“You’re doing this.” These are the words Barry heard from his father when the Junior Dukes came into existence in 1963. The Dukes of Dubuque was a senior drum corps sponsored by and for members of the American Legion. Barry’s father, Robert “Bob” Buelow, was one of the founders of the drum corps catering to the youth of Dubuque. Since 1982, the corps has annually awarded the Robert M. “Bob” Buelow Award to the outstanding member of the corps for their commitment and contributions. Barry had taken piano lessons as a lad, but had nominal music interest. However, being the eldest son and having a father with enthusiasm to build a program for kids of Dubuque, he was predestined to become a member of the corps. Due to being one of the oldest members of the corps, was appointed as drum major. He remembers, that in those early days, most of the members were from different sections of Dubuque, whom also had limited musical backgrounds. During the first year, the Junior Dukes were primarily a parade unit. Practices were held at the old American Legion Building, where Shot Tower Pizza is now located. Ironically, 55 years later, the corps now has winter camps across the street at the Five Flags Civic Center. By the 2nd year, the Junior Dukes participated in competitions.
Barry’s siblings also marched. He marched with his younger brother Roger Buelow, and eventually his two youngest siblings, Kevin and Julie Ann (Buelow) Kirby, marched, but after Barry had already left the corps. Having attended Sacred Heart and Wahlert High School, Barry enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and served from 1969 to 1973 as a Crypto Maintenance Technician. After being Honorably Discharged, he attended Iowa State University, working on a computer science degree. He parlayed that into a successful career with Rockwell International and later as a consultant for Mitsubishi and NASA, allowing him to travel worldwide.
In reflection, Barry says that what he sees what the corps has become was not something he fathomed. From the meek beginnings, he has fond memories, and though he was reluctant to join, he has had many positive experiences. He remembers getting rides to practice with Clarence Hagge and the neighborhood kids, rehearsals in the summer at Loras College’s Rock Bowl (also, ironically, where the current corps has its first summer season rehearsals). Barry has fond memories regarding members like Dick Hartig, Mike Eisenhart, and the very personable Rob Astgen, the second drum major of the corps.
Influenced by his two buddies, Keith Hagge and Mike Kemp, Rob, another northender in Dubuque, joined the Junior Dukes in the fall of 1963, with no musical experience. Rob started off as a bass baritone and by 1965 was tapped to become the 2nd drum major of the corps. Rob humbly claims it was due to the turnover in membership and his seniority that led Bob Buelow and Clarance Hagge to coax him into the leadership role. Yet, from what is known and echoed by Barry Buelow, Rob had the knack that made him a true leader.
From the very beginning, Rob was bitten by the proverbial drum corps bug. To this day, he is still attending Colts shows and is interested in the corps’ well-being. He served as drum major from 1965 through 1969. During this time, the corps was just a fledgling unit trying to establish itself. In 1968, the corps was not doing to well against Iowa corps, but kicking butt in Illinois. The corps was looking up at its competition like the Waterloo Chevaliers, Decorah Kilties, Osage Precisionaires, Clinton Knee Hi’s, and the Cedar Rapids Cadets/Grenadiers. Then, in 1969. the corps won the VFW State competition in Waterloo, besting those corps from a year earlier.
Rob recognized that the corps began a shift when Bill Funk, a college student majoring in music, was selected to work with the hornline. His fondest memory was when Funk instructed to hornline to play “Space Odyssey” from 2001. In a half arc, warming up for a parade in Waterloo, the hornline, for all to hear, played that power chord and the drum corps community took notice that this corps was taking a step forward. Rob developed the role of drum major by observing drum majors from other established corps at the time. He is grateful of his marching years, noting that his experience with the corps allowed him to develop a strong work ethic to effectively handle the ups-and-downs life throws our way and to work together for a common goal.
In the fall of 1968, the corps changed it’s name to the Colt .45’s and competed under that moniker in the summer of 1969, the last summer Rob marched.
In 1969, the Viet Nam War was in full-swing. Rob enlisted in the U.S. Navy, where he served from January 1970 to January 1974. He was an electrician on the U.S.S. Forrestal. After an Honorable Discharge, Rob was back in Dubuque working for the Milwaukee Road Railroad from LaCrosse to Savannah. After a couple years with the railroad, Rob attended school in Sheldon, Iowa, to become a certified linesman. He worked in Waterloo and then landed a job with Interstate Power (now Alliant Energy) in Dubuque. Eventually, Rob rose to become a substation electrician/technician. Rob attended last summer’s alumni tailgate at St. Anthony’s parking lot prior to the home show. He plans on being there again this summer. As he emphasized, “Every person who does drum corps says it the best thing around.” Rob’s sentiment is universally recognized.
Unfortunately, John could not be reached at this time for a bio.
Having been the assistant drum major to John Hartmann, Joe’s drum corps days were initially influenced by his dad, Bud. Bud, being a renowned area trumpeter in the Tri-State area, passed along his musical genius to his kids. Growing up in East Dubuque, Joe was the middle child of five. He and his siblings all marched with the corps. His oldest sister, Jane, would be the first in the family to join the corps. Jane become the color guard captain in 1969 and eventually an instructor for the corps.
Joe had played the clarinet and saxophone, and would play around with his dad’s trumpet. By 1970, he and his sister, Julie, had joined the corps and played soprano. Joe was always intrigued in his early days with marching band, but was in awe with drum corps. Eventually, his younger siblings, Jim and Jeff, (yes, Jeff MacFarlane, the current executive director of the corps) would join, but as drummers.
In 1974, Joe led the corps. By the fall of 1974, he was attending the University of Illinois to pursue a degree in physics. This also was the last year Joe had marched with the corps. However, in 1976 and 1977 he would be on the corps marching staff with Barry Buelow’s younger brother, Roger. After receiving his degree, Joe developed software on physics research for large laboratories. He had worked for the University of Wisconsin for several years and then discussing his options with his little brother Jeff, ventured out on his own by starting his own successful small business. Joe, who now resides in the Madison, Wisconsin, area, continues to consult. He happens to live practically a block away now, as he did when he was kid in East Dubuque, from the corps’ next drum major, Kevin O'Toole.
Building upon the framework of the first four drum majors, Kevin led the way for several “firsts” for the corps. Kevin was the first contra bass player to become drum major, he was the first drum major to lead the corps to the coveted “Top 25” of the Drum Corps International Championships, the first drum major to “age out,” and the first to have his wedding announcement made at a drum corps show (Rhinelander, Wisconsin, in 1976). Kevin was one of eight O’Toole children from East Dubuque. He was the 5th child and the first O’Toole to join the Legionnaires, then Colt 45’s. Having been a trumpet player as a kid, by his high school days at Wahlert, he grew to be a person capable of playing tuba. Being influenced by a corps performance, he joined and became a contra player. Eventually, his younger siblings, Julie, Beth, and Jay, would join the corps.
Kevin says he has fond memories and appreciation of those in management who led the corps in its early years, such a Bob Buelow, Eldon “Fritz” Biver, Harlow Haas, Dick “Sarge" Feipel, Tom Faulkner, and a newbie, Jim Mason.
If you know Kevin, you knew he had a presence about him that made him a wellrespected drum major. He was fortunate to build upon the base from the drum majors who preceded him. He was one half of what we would call today a “power-couple” when he entered into a relationship with the then color guard captain, Jolene Miller, whom he would marry after he aged-out in 1976, and prior to Jolene aging out in 1977. They had the first drum corps wedding. Kevin’s best man was John Cody, a member of the corps and who has recently passed away.
In 1977, Kevin worked on the equipment truck for the corps to be with his lovely bride. During his drum corps days, Kevin had worked at Giese Sheet Metal, then worked his way through the sheet metal/heating and cooling business as shop foreman where he eventually retired in Madison, Wisconsin. He enjoys his retirement as being a bus operator for an independent bussing company in Madison. Kevin’s most remarkable memory is having met his soulmate in corps. In addition, his corps days taught him to work effectively with people of all walks of life in order to accomplish a common goal.