Passing of member Amerigo ‘Riggie’ Laus

Posted on June 30th, 2019

A funeral service was held in St. Charles Lwanga Parish, Mother of God Counsel Church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania the morning of Friday, June 28 for World Drum Corps Hall of Fame member Amerigo “Riggie” Laus, who passed away June 24 at age 93 after suffering from pneumonia. He was inducted into the World Drum Corps Hall of Fame in 1986. He was also a member of the Buglers Hall of Fame, Pennsylvania Buglers Hall of Fame, Pennsylvania Drum and Bugle Corps Hall of Fame and the Penn Hills Arts and Music Hall of Fame.

Those wishing to express sympathy may make a donation to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America.

He began playing trumpet at age 13 after his older brother gave him an instrument and showed him how to play. At age 16, he joined a local dance band in Penn Hills, PA that played in area bars and taverns. He would walk five miles to rehearsals and hitch rides to performances. While serving in the United States Navy during World War II, he was assigned as machinist’s mate and ship’s bugler and taught himself how to play the bugle.

He participated in the Iowa Jima and Okinawa campaigns in the Pacific before receiving an honourable discharge from active duty in 1946 and from the reserves in 1954. He began his 25 years of membership with Pittsburgh Rockets Drum and Bugle Corps in 1948.

“Riggie really was a giant, a hero of almost mythological status among us buglers,” noted fellow Hall of Fame member Frank Dorritie.

In the nine years after winning his first competition as an individual soprano player, Riggie Laus won every local, state and national individual contest he entered, retiring undefeated in 1965.

He was the first bugler to play Flight of the Bumblebee and the only one to play it on a G-D, one valve slide bugle. On joining the Rockets, he immediately began experimenting with the single valve bugle, using fine emery cloth to loosen the tuning slide for free movement to lower the pitch a full step. When slide bugles were introduced, he used the full length to obtain the notes F and A in the lower register and lip control for proper pitch and effect. For fast passages in the upper register, he combined alternate fingering and agile lip muscle movement to produce proper tone and effect.

He composed a number of exercises designed to develop fast slide action, improve internal skills, develop slurring and regular, double and triple tonguing techniques.

Between 1958 and 1982, he instructed many Pennsylvania drum and bugle corps, including Tarentum Red Knights, who were three times Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) state parade champions; Meadville (later Erie) Thunderbirds; Quasars; Sharpsburg Cadets; General Butler Vagabonds; Pittsburgh Rockets Juniors and Steel City Ambassadors.

Many of his students became national champions, professional musicians and band directors. Young students on the school bus he drove for 22 years called him “Rockets” because he always wore his Pittsburgh Rockets corps jacket.

He is survived by Florine, his wife of 59 years, two daughters, two grandsons, two sisters, a sister in law and many other relatives and friends.

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