Col. Truman W. Crawford was commander of the Marine Corps Drum and Bugle Corps from 1973 until retiring in 1998. Col. Crawford's influence extended well beyond the Marines. At points in the 1960s and 1970s, virtually every championship drum and bugle corps in the country was playing one of the hundreds of arrangements he made.
Shortly after high school graduation in 1953, he auditioned for the U.S. Air Force Drum and Bugle Corps and was accepted as a baritone bugler. In short order, he became the corps' musical director and senior noncommissioned officer. But the unit was disbanded in 1963, and he moved to Chicago to run a music store. He continued to arrange and consult with civilian drum and bugle corps. Based on his reputation, he was asked to join the Marines in 1967 as a chief music arranger.
During his tenure there, he jazzed up the playlist with show tunes and other popular music, and instituted a "slide-and-glide" style of marching that was a cool display of military efficiency. He also was influential in persuading manufacturers to produce bugles with two valves instead of one, allowing a greater range of notes. Both of these innovations helped shaped drum corps and marching band, as we know it today. Col. Crawford performed before nine presidents, many of whom he knew on a first-name basis. When he retired, he was the oldest Marine on active duty. "For a drum and bugle corps, he was our John Philip Sousa," says Michael H. Gardner, who had been the corps' drum major under Col. Crawford.
"Tru:" A man easy to love
Larry McCormick remembers his friend and colleague Col. Truman Crawford. "My personal memories of Colonel Truman Crawford date back to the fifties when the late Colonel was simply "Tru" to his friends, and a marching member of the Air Force Drum & Bugle Corps," says Larry McCormick, founder of Bands of America. "I was a young drummer marching in the Cavaliers, in the Washington D.C. American Legion Parade, marching to the Capitol building as "Tru" and his buddy Bob McGee (former Cavalier) from the Air Force corps joined us, and marched along inside our ranks, in their Air Force uniforms, playing our Cavalier music.
My next memories of Tru were when he left the Air Force corps (about 1962) and moved to Chicago to teach the Royalaires Drum Corps. I was teaching the Cavaliers at the time and the Royalaires, under Tru's teaching rapidly became our most competitive cross-town rival. Over many years Tru and I developed a long and mutual respect for each other. We became close friends as we taught together, wrote music together, and judged drum corps together.
Truman was known for his famous swing style arrangements for the Royalaires and the Baltimore Yankee Rebels. He had special gifts in arranging and sharpened his skills while serving as arranger and director of the Air Force Corps and hanging out with other great arrangers in D.C. like Sammy Nestico. Truman left the Royalaires to take up the role as Director of the U.S. Marine Drum & Bugle Corps, in D.C. where he worked his way up to the rank of full Colonel in the Marines before he retired in 1998.
Truman (the Colonel) and I became even closer friends as he brought his renowned Marine Drum Corps, starting in 1978, to annually perform and clinic at our Bands of America National competitions and workshops. The Marines, his Corps, always brought a very special high level of quality to our Bands of America events. My wife and I had the pleasure of being able to call Truman and his beloved wife Lucille our personal friends for over 30 years. We were proud to attend the Marine special events in D.C. and Colonel Crawford's retirement celebration at the Marine Barracks. We were greatly saddened when we visited his home in Gettysburg this past July, to discover that Tru had just been diagnosed the day before with Lou Gehrig's disease.
"Tru" was named to the first Bands of America Hall of Fame this March, and I felt blessed to be able to attend his funeral at Arlington National Cemetery where he was buried with full military honors on a hillside overlooking the Washington Monument. He was greatly loved, will be sorely missed, and was indeed a "Tru" friend and brother in Christ.