston Sun Journal

As we’ve seen, the 1988-1989 Lisbon Maine High School Band was not exactly a font of discipline and professionalism. But the Memorial Day parade officially cemented our status as irredeemable reprobates.

It was a hot one that year. The band, under the tutelage of Ed “Bluto” Judd, had been put through its paces, marching daily throughout the blazing days of May. We were ready, or as ready as we would ever be.

The plan was to march in the parade, then take a bus for a VFW picnic. Fine. Somehow we got my bass amp/wheelbarrow/generator rig in place, and the band set up, sunglasses added to our red polyester/black nylon/plume wardrobe. We were mostly well-behaved: I think one of our drummers started out the parade with a smoke, but otherwise, all business. And we were relatively tight and together. Relatively.

There is a little park/memorial-type thing on a hill adjacent to Rt. 196, directly across from the Worumbo Mill and the Kennebec Fruit Company, both recently and not so recently immortalized by Stephen King. It’s a little strip of grass, with a fairly steep slope down to 196. The bus set up here, and the band started mingling with our brave vets.

This is where things got interesting.

The VFW had set out several coolers, some filled with beers for the vets, and some filled with sodas for the kids. Which coolers do you think we started raiding?

At some point cheap cigars appeared, and the level of merriment increased as the afternoon progressed. We must have been pretty good at hiding our degeneracy, because nobody said anything and we kept up our low-rent pirate act with impunity.

I don’t remember where Judd was throughout this mayhem. But I do remember him suddenly appearing at the end.

Somehow or other, the bass drum, which had been parked at the top of the park/memorial-type thing, started rolling down the slope. Directly toward Rt. 196 traffic. Was it pushed? Was it attempting suicide? To this day I have no idea (and even if I did, I wouldn’t be saying). But I will take to my grave the image of Ed “Bluto” Judd lunging – literally lunging – to stop the bass drum at the bottom of the hill, moments before certain disaster. Picture Belushi doing back-flips down the aisle of the Triple Rock, and you get the visual.

I don’t remember the rest of the day, nor the bitch-slap that inevitably followed at our next band practice. But what I do remember is more than enough for a lifetime.



  1. I’ve never heard anyone describe a Marching Band as “tight,” clearly this was a badass marching band…just ask Judd.

    • Harrr…click back one post to see how tight we really were!

  2. Are you, like me, awake when you should be asleep or are you on the East Coast?

    • I was up ’till 2 in the goddamn morning waiting for the Obama speech. And now I’m a punch-drunk hot mess.

      • Ditto.

  3. I just love a band parade…..cry every single time…especially when Louie Louie is played. Go figure.
    Your band however, may, just may….have been the exception to my emotional breakdowns over marching bass drums, tubas, trumpets and trombones…

    • If we’ve learned nothing from these two posts (and we haven’t), it’s that this band should have been avoided at all costs.

      • I’ll cry to that……

      • Want me to send you off with Iron Man or Frankenstein?

  4. Haha! You had a very interesting youth, Brian 😉

  5. I wish there was a picture of that rolling drum.

    • Sigh. So do I, my man. Sooo do I.

  6. Darcy Wilcox said:

    Wow…brought me back to those good times with Judd and the high school band. We sure had some fun. Riverside was one of my best memories. 🙂

    • Riverside Magic! (Magic! Magic!) What an epic that was.

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