By Nick Attanasio

On Monday, April 22, I received a shocking telephone call from Mrs. Ethel Flanders, one of Les Parks' daughters, informing me that on Friday, April 19, her dad passed away while undergoing heart surgery. Les was 70 years old.

Les was a dear friend and drum corps associate of mine for more than 50 years. He is, without a doubt an indisputable drum corps legend and icon and always will be. He was inducted into the Marching and Maneuvering Hall of Fame ages ago, and also into the Standstill Hall of Fame. The M & M Corps of today employ many of Les Parks' innovative percussion ideas and techniques he originated while he served as drum instructor with the Hawthorne Caballeros and many other corps.

Les Parks was born in Brooklyn and began his drum corps career with Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cadets in 1938. Two years later he joined Charles W. Heisser Post, American Legion. He then went to Phoebe Hearst Post, American Legion. He served in the U.S. Coast Guard during World War II. After the war, in 1945, he entered the Julliard School of Music in New York City. He graduated in 1950.

In 1947, he and other members of the Heisser Post F.D.&Bugle Corps left to organize the Sone Of Librty Ancient Fife & Drum Corps, of Brooklyn. During these early years, he was the drum instructor for St. Vincent Cadets, Garfield Cadets, Hawthorne Caballeros, the N.Y.Skyliners, and others. He also wrote and published several drum books. And he won many individual titles including N.Y. State and the Northeastern States Championships. Throughout his career, he performed with many top dance bands -- Fred Waring's band being one of them. He played for many Broadway Musicals (Pitman) and served as percussionist for both operas and symphonic orchestras.

Prior to 1947, I knew Les only as a passing drum corps acquaintance. When the Sons of Liberty was being organized, Les endeavored to recruit me for the bass line. I truly was flattered and honored but had to reject the offer because I was living well over 100 miles from their practice hall. For more than two years he would corner me at contests and musters trying to "sign me up". In 1950, after seeing and hearing the Sons perform, I became a member; staying with them until 1968 when they disbanded.

I mention this to show what a persistent and driving force he really was. If he thought anyone would be an asset to the corps, he would never give up on recruiting him. He was dedicated to the Sons and constantly worked to build and improve the corps. A snare drummer applying to the Sons' line would have to utilize his style of playing. If a drummer refused to accept this requirement, his application was rejected. He also directed that all bass drummers encompass my style of bass drumming. Why? Well, when you saw the Sons' drum line you saw one snare drummer and one bass drummer or so it appeared. Every hand movement was identical, the stick height, angle, and the bass swinging uniform and precise. Literally, all carbon copies of each other.

Les Parks was in every sense of the word, a mild mannered man. But he was also a demanding perfectionist. All of us thrived on this format that produced a great championship drum corps. To know him, work with him, and drum with him has always been a joy and a constant learning experience. He wrote such beautiful music and his competent use of dynamic expression always gave me goose bumps when playing his compositions.

In the latter part of March, Gerry, my wife, and I telephoned Les from Clearwater, Fla. He was surprised and delighted to hear that I was planning to visit him. He welcomed the idea. My wife was somewhat reluctant about this visit only because it meant that we would have to drive more than 600 miles out of our way. However, I knew Les was not too well of late, and I explained to my wife that I felt I had to visit him. I had the strangest feeling that I might nevr see him again. Call it a premonition if you will. With that in mind, she readily consented to make the detour as it were. I realize now that the Lord was guiding me. As it turned out, we were the last drum corps friends to see him.

The past few years we all have suffered the loss of great drum corps people, who were dear friends and now this crushing and painful loss of Les. As we grow older we all learn to appreciate our friends more than ever. I've made it a practice that when I conclude a telephone conversation or have to say good-bye to a very close and dear friend, I express my "love" to that person with sincerity. For who amongst us knows whether tomorrow will come.

To say that Les Parks will be missed is a grave understatement. He enriched and influenced my life as well as others, a friend and mentor, to say the least. It's so difficult and sad to write this, as it was for me to write about Hugh Quigley, another dear friend that somehow, unashamedly, tears keep getting in my way.

Les, I have enjoyed drumming with you, admired and respected you as a friend, musician and always will. What sweet memories. I love you and miss you. Jack O'Brien once said; "Once a Son, always a Son." Our prayers and condolences to Les' two daughters and their families.

Your friend and Sons of Liberty bass drummer, always, Nick Attanasio

PS: The majority of young drum corps people might not know who Les Parks is or was, but ironically when they play at the jam sessions, perhaps 80 percent of the selections they play were written by Bill Krug, fife, and Les Parks, drums. Both were Sons of Liberty musicians.

This tribute was first published in
"The Civil War Troopers Troop Sheet"
Vol 3 No 2

Page Created and Maintained by Bob Castillo
Midi file, "Amazing Grace", sequenced by Barry Taylor.