Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Sunday, November 18, 2007
USS Blue Ridge
Leo Leary, trombone (Leo H. Leary)
Mike Pesses, french horn
- (Michael Pesses)
- (Mike Burch-Pesses)
- (Michael Burch-Pesses)
- (Thomas M. Pesses)
- (Thomas Michael Burch-Pesses)
- Note: LCDR Pesses was far more decisive than this entry seems to suggest - -
Jimmy Cabralda (James Cabralda)
Frank Mullen, piano
Tony Tessitore, saxophone
Kim Holl, drums
John Engleman, saxophone
Keith Gardner, trombone
Richard Kawamura, trumpet
Jimmy Lamb, trumpet (James Lamb)
Walt Larkins, trumpet (Walter Larkins)
George McClinchy, saxophone
Steve Parent, trumpet
Dave Schilling, bass
Bob Stibbe, guitar
Tom Wholly, piano
Return to My Bands and Shipmates.
Naval Education and Training Center
Tex Waldron, trombone. (Elliott Waldron)
Terry Chesson, saxophone (Terrence J. Chesson)
Assistant LeaderKen Davenport, trombone, baritone horn.
Mike King, drums. (Michael J. King)
Mike Beegle, saxophone
Mike Alverson, vocalist. (J. Michael Alverson)
Rick Fowler, trumpet
Diane Beegle, vocalist
Kevin Bissell, trumpet
Larry Boozer, saxophone, flute
Steve Bryant, guitar
Matt Coffey, drums
Henry Connelly, bass
Dave Czohara, trumpet
Paula Czohara, saxophone, clarinet
Julia Dean, vocalist
Dave Dekoff, trumpet, guitar
Steve Dimond, guitar
Rich Eastman, guitar, baritone horn
Ed Helm, french horn
Lee Hudson, bass, tuba (Milton Leander Hudson, Worthless Idiot)
John Farquhar, french horn (Mother Farquhar)
Gino Garcia, trumpet (Steve Garcia)
Harry Hansen, tuba
Harry Horton, saxophone
Ralph Ingraham, trombone
Dennis Jansson., trombone
Mike Johnson, piano
Tim Jones, trumpet
Mike Jones, guitar (Snake)
Reid Keiffer, clarinet, saxophone
Randy Kellogg, trumpet
Dave Langett, saxophone
Joel Lewis (Broadway Joe) vocalist
Dave Lock, trombone, bass
Ed LaPierre, trumpet
Johnny Long, saxophone
Walt Larkins, trumpet
Cliff McCoy, saxophone
Frank Mullen, piano
Tom Murphy, trombone
Max Murray, bass, tuba
Steve Parent, trumpet
Steve Patterson, trumpet
Steve Rawson, trombone
Billy Ream, trombone
Ed Rolnick, saxophone, flute
Roger Salls, trombone
Bing Walden, drums
Bill Wissman, trombone
Dale Yager, drums
Roy Mahoney, USN
Mark Adams, USMC, drums
Steve Dimond, USN, drums
Sam Cameron, USMC, drums
Frank Mullen, USN, piano
Sandy Megas, USMC; Dan Bowerly, USMC;
Mike Walker, USA; Doug Dean, USN; Hank Agnew, USN
Dave Traub, USN; Jim Miller, USN;
Art Nebel, USA; Joe ???, USA
Andy Omdahl, USMC; Dave Wert, USMC (Later USN);
Lou Berner, USN; Nancy Wert, USA
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
School of Music Navy Staff
Ron van Hoose
Hank Agnew (Henry Agnew), saxophone, clarinet
Marv Akers, tuba, bass
Gerry Amato, clarinet
Dick Brodt (Richard Brodt)
Doug Dean, saxophone
Paul Geitzenauer (Geitz), trumpet
Roy Mahoney, trombone
Jim Miller, trombone
John Hanson, trombone
Rocky Palumbo, saxophone
John Pastin, saxophone
Jim Thumpston (Thumper, James Thumpston), piano
Dave Traub, trombone
Tex Waldron, trombone
Noonie Wilson, clarinet (it is believed, although there were no witnesses)
George Barkus, drums
Lou Berner, trumpet
Steve Dimond, guitar
Frank Jones, flute
Jimmy McCandlish, bass, tuba
Frank Mullen, piano, bass
Billy Ream, trombone
Mike Schiarini, bassoon
Andy Vermiglio, drums
Barney Walker, piano
Carl Wickstrom, baritone horn
Return to My Bands and Shipmates.
Naval Education and Training Center
Odds are, I've left your name out. This period of my life is vague. I was only in Newport for a year, much of that time on recruiting tours with the rock band, Long Island Sound.
Bandmaster: Joe Arthur
Assistant Leader: Larry Brown
Ed Rodgers, trumpet.
Terry Chesson, saxophone. (Terrence Chesson)
Chief (?) McCoy
Karl Alexander, saxophone, clarinet
Dennis Allard, drums.
Darryl Casoli, trumpet (D.C.)
Lenny Childs, trumpet (Leonard Childs)
Paul Denewitz, bass?
Jo English, administrative petty officer
Wayne Henderson, vocalist (Bone)
Al Hewitt (Guerimo Hewitt)
Dean Hoyt, bass
John Johnson, drums
Fred Muzer, guitar
Frank Mullen, piano (Frank Mullen III)
Dana Silver, bass
Wilbur Smith (Smitty)
Pete Tassey, trombone
Randy the Soundman
Return to My Bands and Shipmates.
Hal Hessler, tuba, bass (Harold Hessler)
Art Jacobus, trumpet (Arthur Jacobus)
J.J. Connor, trumpet (John J. Connor)
John Koob, piano
Skip Poole, trombone (Gaylord Poole)
Jack Miller, french horn
Another chief whose name I can't remember; he went AWOL shortly after reporting aboard. San Francisco sure had a lot to offer the visitor.
Alex Afortunato, saxophone, clarinet (Calixto Afortunato)
Ruperto Ave, saxophone, clarinet
Roger Balogh, trombone
Abelard Banta, saxophone and clarinet
Bob Basinais, trombone (Robert Basinais)
Paul Camaclang, trumpet (Paulino Camaclang)
Doyle Church, trombone (Doyle R. Church)
Skip Clarke, piano (Neil Clarke, Neil J. Clarke)
Jimmy Crabtree, trumpet (Jimmy Joe Crabtree)
Jimmy Cunningham,trumpet, guitar (James Cunningham, Jim Cunningham)
John Derby, guitar.
Mark Dinkelacker, saxophone
Bruce Engle, tuba, bass
Jimmy Etters, saxophone, clarinet, flute (James Etters)
John Farquhar, french horn (Mother Farquhar)
Eddie Fontecha, trumpet (Eduardo Fontecha)
Paige Garwood, bass, tuba
John Hanson, trombone
Eddie Henson, trumpet (Edward Henson, Fast Eddie Henson)
Lloyd Hopkin, trumpet (Hoppy)
Kevin Hunter, trombone
Michael Joehnk, trumpet
Dave Johnson, french horn (David Johnson)
Frank Kemp, trombone
Leo Kieswether, drums
Brenda Kilanowski, drums
Ray Kilanowski, tuba, bass (Raymond Kilanowski, Ski)
Skip Klingman, saxophone
Gerry Kuhn, trombone
Bob Lantis, bass (Robert Lantis)
Dave Lehman, baritone horn, trombone (David Lehman)
Phil Letcher, saxophone, clarinet, flute (Phillip Letcher)
Harvey Lloyd, trombone
Bob Marquart, trumpet (Robert Marquart, Quat)
Alice McKinley, flute
Steve Meyers, saxophone, clarinet (Steven Meyers)
Dave McKissack, saxophone, flute, clarinet (David McKissack)
Del Monroy, trombone (Delfin Monroy)
Frank Mullen, tuba, piano
Fred Muzer, guitar
Jon Newcomb, trumpet (Jonathan Newcomb)
Bob Nolan, guitar (Robert Nolan)
Reuben Peraro, saxophone, clarinet
Don Plowman, drums
Larry Piasoli, trumpet
Dave Rincon, trumpet (David Rincon. David G. Rincon)
Erasmo Rivera, saxophone, clarinet
Joe Slobodzien, drums
Jay Snell, saxophone, clarinet
Charlie Sweet, trumpet (Charles Sweet)
Lyn Sylfest, vocalist
Bill Teuber, piano (William Teuber)
Dale Vanderpool, drums
Andy Vermiglio, drums
Kent Watson, piano
Dave Whitaker, drums (David Whitaker)
Louis White, clarinet, saxophone, flute (Looney White)
Craig Wichert, tuba, bass
Ralph Williams, saxophone, flute
Paul Wynkoop, trombone
Mike Zaloba, saxophone, flute, clarinet (Michael Zaloba)
Saturday, October 27, 2007
Milton Leander Hudson (a wussified name if ever there was one) is my archenemy, a whining, drawling, dimwitted former first class pussy-officer who made life at Navy Band Newport a living hell. It's been more than twenty years since this waste of human flesh polluted the air of my everyday life, yet not a day goes by that I don't thank Providence that my life is now Lee-free.
Despite the primitive nature of his fly-speck brain, Hudson's idiocy is not complete--somehow, he has convinced a grownup to show him how to turn on a computer; yesterday he posted a comment in the Navy Lyres Guestbook. Reading between the illiterate lines of his commentary, it's clear that he is a) attempting to insult me and b) trying to be funny.
He fails at both, of course. We're talking about a bozo who could march (sort of) or play the tuba (sort of), but not both at the same time. When it comes to barbed humor, you, Mr. Hudson, are no Don Rickles.
Trading insults with a lamebrain like Lee Hudson is like playing "Go Fish" with a five-year-old; you have to shut off four-fifths of your mind, or the boredom will drive you insane. Nevertheless, because Hud-bucket's message deserves response, I reprint it here:
Frank, leave it up to you to have the cheapest, dirtiest, asslickin' blog site anywhere. You aint seen nuttin' yet - just wait 'til June at the reunion when I zap you with the howitzer - man, is it gonna hurt. Couldn't think of a more deserving recipient. Anyway, nice to talk to you, you worthless, incompetent, derelect of society. Lee hudson sends these beautiful words of salutation!!
Firstly, one notes the general low level of literacy. Halfwit Hudson litters the landscape with apostrophes in a fruitless attempt to portray himself as a growlin', hep-talkin' he-man. These gratuitous punctuation marks come to roost everywhere except where they belong ("aint" would be grateful for an apostrophe, I'm sure). Nor do they hand out Navy Achievement Medals for the sort of spelling we see here ("derelect" I can understand; the uncapitalized "hudson," however, mystifies me. Despite his inferior intellect and limited human potential, you'd think he could spell his own name correctly.)
(I feel compelled to add that, the last I knew of Hyuck-Hyuck Hudson, he was completing a Ph.D in, I seem to recall, education. You may supply your own punch-line here.)
Now to specifics. The first line is a Hudsonesque attempt at cutting humor. He has strung together adjectives in hope that they will add up to something. They don't. Sinking to the vulgar ("asslickin'") is the sign, we were taught in second grade, of someone who has nothing to say.
It is the second sentence that worries me. "Wait 'til June at the reunion," he says. No matter how I parse this sentence--and I have spent a half-hour poring over it, failing to find any possible benevolent interpretation--I can only conclude that Crudson is threatening to attend the next reunion of the Navy Musicians Association.
I understand that the NMA serves to "bring together, through annual reunions, past and present members of navy bands"; I always assumed, however that the word "members" referred to human beings. Have I assumed too much? I publicly warn all members of the NMA, here and now, of the slippery slope we embark upon if we open the reunion doors to members of the subhuman Hudsonic species. As Senator Rick Santorum has so presciently warned in another context, "What's next? Man on dog?"
It is when Ha-ha-Hudson threatens to "zap [me] with the howitzer" that it becomes obvious that he is the same braggart of a blowhard I once knew.
The reference to "the howitzer" harks back to the Rubber Band Wars of the 1980s, an era during which opposing gangs roamed the passageways of Navy Band Newport. My gang, "The Showband," ruled forcibly and eternally over Leenie-weenie Hudson's "Admin Wimps," despite his use of "the Howitzer," a large rubber band used by the intra-base Guard Mail courier to secure large bundles of mail. This threat scares me as much now as it did then; that is, ho hum, nitey-night.
I will now conclude by addressing Librium Hudson, Commandant of the Moron Corps, directly:
Attend the next NMA reunion at your own peril, you rank, wet piece of twaddle. There is no howitzer powerful enough to protect you from the destruction that awaits you.
You threaten me? You and what army? While I am perfectly capable of, and willing to, humiliate you singlehandedly, be warned that every annual NMA reunion attracts an increasingly large contingent of Navy Band Newport members. If war-drums begin beating and they are forced to pick sides, to whom do you think they will pledge their loyalty?
Think about this hard, pea-brain. Recall the loneliness and defeat you suffered when you could barely rely on the support of the phone watch and duty bugler, while I commanded legions who were only too willing to join my cause at the drop of a ball cap.
Salutations to you too, buddy,
Saturday, October 20, 2007
To: Old Men with Computers.
Subj: Difficulty leaving comments at Navy Lyres
Background: It has been reported that some personnel are experiencing difficulty leaving comments to posts at Navy Lyres. Investigation shows that these persons are exclusively Old Men With Computers (OM/C). This directive addresses this problem.
Goals: Upon successful completion of this section, OM/C should be able to leave short comments to posts at Navy Lyres without having to email Frank Mullen with unwarranted complaints about the commenting feature not working.
1. At the bottom of the post you wish to comment on, click on the "comments" hyperlink. (The word "comments" may be preceded by a number. (Example: "4 comments." This means four OM/C have figured out how to do it. You can, too.)
2. A box will appear, with the words, "Leave your comment." This is where you leave your comment. Got that? Good, carry on.
3. Next, you will see a short string of letters. Type these bogus letters in the "word verification box." Do not try to understand why you are doing this. It's like shining your shoes before an evening parade on a muddy drill field. Just do it.
4. Now, you are required to "choose an identity" by clicking the appropriate circle. This is, without fail, where OM/C go wrong. Every time. Old Men with Computers should now pay very, very close attention:
A. "Google/Blogger." NOOOOOO! The Navy Lyres Webmaster has declared this option Off-limits to OM/C. This is for registered Google/Blogger users who know the secret handshake.
B. "Other." YESSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!! Choose this selection, shipmate. Boxes are provided if you want to add your name and/or websites.
C. "Anonymous." This will work, too, although it won't include your name, unless you include it.
Summary: When commenting, choose "Other." This is the only thing you need to know.
I look forward to hearing from you. Should you have any difficulty, let me know. It's easy:
Just leave a comment.
Saturday, October 13, 2007
Or take my word for it: It's the Navy's 232nd birthday.
After years of performing at annual Navy Birthday balls, concerts, ceremonies, parades, we handed over our batons, trombones and piccolos to a younger, more energetic corp of MUs. Those of us who saw the CINCLANT Ceremonial Band at the last reunion know: They are worthy to step into our shoes.
Happy Birthday, shipmates. It's good to be one of the guests of honor for a change.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
I always thought that bootcamp would have been a more enjoyable experience if it had been shortened in length to, say, about fifteen minutes.
Wish granted. The following two-part video covers the entire contemporary bootcamp experience in a quarter of an hour.
Things are different in today's bootcamp: remedial training for those who might otherwise not make it through, computer-enhanced training and women screaming orders in your face.
But the basics haven't changed. Bootcamp is still about much more than snappy salutes and correctly-stenciled raincoats. It's about the Navy's core values:
Honor. Courage. Commitment.
Taps, reveille, do it all again.
Monday, September 3, 2007
Clicking on the play-button below will bring you footage from a 1967 Italian television show. The babe sings a song whose title appears to be "Zum Zum Zum"--either that or she's vamping because she can't remember the words. (I found this on Youtube; you can read the lyrics here .)
She's lip-synching, actually, while a guy in birth-control glasses pretends to conduct an orchestra behind her. The audience is obviously bored out of their collective skulls.
Halfway through the tune, for no apparent reason, a United States Navy Band marches on stage. The bandleader--he looks like a master chief to me--takes the babe by the arm, and they parade around like Professor Harold Hill and Petula Clark on a date. The song ends, the sound man fades in some applause and the audience wakes up.
This is all happening in a foreign language. Can anybody provide a little context here? What's going on? If anyone recognizes this band or any of its members, post it below. I'm clueless.
Update - 4SEP07
The world's foremost internet researcher--my wife--informs me that according to this article at wikipedia, a popular Italian singer named Mina "[sang] 'Zum zum zum', a #1 hit in Sabato sera Spring 1967 series, accompanied by NATO Naval band . . . ."
Update Update - 11SEP07
Mike Beegle knows all; he's playing the clarinet in the video in question.
Acording to Mike, "Zum, Zum, Zum" was a huge hit for Mina. The opening lines translate as "There's a band playing in my head," and the singer further observes that she just can't get that sound out of her head.
So it only makes sense that the CINCSOUTH Band, under the direction of MUCS Jerry Tanguay, should march into her life. We knew there'd be a sensible explanation.
Mike has done his best to recall who's playing with him:
"It was a new edition of the band that reported aboard just before I split for Pensacola. But I can pick out the snare drummer, Romero. One of the tuba players is probably McLandish, I think Lou Hinds had already split by that time. Bones, probably Ed (Fast Eddie) Harris and perhaps Shelly Fine.
Not too shabby at picking forty-year-old names out of the hat, Mike.
Friday, August 3, 2007
If the question was about music, the answer was "D. None of the above."
If the question was about anything else, the answer was "D. Four Ruffles and Flourishes and the Admirals March."
Sure, there were questions with different answers. But the saltiest of us knew how to play the odds: unless you're sure you have a better answer, you choose "D."
It's exam day. Hundreds of test-takers sit at separate tables in the silent chow hall, etching their futures in columns of ovals with #2 pencils. An MU ponders the possible answers to a question about non-harmonic tones; should he choose "cambiata," "appogiatura" or "accented passing tone"?
"I'm pretty sure the answer is "none of the above," he says to himself. "but I think it's a trick question." He picks "cambiata" because it sounds like a sports car.
This fellow just fallen prey to that dangerous mental aberration, "thinking." Instead of sticking with the tried and true "none of the above," Mr. Genius just thought his way out of a pay raise.
"Uh oh," whispers the MU seated at the next table, who is sweating through Honors and Ceremonies. "I never heard of a 'Minister Plenipotentiary with credentials of Consul General Extraordinaire.' I've already used the 'Four Ruffles and Flourishes" answer nine times. I think I'd better pick another."
There's that pesky "t-word" again; this MU won't be sewing on a new crow anytime soon.
The keys to success in the military have always been attitude, initiative and teamwork; it's action that counts. They don't give medals for thinking about charging machine gun nests.
At least, I don't think they do.
Saturday, May 26, 2007
1965: Bob Dylan walks onstage at the Newport Folk Festival with--horror--an electric guitar!
2007: Dennis Allard steps up to the microphone at the dinner/dance of the reunion of the Navy Musicians Association and utters the historic phrase, never before heard at an NMA function:
"Are you ready to rock 'n' roll?"
After the big band finished playing for the Saturday night dance, a courageous group of members put on their boogie shoes and played a set of rock tunes. After a only a few songs, this bold experiment had the dance floor filled. (I had to reassure my wife that what I was doing was dancing; she thought I was choking on a chicken-bone while doing jumping jacks.)
The Navy Musicians Association is attracting younger members. As our membership becomes more age-diverse, our musical tastes will broaden.
Personally, I love big band jazz. I grew up listening to my father's Count Basie records, and was astounded when the Navy gave me a full-time job in a big band rhythm section. There's still nothing I'd rather play than big band music.
I'm also aware that the style reached its peak of popularity almost seventy years ago.
So, don't let the addition of some rock 'n' roll to the NMA's entertainment roster get your crackerjacks all a-twist. Big band and concert band will always be the mainstays of the reunions. Those traditional ensembles provide performance opportunity for large numbers of members and provide fellowship as well as great music.
But "Proud Mary" can sit at the table with "Mood Indigo" and "Victory at Sea." There's plenty of music to go around.
Sunday, May 6, 2007
"As ambassadors to the public," he'd say, looking over the ranks of eager, soon-to-be military professionals, "how you look is just as important as how you sound."
These are not words young military musicians want to hear. A new, hard-charging MU would prefer to be noted for his double high c or the speed with which he can render the head to "Donna Lee," rather than his posture or his ability to roll a tight neckerchief.
The 2007 reunion of the Navy Musicians Association culminated in a Saturday-night dinner and banquet, preceded by a patriotic opener provided by a ceremonial detachment from the CINCLANT band. It had been 20 years since I witnessed a Navy band in action.
Looking spiffy for ceremonial gigs was never a major source of pleasure for me. I guess I was more of a "casual Friday, occasional haircut" kind of guy. The phrase "wears his uniform with unmistakable pride" did not often appear in my performance evaluations.
As I sat waiting for the CINCLANT band to enter the hall, I realized I'd be satisfied with a trio playing light jazz. Heck, a cocktail piano player doing a few choruses of "The Lady is a Tramp" would have satisfied me. Why, I wondered, did the NMA organizers decide we needed to hear a bunch of marches from a raggedy-ass bag band?
Then the CINCLANT band took their positions in the ballroom. These young people looked sharp. They filed onto the dance floor and formed ranks with the seriousness and dignity you'd expect from a ceremonial unit performing at the White House. Their crackerjacks weren't just white--they were white white, with knife-edge inverted creases that looked like they'd draw blood if you touched them.
When it came time for the first march, the band met the conductor's preparatory signals with a precise three-count manual of instruments that clearly had been rehearsed with the same diligence as the music that followed.
How did they sound? Judging from the tidal waves of applause after each number, I'd say no-one in that room had ever heard a finer military band. And the middle-aged man in the back of the room, hollering and oohrahing after each number; that guy was me.
I wonder if it had something to do with the way they looked.
Wednesday, May 2, 2007
I'll have lots more to say when I get home in a few days, specifically about the sea stories, the incredible music and, mostly, the joy of meeting up with first-time attendees.
But while I'm here, I thought I'd report on my to-do list.
1. The tale of Tex and the fake orders to the Navy Band did not get told. At NMA reunions, sea stories flow like hot lava from Mt. Vesuvius, and you can't squeeze them all in. Besides, Tex was busy telling sea stories about me. Ouch.
2. I did play piano solos in octaves. Very high octaves and very low octaves. This was not due to my smooth and fluid technique; the piano suffered the loss of a few keys in the middle octave, so it was necessary to solo in the extreme regions. Try to imagine a piccolo and contrabassoon playing "Night Train," each in their own comfortable ranges, and you'll understand how much my solos were appreciated.
3. Lee Hudson did not attend the reunion, so I didn't have to deal with that incompetent fool breathing my air. He probably found out I was coming and spent the week hiding out in a cheap motel in western Canada, speaking in a fake French accent and wearing Groucho glasses.
4. I did attend lots of Big Band rehearsals. And jam sessions in the lounge. And bull sessions at the bar. We still swing, baby.
5. I did play Freddie Green-style guitar with a big band. The Seven O'clock Band--named for the resiliency of players who are willing to start rehearsing Rob McConnell charts at 0700 after having soared with the eagles during the previous evening--didn't have a guitar player. Enter Frank Mullen. For the second year in a row, I didn't get thrown off the bandstand.
I'll be back with more when I get home in a few days. For now: fair winds and following seas.
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
- Rehash the story of Roy Mahoney and me convincing the School of Music admin officer to print up a phony set of orders for new warrant officer Tex Waldron. The CO then summoned Tex to his office, handed him the paperwork told him that, as one of the Navy's finest big band directors, he would soon be the leader of the Navy Band's Sea Chanters.
In later years, Tex claimed the news of this supposed reassignment left him "slightly disappointed." Funny, but I seem to remember peeking around a corner as he came storming out of the CO's office, forehead glowing like red-hot coals and blue smoke shooting out his ears.
I also recall his reaction to his eventual discovery that I was behind the trick. Every phrase he uttered began with an f-word, and I'm not talking about "funny," "forget about it" or "Frank, I dearly enjoy your clever little tricks.")
- Play "Night in Tunisia" at a jam session, so the crowd can thrill to my newly-developed technique of playing uptempo be-bop melodies in octaves. I've worked hard on this trick, employing smoke, mirrors and false fingerings to make you think I'm playing the melody in octaves. Well, at least you think I'm hitting some of the notes in octaves.
Actually, my wife says it's hard to think about anything while I'm doing this.
- Have fun regardless of whether Lee Hudson shows up. I refuse to let that blathering buffoon ruin my fun. Just because his odious presence made every day at Navy Band Newport a living hell is no reason to let him get in the way of a good time. Of course, that whining, tedious, dim-witted dolt wouldn't dare come to the reunion if he knows I'll be there. He'd be afraid of what I'd do to him.
- Attend lots of Big Band rehearsals. Last year was my first reunion, and I was surprised at just how good the bands are. It shouldn't be a surprise; in a lot of ways, we're better players now than when we were young. We've got at lot more experience under our belts. We've got a lot more everything under our belts.
- Play Freddie Green-style guitar with a big band. I'm bringing my Gibson E-335. MU2 Steve Dimond cleaned the grit out of the tone controls and put new strings on it in 1980, so it should be ready to go.
Friday, February 23, 2007
Now it gets you on American Idol.
At least it has for MU3 Phil Stacey. The 29-year-old member of Navy Band Southeast, Jacksonville, FL, has survived the first round on America's favorite talent show, according to an article in the Navy Times. You can watch Tuesday's performance by double-clicking on the arrow below.
Sure, the kid's good. But his performance doesn't generate the excitement that my Showband West rendition of "The Book of Love" used to create in highschool gymnasiums.
Unless I'm remembering it wrong.
Saturday, January 13, 2007
End of an Era
Frank Mullen III
The subject of my military service comes up occasionally over at Dora's Kwik-Kup. Only when it's relevant, of course.
You'll ask Dora for some sugar, she'll set it on the counter, and I'll slide my stool next to yours. "We enlisted men learned to do without sugar back during Vietnam," I'll say, thereby establishing relevance.
You'll probably miss the subtle but significant difference between the phrases "during Vietnam" and "in Vietnam." You'll likely ask, "Were you in the Army? The Marines?"
"Navy," I'll say, "and I could tell you some stories." Then, with a faraway look, I'll add, "But I don’t like to talk about it."
The fluid grace with which I have flashed my warrior credentials and then slipped them back in my vest pocket leaves you with the impression that the memories of my time in the service are painful.
They’re not painful; they're boring. I was a stateside Navy Musician during the 70s and 80s. What war stories do I have to offer?
"There I was, trapped in the middle of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade; trombones ahead of me, alto saxophones behind, the spectators pelting us with a hellish rain of cheers and ticker tape. Suddenly, the drum major raised two fingers, the signal for 'I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing.' I put my lips to the mouthpiece of the tuba . . ."
Please understand that I have never claimed the status of 'Vietnam War veteran.' That is a title of honor, reserved for those who were there.
But what about we who answered our nation's call closer to home: the drill instructor pushing his recruits to their limits on overnight march, the mess cooks working eighteen-hour-shifts to feed the departing troops, the musician moonlighting as banjo player with Danny Stroud's Dixieland Strutters during happy hour at the officer’s club five nights a week, cash under the table and drinks on the house--did we not also serve?
Indeed we did. Like them, I am a veteran, not of the Vietnam War, but of the Vietnam Era.
At least that's what I thought until last Tuesday night, when I was cleaning the basement and came across a box of my old medals and ribbons.
My Good Conduct award. They gave me three of them; that’s how good I was.
My Navy Achievement medal, one of the highest awards you can earn without being shot at.
An 'E' ribbon with a star, representing two awards. Empathy? Esperanto? I don't remember what I did to earn them, but I must have done it twice.
As I reflected on the history represented by these bits of tarnished tin and faded satin, a forgotten memory surfaced: the Navy never gave me my National Defense medal.
The National Defense Service Medal was the award that identified the wearer as a Vietnam Era veteran. It signified military service anywhere, at any time between 1961 and 1974. From Saigon to San Francisco, National Defense medals were like crew cuts, dog tags and hangovers: nobody bragged about them because everybody had one.
Everybody but me. Although I enlisted in 1974, neither the medal nor its ribbon version were never awarded to me. For years, I waited for the captain to call me to his office for a belated ceremony. And every morning, I showed up for uniform inspection without a single decoration on my chest.
My Leading Petty Officer, Doug Blovall, would look me over and growl, "Where's your National Defense ribbon?"
"I don't have one."
"Then go get one."
"Can I just go 'get' an award? Doesn’t it have to be, shall we say, 'awarded?'”
"I'm sick of your mouth, Mullen. Haul your butt over to the uniform shop and don't come back without a National Defense medal."
"And if they don't have them in stock, order one."
"I can 'order' a medal, like a taco or a Budweiser? In that case, I’ll take two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star, to go."
After four years of this gay repartee, I received my first Good Conduct award. At last I had a medal to make Blovall happy. He got off my case, and eventually I forgot that my Vietnam Era service was never officially recognized.
Recognized or not, I have always offered my military experience for the public good. In troubling times, the nation relies on its veterans to evaluate military strategy and tactics. Believe me, by the time I finish one of my morning briefings at the Quik-Kup, everyone knows what the generals are doing wrong.
Okay, so I wasn't a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. But I'm a Vietnam Era veteran and, boy, I could tell you some stories.
After dusting off my medals and reminiscing about my Navy days, I decided it was time to find out about the decoration I never received. I visited the Navy’s website, clicked on "medals and ribbons" and learned an astounding fact: the phrases "National Defense" and "Frank Mullen" cannot be used in the same sentence.
The mass giveaway of the National Defense Service Medal ended, along with the Vietnam Era, on August 14, 1974. I, however, didn’t enlist until the following November.
By this reckoning, I wasn't in the Navy during what we loosely refer to as "Vietnam"; I was in what we loosely refer to as "college." Apparently, they didn't give medals to guys who spent the war riding stolen cafeteria trays down the hill in the snow behind the science building while waving jugs of Gallo and screaming, “I'm druuuunk!”
For days after this revelation, I didn't dare show my face at the Kwik-Kup. I felt like I was walking around in a tee-shirt that says, “What if they ended a war, and then Frank showed up--would he notice?”
But I've stopped punishing myself. The nation's need for my service outweighs any feelings of doubt. If you think I'm going to back off from offering my expertise, let me tell you this, loud and clear:
We Grenada Era veterans aren't quitters.
You don’t remember the Grenada Invasion? 1983? Maybe the campaign in that Caribbean hell-hole didn't drag out as long as Vietnam, but it was a weekend I'll never forget.
Did I see action? Not with the first assault wave–I was needed elsewhere. And believe me, I could tell you some stories.
But I don't like to talk about it.
Copyright 2003 Frank Mullen III
"End of an Era" was originally published by Suite101.com