At Phantom Regiment, we often refer to the male members of our color guard as “Raiders.” But many of our phans might not be aware of how that nickname came about. Here’s a little history behind these celebrated members of the Phantom Regiment!
Origins of Phantom Regiment
The origins of the drum corps activity can be traced back to the post-world-war military traditions, so many corps have roots in veterans organizations. Phantom Regiment was formed by a group of VFW 342 members in 1956.
This newly formed corps was initially named the Rockford Rangers, with an all-girl color guard to be called the Rangerettes. However, many of the members did not exactly love the name “Rangers.” Some of the members had been listening to some Stetson D. Richmond records, and were impressed with a tune the Syracuse Brigadiers had played entitled “The Phantom Regiment.” Thus, before the corps had made any public appearances, the corps name was changed to the Phantom Regiment, and the all-girl color guard was called the Phantomettes.
In addition to participating in parades and competitive events, the Phantomettes had quite a bit of success in the competitive guard circuits, separate from the drum corps.
Several male members of the organization (including Hall of Fame member and corps icon, Dr. Dan Richardson) attended a performance by the British Black Watch in Chicago and were inspired to form their own color guard to compete with – but mostly against – the Phantomettes.
You read that right.
You see, while the Phantomettes were enjoying quite a bit of competitive success, the corps was not. Throw a bunch of teenagers and a battle-of-the-sexes into the mix, and the all-male “Raiders of the Phantom Regiment” color guard was officially formed in the fall of 1958.
The Raiders were moderately successful within the Midwest Color Guard Circuit – and even beat the Phantomettes once or twice – but after about a season and a half, the members were feeling the pressure of being a part of both a drum corps and color guard. They dissolved the group and returned their focus to the corps, leaving the Raiders to forever be a part of the Phantom Regiment history.
Color Guard in the New Millenium
The Phantom Regiment color guard remained all-female until the summer of 2005 when a talented young man was cast to play the role of Gene Kelly in the Gershwin themed “Rhapsody” production. The following year featured six men cast in Phantom Regiment’s production of “Faust”. Of course, any animosity of old had long been dissolved, and the existing members of the color guard embraced their new, male corps members – donning them with the nickname of “Raiders.”
Since then, over 25 different men have performed with the Phantom Regiment color guard – including in 2019.
We’re proud of the talented men who represent the Phantom Regiment color guard, today, and hope you’ll enjoy seeing the Raiders in action at an upcoming performance this summer!
*Special thanks to Jim Wren for historical background information and clarifications.