The McHenry Viscounts

With its humble beginnings, the Viscounts of McHenry became one of McHenry’s biggest success stories. The Viscounts were a precision drill and bugle corp., who competed across the state and eventually, many parts of the United States. For McHenry, the Viscounts represented one of the biggest eras of the competing drum corps, that were popular in the area during the 1950s and 1960s. The American Legion sponsored their local groups and held, local, state, and national drum competitions. Most bugle and drum corps started when new technology made drums and bugles obsolete for military combat. The corps was put together to demonstrate patriotic themes and music. The McHenry group was sponsored by the McHenry American Post #491.  

Picture of Viscounts in front of the American Legion Hall at Memorial Day Parade in 1959. Compliments of the July 15, 1959 Pictorial Newsletter.

The McHenry drum and bugle corp. came to fruition by the work of Harold Vycital, former Commander of McHenry’s Legion Post. Starting from scratch in 1951, he found the cost of simply buying new equipment to be too expensive. He found another local American Legion post that was looking to sell some of their equipment. While in need of work, the items were at a price that Vycital could afford. After recruiting some youths and trainers, the group made their modest debut at the McHenry Memorial Day parade in 1952. Eventually, the uniforms would be quite regal, but for their first appearance, they wore white shirts and pants with yellow ties and red capes. In 1953, the Sons of the American Legion took over membership and operation of the Viscounts. They set up the rules for membership. The first one was that a son of any veteran could be in the Corp and that there wasn’t be an age limit. By 1957, girls were also participating in the Viscounts after starting off as baton twirlers the year before.

Photograph of the Viscounts from the McHenry Plaindealer announcing they had won the state title in 1961.

For their first five years, lots of hard work followed which got the group into better musical & marching shape. Also, with the formation of the Parents Association, the group started to look better as well. Due to fundraising by the parents, proper uniforms including the lion logo and the name Viscount began to appear. By 1956, the Viscounts were participating in formal competitions. What also began to appear was success and a lot of trophies, with the breakthrough year for the Viscounts being 1961. That year they won the title of “most improved Corp” and won the state title by defeating the Grayslake Scarlett Knights. The national competition was held in Denver and the Viscounts went on to be national champions. They also won the state title in 1963, 1964, and 1965. During this time, they appeared all over the Mid-West, New York, and even Canada.

Picture of Governor Stratten giving members of the Viscounts and American flag in 1961.

With all the titles and public appearances came fundraising, lots and lots of fundraising. For every trip made by the Corp, travel accommodations had to be paid for. Also included were travel expenses, equipment, and uniform maintenance, food for the young musicians while traveling, etc, etc. While the Legion Post and Parent Association were able to put together some finances, most of the money required for the Viscounts to travel to all of these places came from fundraising events. For instance, while getting ready to travel to Denver in 1961, a dance was held at the American Legion Hall. Another popular way to raise money was to hold plays. The Viscounts would pay companies to come into town and put on a play. These were usually held at the High School. At local events, “sponsor stickers” were sold to show the purchaser’s pride in the group, as well as advertising that they helped fund the Viscount’s endeavors.

Viscounts Color Guard performing at competition in Milwaukee in March 1965.

By the late 1970s, the Viscounts ran into some problems, the largest being that drum and bugle groups were losing popularity. This was doubly problematic for the group, as theirs was always a community organization. Without the support of the community, getting members to join the group was difficult, thus drying up the talent pool. Also, the Viscounts were always a group that thrived on the financial support of the people of McHenry. Without that money, traveling to all the great competitions and events became very difficult. In 1977, the group disbanded and in somewhat of a circle of life moment, sold their equipment to another group, the Devil’s Brigade from Crystal Lake. Despite the fact that they are gone, the Viscounts have definitely carved their place in McHenry’s history.


  • “Viscounts Discontinue As Drum Corps” The McHenry Plaindealer. (McHenry, IL) 22 Apr 1977, 1. Web. 14 Nov 2021.
  • “Patriotism In Action” The McHenry Plaindealer. (McHenry, IL) 25 Feb 1976, 1. Web. 14 Nov 2021.
  • “Viscounts Leave Mark On Musical History” The McHenry Plaindealer. (McHenry, IL) 6 Aug 1975, 122. Web. 14 Nov 2021.
  • “Hold Guard Contest” The McHenry Plaindealer. (McHenry, IL) 23 Feb 1961, 5. Web. 14 Nov 2021.
  • “Junior Drum and Bugle Corps of Legion Organized” The McHenry Plaindealer. (McHenry, IL) 17 Dec 1953, 1. Web. 14 Nov 2021.
  • “Sons of Legion Will Be Formed In City Nov 16” The McHenry Plaindealer. (McHenry, IL) 11 Nov 1954, 1. Web. 14 Nov 2021.
  • “Viscounts Enter National Contest” The McHenry Plaindealer. (McHenry, IL) 3 Aug 1961, 1. Web. 14 Nov 2021.
  • “Viscounts Trek To Denver Meet” The Woodstock Sentinal. (Woodstock, IL) 7 Sep 1961, 1. Web. 14 Nov 2021.
  • “McHenry Viscounts Get Three Honors” The Woodstock Sentinal. (Woodstock, IL) 21 Apr 1961, 1. Web. 14 Nov 2021.
  • “Musin’ and Meaderin’” The McHenry Plaindealer. (McHenry, IL) 14 Sep 1961, 1. Web. 14 Nov 2021.