Something will be missing from the Bills home opener on Sunday.
But there also will be something new.
The Jills are gone.
Welcome the Stampede Drum Line, 20 percussionists who are about to become part of game days this season at The Ralph.
The 35-woman cheerleading squad was suspended earlier this year, after five former Jills pressed suit in April against two management companies and the Bills organization for back wages.
Unlike the Jills, who had been on the sidelines since Daryle Lamonica was traded to the Oakland Raiders in 1967, the Stampede drummers will be stationed in the grandstand, where seven rows of seats that have been removed to accommodate them and their instruments.
“Everybody loves rhythm, and that’s what we are,” said Jack Gaylord Jr., the Stampede manager. “Our members are professional drummers with snare drums, bass drums, tenor drums.”
And if you think beating the drum is an easy task, not so. Gaylord is the longtime promoter of Drums Along the Waterfront, an annual showcase for top-rated drum corps from around the country.
“They will be wearing microphones, performing on cue from game-day operations high above the stadium,” Gaylord said. “Everything must be coordinated with the scoreboard, the music and commercials.”
Tailgating fans will experience the beat of the Stampede in stadium parking lots as half the drum line – 10 percussionists – visits lots on the stadium side of Abbott Road.
The other half will appear in the redesigned concourse behind the Bills Store between Gates 4 and 5 to welcome fans into the stadium.
The Stampede also will welcome the players on the field, lining the tunnel much as the Jills previously had done.
The drummers’ uniforms consist of Bills game jerseys that carry the name “Stampede” and the numbers of Wall of Fame players, worn with knee-length shorts. As the season progresses, the drummers will turn to sweatpants.
The decision to hire the Stampede was made after the drum line performed to rave reviews during the last game of the 2013 season, said Marc Honan, chief marketing officer for the Bills.
“The reviews from the performance were even beyond our expectations,” Honan said. “Right now, we’ve contracted them for game days in the 2014 season.”
The Stampede members will be paid for their performances, Gaylord said.
When asked if Stampede would be compensated by the Bills, Honan declined to comment.
The Bills are not the only National Football League team to offer drum line entertainment.
The 27-member PurrCussion drum line for the Carolina Panthers shares the field with the Topcats cheerleaders.
The New York Jets drum line, the Aviators, wear khaki jumpsuits when they perform at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.
The Seattle Seahawks Blue Thunder was established in 2004 and invites guest rock drummers to join performances. This season’s guest drummer lineup includes Scott Rockenfield of Queensryche, Alan White of YES and Matt Cameron from Soundgarden.
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