Although the original Valley Fever Drum and Bugle Corps of Modesto, Calif., formed over 30 years ago, in 1979, and fell several years later, it was replaced by another group of the same name in later years. Now that the second version of Fever has dissolved, the people of Modesto still feel that another drum corps could be on its way. The band has had a habit of reforming and reappearing like a phoenix from the ashes. Even though all of the former band members might have aged past a time when they might perform in a drum corps show, Fever lives on in their hearts.
The original Valley Fever group, formed and managed by Gary Runsten from 1979 until its end in 1993, had many accomplishments during their years. They made frequent local appearances, and they also competed nearly every year at the drum corps competitions and even the championships in Birmingham. A brass captain and percussion captain were soon added in the years to come, which enhanced their performances even more. In 1983, Dave Gibbs because the Visual Design director, and this gave the original Valley Fever group a distinct edge against other corps.
In 1985, financial concerns caused the Valley Fever to become inactive. Although they did travel and play local shows and even visited the Fiesta Bowl, the group did not compete as they had done in the past. By 1993, the group was completely financially broken, and they had to be disbanded because of this lack of funding. While there was outrage about this from the members and the local community, it was also regarded as a satisfactory break for a group that had accomplished so much.
It did, in fact, turn out that the people were right in assuming that it was only a break, although it was admittedly a very long break. Ten years after the original corps fell in 1993, the second Fever Drum and Bugle Corps was formed, becoming a hodge-podge group of students with summer jobs or other commitments that still wanted to be a part of a successful show group. The membership consisted mostly of students from the central valley. The first Valley Fever group had generally been considered one of the best up-and-coming corps, despite its financial woes, so the new Fever group had some large shoes to fill.
Fever Drum Corps struggled at first to get started, as any new corps does. However, they succeeded during this transitional first year, much of which is due to the efforts of Lew Wilhelm, the director of the Fever. Wilhelm was a member of the original Valley Fever drum program, which had folded nearly ten years earlier because of lack of funding. This love for music and the desire to allow other students to grow and learn from a show program inspired Wilhelm to keep the program going under a different name and leadership.
The members of Fever had several humorous traditions, many of which the former members still recall with pride. They would listen to “Hymnsong on Philip Bliss” by David Holsinger on each bus ride to the performances, and the horn line would listen to Tenacious D’s “Wonderboy” after the shows. The horns would also play the corps song after shows for the rest of the corps to listen to, and this would also take place at any last performance of the season. Cymbals players would kiss the sun logos while leaving the field. Bass drum performers would keep a Jolly Rancher candy under their wristbands to consume after the show was finished, which they said was the best reward. It was silly traditions like these that kept the performances fresh and entertaining for not only the audience but the corps as well.
In 2008, the Fever Drum and Bugle Corps dissolved and disbanded as members found new obligations. Some members turned to other drum and bugle corps, such as the Concord Blue Devils, the Sacramento Mandarins, Arizona Academy and the Santa Clara Vanguard. The fall of Fever led to a void in drum corps groups in the area; however, former members still say that they have hope that someone will come back and form a new rendition of Fever.