Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year, Shipmates

I'm thinking about the salts who stepped off before me, the sailors with whom I marched, and the Navy men and women who still follow the cadence of service and tradition.

May the parade never end.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Christmas Greetings from the CINCLANT Band, 1973

It was a quarter well-spent at a used records sale: "A Special Holiday Greeting From Danny Thomas and Your Local Navy Recruiter."

The 33RPM album is from 1973, full of Christmas music by the Naval Academy Band, various contingents of the U.S. Navy Band and the Bluejacket's Choir from Great Lakes.

One fleet band is represented: the Atlantic Fleet Band, Norfolk, Virginia, playing "Sleigh Ride." 

Here it is, in its monophonic glory. 

Does anyone remember recording this? Who's playing? Who's conducting?  

(Pick a media player that works in your browser.)

Sunday, December 6, 2009

December greetings to my MU family

Today is my birthday. I am sixty-one years old, pondering my place in a world that managed without me fairly well before my arrival in 1948, and will one day carry on again without my gifted leadership.

I'm also thinking about brotherhood, fellowship and camaraderie.

These are the results of more than sharing good times and beer. If beer were all that true brotherhood required, my lifelong friends would have been the grim, watery-eyed old men I met in Broadway Charlie's in 1974. Out of work in New York, I walked into a dive, spotted an upright piano, sat down and started to play. That night I was the Toast of Manhattan, playing "Toora. Loora, Loora" and "The Wiffenpoof Song" as I soaked up free beer and lofty compliments from my new best friends.

The next morning I was hung over, still broke, still alone and unemployed. After repeating this cycle for a few months, I signed some papers, took an oath and flew to Great Lakes.

The Navy was not all fun and good times. It was work, just like it was for the hull technicians and aviation metalsmiths, except our tools were tubas and clarinets instead of wrenches and blowtorches.

But, as the recruiting posters promised, it was more than a job. The Navy gave me camaraderie and purpose I've never felt in civilian life. Every gig, whether dining-in, ship arrival, change-of-command ceremony or high school concert, served to fulfill the Navy's needs. This was easy to forget, particularly when an inebriated, 23-year-old ensign who had been a humble officer candidate in the morning tried to run my band at the OCS Graduation Ball that night. But I knew I was serving in something important, something bigger than me.

I left the service unexpectedly and abruptly. I harbored some ill-will and tried to forget my former Navy identity. For a number of years I lived within a few hours of Virginia Beach, yet refused to contact old shipmates. Year after year, Terry Chesson, my old bandmaster, would call me and tell me about the Navy Musicians Association, about the fellowship and acceptance he found in that organization. Year, after year, I'd tentatively promise to tentatively give some thought to possibly thinking about possibly joining someday, maybe.

Finally, I caved and signed up. This was one of the best decisions of my life.

As a member of the NMA, my circle of shipmates is wider than ever. I belong to a worldwide fellowship of former and present MUs, some of whom are old friends, some of whom I never met while on active duty, some of whom I still haven't met in person.

Old gripes don't matter anymore. New gripes are rare and, because of a maturity that has come only with the passing years, trifling.

An NMA shipmate, Jack Rodway, and I got into a skirmish early this year. It was a simple matter of political differences, but little things can become magnified these days when it's easy to make the Internet Mistake: E-mail first, think later.

I, of course was the righteous party in the argument. I, after all, am compassionate, committed and concerned. After one of our members, Jim Thumpston, died last December, it was I who was in contact with his daughters in Virginia Beach, consoling them and inviting them to stop by our reunion to see their dad's old sea-buddies.

It was also I who was walking through the parking lot at the reunion in June when Jack Rodway beckoned to me from the lobby. I walked inside, and Jack introduced me to Jim Thumpston's daughters, with whom he, like me, had been in contact for months, consoling them and inviting them to stop by our reunion to see their dad's old sea-buddies.

That which unites shipmates is far greater than any differences. Remember when you were on the beach and a bozo from the deck division was trying to pick a fight? It was a trumpet player from your band who jumped in and bailed you out, the same guy you'd been ready to punch during rehearsal that morning.

My December 6 birthday has always made me aware of the solemnity of the following day. Never do I feel the deep brotherhood of Navy musicians more than when I think of the bandsmen who were serving in Pearl Harbor on that day in 1941 that still lives in infamy. The members of USS Arizona's Band 22, all of whom died at their battle stations, are now more than history to me; they are my family, as are the MUs who were on other ships at Pearl, as are you, my shipmates, and all who have worn the lyre.

If you are a former or present U.S. Navy musician who is still thinking about joining the Navy Musicians Association, I urge you to sign up. A new year is approaching, and the San Antonio reunion is only six months away. You'll find information on joining the NMA here.

There's no requirement that you put it off for years; why wait decades to find out that maybe, just maybe, your old chief isn't such an S.O.B. after all?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Video Tribute to Frank Forgione

Frank Forgione was not only the "father of the U.S. Navy Showband"--he was the father of a devoted son who has created a video tribute to his father.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Credit where credit is due

I got my first credit card in the mid-80s and was immediately surprised by how little security is involved in the typical transaction. You whip out your card, scan it, sign it and walk away from the counter with your six-pack of Bud or gallon of paint. Maybe a clerk asks you for I.D. Maybe she compares your signature with that on your driver's license.

Those are big maybes. Usually, the clerk is busy chatting with her friend at the next register or silently counting the minutes until his shift ends. Osama bin Laden could present a credit card stolen from Bernie Madoff, sign it "Adolf Hitler" and the clerk would hand him his bag of Fritos and say, "Have a nice day."

It was in protest against such sloppy security that in the mid-1980s I started signing credit card receipts with the name of my old shipmate from San Francisco and Newport, Fred Muzer. Not once in the quarter of a century during which I've been doing this has a 7-11 clerk, airline ticket agent or musical instrument dealer (I once bought a $4,000 upright piano in Fred's name) noticed that the only thing my signature has in common with my name is the initials.   

I keep meaning to let my old friend know that I've been on a charge-it-to-Fred shopping spree since 1986. Fred, I know you read this blog now and then, so if you ever get some inexplicable charges on your monthly credit card statements from stores in the Midwest (I'm writing this on a powerful and pricey Mac that "Fred Muzer" bought from a dealer in Fort Wayne, Indiana) don't panic. It's just me and my one-man crusade to improve credit card security. 

Sorry to drag you into this.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Veteran's Day card for all of us.

I'll be a few minutes late for work, but I want to share this with you.

I was on my way out the door, feeling bad that I haven't put up a Veteran's Day post here. All over the web you can find stirring speeches, videos and songs in support of America' veterans past and present. That's the problem--there's too much on the menu.

I noticed the mail had arrived, and amongn the flyers for Veteran's Day sales at the local bigbox stores was a letter from the Browns, my neighbors across the street.

Inside was a card signed by the parents, sons and grandchild, my good neighbors I see every day. The  card says, "All across our country, our flag still waves, its heart and sould stronger than ever. And beneath its proud colors, America stands together--because of you."

It's nice, sure, when someone goes out of their way to thank you like that. But in this case, there's an added bit of emotion that's tangling me up right now: three of the four sons in this family are members of the Illinois National Guard. Young soldiers who are volunteering to do their part in serving our country, keeping us safe and, I hope, helping maintain our important image as a great nation--these kids are thanking me.

As I think about my father and grandfather, both naval officers who served during our worlds greatest wars, I start to understand. It's important to thank all who have marched before us.

So I'm sharing this card with all of you, shipmates. If those in uniform wish to thank us. let's accept those thanks with humility and gratitude that traditions endure.

Sorry for any misspellings--I'm late for work.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The one that got away

Here beats the heart of the American fighting man. This is the shy guy who will give his all and then some, just for the opportunity to serve.

Sure, he's a little rough around the edges, green, in need of some squaring away. But underneath, he's the man you want standing next to you in your unit, in your band.

My goodness, I'll never understand why CRUITCOM turned him down.

Warning: Strong language follows. Viewer discretion is advised for French horn players, flautists and others of delicate sensibility.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

How to leave comments

In my ongoing quest to make Navy Lyres accessible to OMCs (Old Men with Computers), I've addressed the frustrating task of leaving comments to blog posts in the accompanying video.
It's a four-step process:
  1. sign,

  2. write comment,

  3. copy security obble-gobble code and

  4. publish.
You can do the first three in any order but, of course, pressing the "publish" button must be last.


    You have stood on the decks of ships in howling winds playing Fillmore marches during UNREPS. You have performed rock 'n' roll in high school auditoriums at 0800 while everyone in the room was still asleep, including the principal, the senior class and the horn section. You have stood tall as foreign crowds screamed their anger at the United States and stood humbly when they roared their approval.

    You can post a stinking comment at a dipstick blog.

    Friday, October 23, 2009

    Uncle Boris Wants You

    As a musician, you'll serve as a musical ambassador for your country. Generous salaries and allowances provided.

    It's not just a job: it's the Russian Navy.

    Sunday, October 11, 2009

    Navy Birthday- 13OCT2009

    Warning: This 60-second clip has been known to awaken dormant feelings of pride in viewers who have served in the United States Navy. Side effects may include leaping to one's feet, snapping to attention and shouting "Oo-rah!"

    Tuesday, October 6, 2009

    Leamond "Noonie" Wilson

    NMA President Terry Chesson called me a few hours ago with sad news: Noonie Wilson died this morning.

    As the School of Music's Senior Instructor, Noonie oversaw the training of hundreds, maybe thousands, of Navy, Marine Corps and Army musicians. He described his job as that of the school's "Principal." Students who were summoned for counseling in his office--a Navy-issue desk, locker and grease-board roster of instructors hidden behind a row of grey file cabinets--would agree with that assessment.

    Whether handing out a Mandatory Practice slip to a lazy drummer or an "attaboy" to a trumpeter who had finally squared himself away, Noonie treated each student with respect; good news or bad, you walked out of the Training Office knowing you'd been treated fairly.

    I know this because, as an instrumental instructor, I frequently took students to see the Senior Instructor. And years later, while struggling through the Advanced Course, I was the student who got the call to report to Master Chief Wilson.  

    - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

    Funeral arrangements are being handled by Altmeyer Funeral Homes. Deb Holl tells me the viewing is 6-8 PM, Thursday, 8OCT, and funeral services the following morning, 11 AM, Friday, 9OCT.

    The funeral home's website will soon provide the opportunity to leave online condolences.

    Thursday, October 1, 2009

    The race may be to the swift . . .

    As you can see from this short clip, Four Star Edition, a contingent of the U.S. Fleet Forces Band, is an energetic group. These young professionals know how to rock and roll.

    But--and I ask this with all humility--do they have what it takes to go the distance? Are they sprinters who exhaust their energy after the first lap, or are they marathon runners who pick up their second wind late in the race?

    Just wondering.

    Thursday, September 17, 2009

    A new breed of CPOs

    Around the fleet this week, thousands of former first class petty officers have put away their crackerjacks and are wearing new sets of khakis.

    Since I was in the Navy, the chief petty officer's initiation has been modified, the weeks of harassment replaced by a period of instruction. Chief-selectees study leadership, do bookwork and deliver reports.

    It's a drastic change from what I went through. Frankly, though, I would have been better off if my CPO training had involved more study of leadership and less memorizing of dirty poems.

    Six months after I put on my anchors, I couldn't convince a seaman to clean a urinal without getting into a shouting match, but I could recite all 16 verses of "Sandpaper Sal, the Signalman's Pal."

    Monday, September 14, 2009

    Concerning Discretion

    Occasionally, I delete readers' comments to posts at Navy Lyres.

    It's a matter of discretion. Salty language is one thing; trotting out vulgar nicknames of old bandleaders is another. Telling sea stories is a cherished tradition; publicizing long-ago events that should remain private is a tasteless offense.

    While Navy Lyres is independent from the Navy Musicians Association, I consider this site a goodwill gesture toward and recruiting tool for that organization I love. At this year's reunion I met three new members who told me they found out about the NMA through Navy Lyres. What do you suppose the chances of their joining would have been if they'd visited this site and read nasty comments about themselves or their shipmates?

    If you seek a community of like-minded character assassins with whom to share your resentments and disdain for authority you'll have to find another forum. Barrooms, transient barracks and Tea Parties come to mind.

    Simply put, freedom of speech does not exist at Navy Lyres. That first amendment freedom, in whose defense we have served, prohibits congress from passing laws that limit expression. Nowhere does it say that Frank Mullen cannot prevent readers of Navy Lyres from listing the character defects of their old chiefs.

    Someone has to decide what is or isn't appropriate at Navy Lyres, and I'm the Decider.

    Wednesday, August 26, 2009

    Come home, Phil

    Dear Mr. Stacey,

    I've just watched the video of your performance at the Mall of America. Is this the career trajectory you were envisioning when you won a few rounds on American Idol and decided to leave Navy music?

    I'm just guessing, but this video makes a solo mall gig look like less fun than a mall gig with a Navy band. This is hard to imagine; Navy mall gigs are so close to the bottom of the Fun Ladder that it's hard to contemplate the existence of an even lower rung.

    Phil, if you want to play in malls, have you forgotten that we MUs invented playing in malls?

    We've never loved doing it, but it's part of the job, and we do it as a team. I guess it's about teamwork. Misery shared is misery lessened. Hell is a lot more endurable when you have shipmates roasting alongside you on the eternal rotisserie.

    Come home to the Navy, Phil. You'll never again have to stand alone on an empty stage singing to karaoke accompaniment while the red-faced assistant manager of the Gap is shaking his fist because you're blocking access to his store.

    Not that those indignities will disappear if you come back to the Navy. They won't. On your first mall gig, the head clerk of Sharper Image will start pounding on the edge of the stage, screamingthat the music is too loud and he's losing customers to Best Buy.

    But you won't suffer alone. You'll do it with your shipmates. Come home, Phil. When it comes to mall gigs, Navy bands are the pros.

    In fact, to a lot of people we're the real American Idols.


    The MUs

    Sunday, August 16, 2009

    Jumping off the Tower of Power

    For years, Tower of Power trumpeter Mike Bogart has had only good things to say about Navy music; after all, he was an MU for a decade.

    During the 11 years since Mike has been out of the Navy, his career has been a trumpeter's dream; he played with the Maynard Ferguson band before taking his current position with Tower of Power.

    Mike's career will take another turn next week in San Diego. He'll walk on stage for his last performance as Mike Bogart, Tower of Power trumpeter, and walk off as MU1 Mike Bogart, USN.

    During the show, Lt. Mark Corbliss, Officer in Charge of Navy Band Southwest, will administer the oath of enlistment. Petty Officer Bogart will soon report to Annapolis for duty with The Electric Brigade. 

    Clearly, for a musician of Mike Bogart's caliber, there's nowhere to go but up.
    Full story with photos at San Diego's official Navy newspaper, Navy Compass.

    Sunday, August 9, 2009

    Manny Cepeda in International Musician

    The August issue of the International Musician features a profile of former Navy musician, MUCM Manny Cepeda.

    The IM is no fan mag; it's the official journal of the American Federation of Musicians. When you get featured here, you're doing things right.

    Manny, the article points out, is busy as a San Diego composer, performer and educator and band leader. This, of course, is nothing new. During his 31 years of service, Manny led the Steel Band and the U.S. Navy Show Band.

    Here's a short clip of Manny Cepeda (in the white hat) performing at Harrah's.

    Monday, July 27, 2009

    We got pix

    The collection of photos of the Navy Musicians Association reunion grows. Thanks to Max Murray for the lastest batch.

    Links to photos and videos are over on the right. Check 'em out, send me the URL for your collection and I'll include them.

    Coming soon: NMA big band videos.

    Saturday, July 25, 2009

    Searching for long-lost Navy musicians

    Searching for an old shipmate, friend or relative who played in a Navy band?

    Congratulations: you've come to the wrong place.

    Just kidding. I love hearing from people who are looking for information about long-lost Navy musicians. Unfortunately, I usually don't know the whereabouts of your long-lost pal Clem, the CRUDESPACRONAIRLANT piccolo player during the War of 1812. It's a big world out there.

    But that doesn't mean I can't help. Here are a few Internet sources to get you started

    The membership roster lists hundreds of names and email addresses of former and present Navy musicians who belong to the NMA.

    The message board allows visitors to post information about their search for Navy bandsman. The page gives instructions on contacting the webmaster.

    This social networking site grows more valuable each day. Individual MUs have their own pages. Specialty groups abound: Former U.S. Navy Musicians, Military Musicians, and individual band pages (for example,  U.S. Navy Band San Francisco and Sixth Fleet Navy Band Alumni).

    Can't find a helpful group? Start your own group.
    Other social networking sites and specialty sites may be of help (MySpace and come to mind). Many sites are of limited value. Online ship rosters, for instance, are notoriously incomplete, generally incluing only those names submitted by former crewmembers themselves.
    Still, you never know.
    Happy hunting for your bunkmate on Old Ironsides. If you find a valuable source, let me know, and I'll include it here.

    Monday, July 13, 2009

    2009 NMA Reunion Sights and Sounds

    Thanks to all who took photos and shot video clips of the NMA reunion last month. They are a valuable reminder of the fraternity, camaraderie and music we MUs share.

    Send me links to your online work--videos at YouTube, photos at FlickR, wherever your stuff is hosted--and I'll post the links here at NavyLyres.

    For easy access, I'm putting all links in the sidebar to the right. Enjoy!

    Friday, July 10, 2009

    Coming attractions

    I'll be away for a few days at the University of Iowa Summer Writing Festival. You don't think I come up with all this great stuff by myself, do you?

    In the interim, to whet your appetite for Great Posts of the Future, I offer you this list of Coming Attractions:

    • Internet tips for finding old shipmates from bygone bands.
    • Internet tips on hiding from old friends who are trying to find you.
    • How I set the record for the shortest tour at the U.S. Navy Band.
    • Now it can be told: The Steve Dimond Farewell Invitation Golf Tournament, 1984.
    • "Pier Pressure": The Navy's first Fast Attack Combo.
    • The Sins of Lee Hudson. Chapter One, Personality Defects.
    Fair winds until next week, shipmates.

    Let's show some respect here

    Published July 9, 2009
    Rock Island Argus & Moline Dispatch
    Copyright 2009 Frank Mullen III

    Waiting for the plane to take off from the Detroit airport, I found myself sitting among a flock of teenagers sporting iPods, nose rings, tattoos and a catalog of hairstyles that ranged from dreadlocks to green spikelets. A redheaded kid in the seat in front of me—I could only see his head—even sported a retro, 1950s crew cut.

    This was the last leg of my trip from Illinois to Norfolk, Virginia, for a reunion of the Navy Musicians Association. Former members and leaders of U.S. Navy bands, we gather once a year to play the old songs and tell the old stories. We speak of the Navy musicians who died at Pearl Harbor, listen to the tales of bandsmen who served in Vietnam and remember the work involved in entertaining troops on land and at sea, at play and at war. Naturally, our old-man talk sometimes drifts to the current culture in which age and wisdom no longer merit respect, and notoriety, youth and individuality are valued.

    Thinking of this, I began to smolder at these children seated around me to whom “sacrifice” is a word on spelling tests and “duty” is something you pay when going through customs. I fumed at a society that tolerates, even celebrates the whims of these kiddies, like the girl next to me who was, it appeared, traveling in her pajamas, and the rebel in front of me with his dopey crew cut. Burying my face in the in-flight magazine, I clenched my teeth in indignation.

    “Sir,” said a woman’s voice, and I looked up to see a flight attendant standing in the aisle a few rows ahead of me. Trapped behind a passenger who was stowing his luggage overhead, she leaned in my direction and said, “The captain sends his compliments.”

    O sweet, cosmic justice. My age and bearing had identified me as a former military man, a valued citizen worthy of special recognition in this flying daycare center.

    “We have an empty seat in the first class cabin,” the attendant said, sweeping her arm toward the curtained area ahead. My maturity was about to earn me V.I.P. treatment. Although the attendant wasn’t close enough to look me in the eye, the respect in her voice was clear. “The captain has instructed me to offer you a free upgrade to first class.”

    Trying not to gloat, I reached to unfasten my seatbelt, ready to rise and accept this richly-deserved gift. As I fumbled with the buckle, the kid in front of me—the redheaded bozo with the crew cut—said, “Thank you,” and started to rise.

    What a presumptuous little brat, I thought, this twerp who would try to claim my respect, to usurp my position. What sort of low-class airline was this, anyway?

    The kid stood up and stepped into the aisle. The white of his bellbottom trousers and jumper was blinding, his neckerchief rolled, pressed and knotted to training-manual perfection. Dixie cup hat in hand, the young sailor followed the flight attendant up the aisle, through a sea of watchful youngsters who briefly interrupted their text messaging to offer smiles.

    If this were one of those e-mail stories that clog inboxes around patriotic holidays, the passengers would have stood up, applauded and sang “God Bless America.” The truth was much more impressive: an airline’s employees quietly recognized someone who merited special favor, a sailor graciously accepted a courtesy, and—most significantly--nobody found the incident particularly remarkable.

    Except a certain passenger who has a habit of judging entire generations and institutions a little too quickly.

    Thursday, July 9, 2009

    Credit where credit is due

    I've just been in Facebook contact with the guy responsible for me becoming a Navy musician.

    David Lewis and I were freshman together at Ithaca College, 1966-67. These were not years of widespread academic stability and accomplishment. We formed a guitar/bass duo and played "Eve of Destruction" and "Nashville Cats" for beer in the campus pub. Dave eventually joined the Navy and I transferred to another school. I ran into him in New York City in the late '60s; he had a job playing the French horn in the New London Navy Band, spare time in the city, money in his pocket and not too many complaints beyond haircuts.

    By 1974, I had become a college graduate with a worthless degree in Theater, a half-baked pianist and three-chord guitarist, substitute teaching English as a Foreign Language in Washington, D.C., a job for which my qualifications were the fact that I spoke English and my students didn't, a job I performed with the flair of a longshoreman, a job that combined the joy of root canal work with the job security of a pimp's assistant valet.

    One day, while trying to decide whether to spend the afternoon slitting my wrists or jumping off the 14th Street Bridge, I remembered my old classmate who had played in a Navy band. Not knowing the difference between a Navy band and The Navy Band, I set up an audition at the Navy Yard, an event that I will describe in glorious detail one day soon. (Chapter One: On the way to his audition, not having touched a piano in three years, Frank stops in a church, sits down at a broken, wheezing pump organ and runs through "A Foggy Day in London Town" to get warmed up.)

    The upshot of it all was a number of years in Navy music for which David Lewis is somewhat responsible. Now that I've found him, I'm not sure whether to send him a thank-you letter or spam him with hate mail.

    Tuesday, July 7, 2009

    I hate even thinking about this

    "Navy for Moms," a website that pretty much lives up to its name, has a subgroup called Moms of Navy Musicians at which the mothers of MUs log in to keep each other up to date on the doings of their darling little petty officers.

    I am not joking. MUs email their Moms about their latest liberty exploits, and the mothers discuss it online.

    I thank the Almighty that this technology didn't exist when I was in the Navy.

    - - - - - - - -
    Frank's Mom: Hi, MU Mama! Did your David survive Friday night at Rocks and Shoals with Frank?

    MU Mama: Yes. Little Davey says our two sailor boys poured Bud down their throats until they were so hammered they puked in their Corfram shoes and got thrown out for sticking IOU's in the stripper's thong.

    Frank's Mom: Was it Satana or Jezebel?

    MU Mama: Satana, I think, the one with the big you-know-whats.

    Frank's Mom: Makes you proud, doesn't it?

    Monday, July 6, 2009

    Anchors Aweigh

    We jam. We laugh. For four days we share stories of bad gigs, fair winds and good grandchildren.

    But the highlight of a Navy Musicians Association reunion comes on Saturday night: a Navy band files into the ballroom, the conductor gives the downbeat and a hundred or more former MUs rise and snap to attention at the playing of the song that, with every passing year, means a little more to us.

    U.S. Fleet Forces Band, 27JUN09, LCDR Kevin Bissell conducting.

    Sunday, July 5, 2009

    "America" has never been more beautiful

    On Saturday, June 27, LCDR Kevin Bissell conducted the U.S. Fleet Forces Band at the closing dinner/dance of the Navy Musician Association's 2009 reunion.

    The band played Mr. Bissell's selection of American and British marches with the precision, balance and artistry we former Navy musicians have come to expect from today's young, professional MUs. We expect it, yet it always catches us by surprise.

    For me, that catch-in-the-throat moment came when Mr. Bissel cued a drum roll and the opening strains of the Carmen Dragon arrangement of "America, the Beautiful" filled the ballroom. This piece holds memories for many of us, and to hear it played with such fullness and resonance, not by a concert band or wind ensemble, but by a stand-up, fleet ceremonial band--a "bag band"--was, and is, inspiring.

    It's a talented and vigorous generation of MUs that has stepped into our shoes.

    Friday, July 3, 2009

    End of the cruise

    You spend weeks, months, riding ships and buses, playing two, three shows a day with the same bunch of guys, sleeping next to them, eating with them, cursing them, smelling them, fighting with them. Some shows bring crowds of thousands to their feet; others barely attract the attention of a couple of streetwalkers and a guy with a push-broom.

    You think the punishment will never end, but eventually you get back home, run down the gangplank and take off on a hard-earned 48-hour liberty. Freed from close confinement with the idiot brigade, you hit the beach, reveling in your freedom until the town closes down and you go home to hit the rack.

    You wake up late the next morning, stretch, take a deep breath and it hits you: fifteen other guys aren't stinking up the room with body odor, onion rings and lousy jokes. You roll out of the rack and there's nobody there to try to mooch money off you. You shuffle into the head and don't have to wait on line. You stand there in your skivvies, staring at the wall, and you say to yourself:

    "Now what?"

    Thursday, July 2, 2009

    Kids among goats

    During the Saturday night dinner/dance, some bold members of the Fleet Forces band summoned up the courage to join us on the bandstand. First, a young MU took a spot in the trombone section, next a drummer climbed aboard and pretty soon half the NMA Big Band was sporting flashy crackerjacks and youthful enthusiam.

    " emphasize the importance of music in the Navy"

    ADM Jonathan W. Greenert wanted a ticket to the Saturday Night Dinner/Dance of the 2009 reunion of the Navy Musicians Association.

    The admiral got his way, perhaps because we were playing in his backyard; he's the Commander of U.S. Fleet Forces Command, formerly known as the United States Atlantic Fleet.

    Admiral Greenert sees the Fleet Forces Ceremonial Band regularly; it is, after all, his band. Yet, I doubt he has ever seen  the band greeted with greater appreciation than that shown by the Navy Musicians Association on Saturday night. The applause began as the first piccolo player entered the ballroom, grew to a roar as bandsmen followed in single file, and by the time the last tuba player came through the door, the ballroom was awash in a tidal wave of appreciation. It is not often that a Navy band earns a standing ovation before playing. 

    In a few weeks, ADM Greenert will move to the position of Vice Chief of Naval Operations, a job in which he will deal with the perennial proposals to cut bands and reduce their funding. I can't help thinking that when such paperwork comes across his desk, he'll remember the Fleet Forces Band's stirring rendition of "Army of the Nile" and the wild applause that followed the closing chord.

    The mission of the Navy Musicians Association is, in part, "to emphasize the importance of music in the Navy." I'd say that by showing Admiral Greenert our appreciation of the professionalism and artistry of the Fleet Forces Band, we completed our mission.

    Although we'll never know, perhaps our efforts will, in some small way, help prod ADM Greenert to increase music program funding. Who knows; maybe he'll even get the NMA some new stand lights and an electric piano with a functional middle "c."

    Hey, I'm thinking big.

    Wednesday, July 1, 2009

    Got videos?

    The lounge and rehearsal spaces of the Holiday Inn were visited by quite a few MUs with video cameras last week.

    We want to see them. Especially videos.

    (Sure, we like photos, too. Go ahead, send me the URL to your online albums, and I'll link to it).

    But We Want Videos. Got a video from the NMA reunion on YouTube or similar video host? Send me the URL.

    Max Murray, for instance, sent me the embedded link to a YouTube clip of me demonstrating the one-chord guitar technique that got me where I am today, As a self-sacrificial Jesus-like exemplar of humility, I've linked to it a few posts below, so you can see the awesome results you'll get if you send me your video links.

    Put 'em up on any video hosting site--YouTube is a favorite--and tell me where they are. It's that simple.

    Like playing the guitar.

    Tuesday, June 30, 2009

    After the Ball is Over

    The band has taken the coda and played the stinger. Ambrose O'Donnell and a few NMA stalwarts are unplugging stand lights and packing up fronts. Although a few MUs are still in the lounge telling tales, the reunion is over.

    Executive Vice-president Bob Leketa has flopped himself onto a bench in the surprisingly cool night air in front of the restaurant. "This is my favorite part of the reunion," he says.

    By the time you and I show up with our horn cases, ready for a four-day squall of NMA music and camaraderie, Bob has been working for an entire typhoon season. During the reunion he is always three places at once, meeting with the board of directors, the hotel management and staff, putting out fires before anyone notices the smoke.

    So we'll pardon Bob if he looks a little sleepy as things wind down. Besides, we want him rested up; the work for next year's reunion begins approximately tomorrow.

    What happens on the road . . .

    . . . gets plastered all over YouTube.

    Monday, June 29, 2009

    Pity the woman

    I'm getting on a plane in a few hours, leaving Virginia beach and going home to my wife.

    I pity her.

    She put up with two weeks of listening to my incessant blathering about the NMA, the reunion, who was coming, who wasn't. No matter what she tried to change the subject, it was All Reunion, All the Time.

    Jo: Did you put the recycling out? Tomorrows's pickup day.
    Me: I wonder if John Hanson will be there.
    Jo: I'm thinking about getting a new mattress.
    Me: I heard Ed Henson might come; I haven't seen him since San Francisco.
    Jo: A gorilla climbed on the roof last night and did the lambada with Chief Justice Roberts.
    Me: Max Murray says he's coming for sure.

    I don't know if she realizes it, but now she'll get another two weeks of this, worse weeks because I have so much more information to work with.

    What did she do to deserve this?

    Sorry, Ambrose

    Deb Holl emailed me that in an earlier post, I misnamed the NMA's Equipment Manager as Ambrose Clark.

    Ambrose O'Donnell manages our gear and works behind the scenes to get things where they need to be. Ambrose Clark was the industrial arts instructor at North Shore High School in 1966.

    I've corrected the error. But I'm worried about the future of someone who can forget the name of a guy  he just spent a week with, yet remember the name of his old shop teacher.

    Sunday, June 28, 2009

    Evening Colors

    Look it up


    1: A poisonous Eurasian woody vine (Solanum dulcamara).

    2: Being at once bitter and sweet; pleasant but including or marked by elements of suffering or regret.

    3: Staying in a hotel an extra day after the Navy Musicians Association reunion has ended.

    What's in a name?

    They used to call it the CINCLANT band.

    A while back its name was changed to the Fleet Forces band.

    Last night we called it the best damn band we'd ever heard.


    Ah, youth

    The young MUs from the Fleet Forces band did their best to keep up with us on the bandstand . . .

    . . . and on the dance floor.

    Listen up, you ingrates

    My email box is jammed with your petty complaints.

    Why aren't you posting more pictures? Whi-i-ine.

    You said you would post more today. Sni-i-ivel.

    But you pro-o-omised!

    I've been working my ass off for you since Monday. For you. Not me. You.

    For days I've been rehearsing, performing, chasing down bass players, borrowing gear, wecloming newcomers and--AND--blogging into the wee hours to bring highlights of the reunion to you lazy ingrates who stayed home to sit on your fat butts pointing your remote controllers at your big-frigging-screen televisions.

    I did it for you. Not me. You.

    Last night I closed down the bar, saying goodbye to the scores of my shipmates who have been working like active duty dogs to make this reunion a huge success. I was up until 0230, downloading files so I can continue to fill this site with photos and vivid prose.

    For you. Not me. You.

    I finally slept past 0500 this morning, halfway caught up on a week's worth of sleep, and turned on the computer. And what did I find?

    Bitch. Moan. Whine. ComplainGrouseHarpSnivelSnivelSnivel.

    Do you think this makes me want to ever again go through the hassle of taking pictures, interviewing, writing, editing and posting highlights of these reunions for the benefit of selfish SOBs like you--not me, you?

    The answer is, emphatically, yes.

    Thanks for writing. I really appreciate it. Yesterday, Navy Lyres received 83 visits from you, my shipmates, who couldn't get here in person. I hope I've helped to make you feel, at least a little bit, a part of the action. A lot of the talk during the week was about who's been in touch with you, what's going on in your lives and our hopes that we'll see you next year in San Antonio.

    I have a backlog of stories to tell, photos to upload and things to say. It'll take some time. Truly, I'm wiped out, still at the hotel for one more night, recuperating, napping, searching out the java that has become so elusive now that the coffee mess is shut down.

    Keep coming back. I promise to have more for you. Not me. You.

    You bunch of self-centered skaters.

    Saturday, June 27, 2009


    Taps. Taps. Lights out. All hands return to their racks and maintain silence about the decks.



    I am double-exhausted, triple-tired and still having a ball.

    The dinner/dance has just ended, an affair that will long be remembered for the stirring performances by LCDR Kevin Bissell's Fleet Forces Band and a dance band of old MUs in suspenders sitting next to active duty MUs in crackerjacks.

    Now, after a four memorable 25-hour days, it all winds down. Ambrose Clark and a staltwart crew of volunteers are tearing down the bandstand. Folks who won't see each other tomorrow are saying their farewells in the lobby.

    We've taken the D.S and are heading towards the coda.

    Tomorrow I'll start posting pictures. I'd do it know, but the reunion isn't really over; people are filing into the lounge for hugs, farewell toasts and perhaps a last chorus of "A Train."

    The Thumpston legacy

    Because MUCM Jim Thumpston, longtime Head of Advanced Courses at the School of Music, is gone now, it was a welcome surprise when his daughters, Laura Ann Thumpston and Charlotte Gomez, stopped by the hotel. Clearly, Jim passed on to his children his high standards of performance and low tolerance for those who fail to follow clear instructions.

    Here, Laura Ann and Charlotte chastise me for a harmony assignment I submitted to Master Chief Thumpston in 1978, in which, through a lapse in judgment, I included consecutive fifths, which occur when two voices separated by the interval of a fifth, simple or compound, move in similar motion to another fifth, simple or compound, and one of them is not a perfect fifth, and is acceptable only between inner voices or an outer and inner voice.

    In my current state of repentance, I am grateful that my error was not that of paralleI fifths, a sin far more severe and certain to cause an even higher level of Thumpstonion ire.

    NMA general membership meeting -- election of officers

    Because I've known NMA President Terry Chesson since 1977, we talk on the phone during year between reunions. We discuss the old days in Newport, shipmates, children, the lunacies committed by whatever U.S. president happens to be in office.

    When our talks turn, as they will, to the Navy Musicians Association, I am always reminded of how much work our officers put in to making the NMA work. They meet during the year, run up phone bills and spent countless hours so that we may have a few days of camaraderie and music every year

    Despite this, all members of the NMA Board of Directors have agreed to serve another term. The nomination to reelect the entire slate of officers was made and seconded.

    The "aye" vote was resounding, there were no "noes.

    Our officers were reelected by a unanimous vote. In consideration of their willingness to continue to serve, we now subject them to another few years of ceaseless complaining, bitching, moaning, questioning, harping, kvetching, grousing and otherwise maintaining the great traditions of Navy music.

    NMA general membership meeting -- Gear

    Equipment Manager Ambrose O'Donnell talked about the NMA's long-term goal of acquiring its own gear, to avoid having to borrow musical equipment.

    Executive Vice-president Bob Leketa has long been generous in hauling his own equipment to reunions. Following Ambrose's presentation, Bob donated his keyboard and P.A. board to the NMA. Responding to the thanks from the general membership, Bob explained what he gets out of making this gift:

    "Now I won't have to carry that stuff around anymore."

    NMA general membership meeting -- San Antonio

    The 2010 NMA reunion will begin Wednesday, June 23. Bob Leketa, who works all year to arrange our reunions, stressed that making early reservations directly affects his ability to negotiate the needs and the nice-to-have amenities we enjoy at reunions. The more guarantees a hotel has that X number of rooms will be filled, the better they are willing and able to cater to us.

    Full details on making reservations will appear in the Leger Lines, and will also be posted soon at the Navy Musicians Association website.

    NMA President Terry Chesson said he's played in San Antonio a few times while in the U.S. Navy Showband.  "While I'm looking forward to another visit," he said, "I'm not sure how much I want to be back on the bandstand after three days of green chili."

    Liberty call

    This, the last day of the NMA, will not be the busiest.

    This afternoon the entire NMA will be on liberty until the dinner and dance this evening--no rehearsals or performances. It will seem strange, but Oh Boy, I can use the rest. Like many of us, I've been scrambling around here nonstop for days. Were an aerial photograph of this hotel to be taken this afternoon, you would see hundreds of little letter "z"s streaming out the windows.

    Navy Lyres now enters into a news blackout period. This morning President Chesson will convene the annual meeting of the membership of the Navy Musicians Association. Upon its conclusion, I'll pass on the news; these meetings always provide a strong sense of where the NMA is and where it's going.

    I know where I'm going. It involves coffee.

    Friday, June 26, 2009

    Wish you were here

    In honor of our shipmates who couldn't attend the reunion this year, we're having a slam-bang hell of a time.

    We know it's what you'd want us to do.

    Business as usual

    Center: Rabbit Simmons telling a sea story while John Pastin pretends to listen.
    Right, front: John Fluck telling a sea story while Dick Bonenfant tries to stay awake.
    Right, rear: Don Gamble looking for a band that needs a trumpet.


    A rare photograph of Lee Hudson, right, with his mouth closed.

    Old friends, new members

    First-timers are sometimes hesitant to join in the evening jam sessions in the lounge. This was not the case last night.

    I am proud to have served in fleet bands with these two new NMA members, pianist Tom Wholley and bassist Max Murray.

    I may have been Tom's instructor at the School of Music. Unfortunately, neither of us remember the experience.

    I was Max's instructor at the school. Unfortunately, both of us remember the experience.

    Full steam ahead

    The lounge was packed last night, and I stayed up past midnight. Got up at six this morning, found coffee, stumbled to a 7AM rehearsal. More coffee, then concert band rehearsal. In a few minutes, rock band. Tonight a concert, then back to the lounge.

    Active duty was a lot like this. I'm helping move equipment, tracking down people, wondering when I'll squeeze in a nap and, like many of us, running on fumes.

    And trying not to dwell on the fact that tomorrow night this will be over.

    I keep hearing voices

    Every time I went somewhere, to the drugstore or just for a walk, I thought I was going crazy.

    I heard people talking to me.

    The guy carting his luggage across the parking lot into the hotel, the woman in the next booth at Denny's, the kids passing me on the sidewalk; every one of them had something to say to me.

    Things like "Isn't it a gorgeous day," or "How are you today, sir?"

    I'm back in Virginia.

    Getting squared away

    With a little practice, a lot of forgotten skills come back to you.

    And some don't.

    Thursday, June 25, 2009

    Crowd-pleasers in rehearsal

    Navy Musicians Association ensembles play for the most attentive and appreciative audiences in the world: the NMA.

    Things are going great

    The big bands swing, the concert band is preparing a challenging concert, old friends holler at each other across the lobby, new members are getting into the routine and every night the action in the lounge gets more raucous.

    Things couldn't be better; Lee Hudson hasn't arrived yet.

    UPDATE: Somebody has reported seeing Hudbucket here at the Executive
    Center. The truth of this rumor can be neither confirmed nor denied.

    UPDATE 2: There is no joy in Virginia Beach. I have visually confirmed that
    Milton Leander Hudson, the Enemy of Mankind, is here.

    Pardon the blurred photo

    I'd set up the shot perfectly, Wilbur Smith conducting the NMA Concert Band in "The Seafarers," a collection of sea songs.

    But just as was ready to press the shutter button, "Sailor's Hornpipe" turned into "Eternal Father," and--I still don't understand this--my hands started to shake, probably because of the air conditioning, something got in my eye and I couldn't hold the damn camera still.

    The present meets the Pastin

    This morning I was tuning up for a 7AM big band rehearsal when I heard that John Pastin would be joining us. I hadn't seen him since we served together on staff at the School of Music 25 years ago. Excellent, I thought: this would finally give me the opportunity to tell a former leader of the United States Navy Band exactly what this fleet MU thought about that hoity-toity operation.

    Then John walked into the rehearsal room, and all I wanted to talk about was long-lost friends, his son in the Great Lakes band and the time we were moonlighting on an evening cruise ship and I forgot my bass.

    Funny how that works.

    Tips for a pleasant stay at the Executive Center

    When taking the elevator, press the button corresponding with the number of the floor you wish to go to. Do not press the button corresponding to the number of the floor you are on. Failure to observe this directive will result in extremely long delays.

    The single-cup coffee maker in your room will provide you with a quick, steaming cup of joe as long as you remember to put the cup in the coffee maker. Omitting this step will provide the floor with a quick, steaming cup of joe.

    When stopping at the front desk to leave a wake-up call for 6AM, be sure to give your own room number. This morning someone literally had a rude awakening.

    A new pianist

    Like all volunteer organization, the NMA is invigorated by its new members. And no one is more welcome than a new pianist; we never have too many, and often, too few.
    While playing in the lounge last night, I looked up from the piano and was thrilled to see Tom Wholley walk into the room. I've had a deep respect for Tom's musicianship since we first served together in Newport. To hear him at the piano again is a pleasure.

    Wednesday, June 24, 2009

    The power of concentration

    Single-minded devotion and sharp, focused attention to detail are the hallmarks of excellence.

    Overheard in the lounge

    "Let's take five; I have to take a quick whiz."

    "Lucky you; at my age, there's no such thing as a quick whiz."

    The Few, the Proud: the 14-year MUs

    Most NMA members are either career MUs or one-hitchers. Few of us belong to that unusual group in between, the 14-year Navy MUs.

    I belong to that rare and elite group, as does longtime NMA member Roy Mollenkopf.

    Our paths didn't cross while we were on active duty, however. I joined the Navy in 1974, 13 years after Roy got out; Roy enlisted in 1947, a year before I was born.

    A note to Jim Thumpston's daughter

    This weekend, as we do every year, we will sing "Eternal Father" in remembrance of shipmates who passed away during the year since the last reunion.

    One of those we honor this year will be Jim Thumpston--"Thumper"--who trained hundreds of MUs to take leadership posts in the Navy Music Program.

    I was pleased, then, to hear today from Jim's daughter, Laura Ann Thumpston, who lives in the Tidewater area. Addressing us all, she wrote of her father's enjoyment of reunions of the Navy Musicians Association, adding,"Thanks for being his friend for all the years," along with her hopes that she might stop by the reunion this week.

    I have replied:

    Subject: Re: Thumpston
    Sent By: frankmullen
    On: June 24, 2009 11:32 AM
    To: Laura Ann Thumpston
    Copy to: Navy Lyres

    Laura Ann,

    Thank you for writing. I was hoping you knew about the reunion, but, of course, left my email addresses at home and realized I couldn't contact you.

    Although the reunion is just getting started--old men have been lined up at the hotel registration desk all morning long--your dad's name comes up a lot. Some of us are hearing the news for the first time.

    I hope you will be able to stop by the reunion sometime. Would you mind if I mention our email correspondence on the Navy Lyres website? NMA members who can't attend this year still follow the reports on the web, and I think many would like to know that you're thinking of us, just as we're thinking of Jim.


    Rank hath its privileges

    NMA President Parking Only

    God is in his heaven . . .

    . . . and all's right with the world.

    First rehearsal

    Don't we have any cymbals?

    So you were in the Brooklyn band when what's-his-name, the trombone player, was drum major?

    Let's get started, guys.

    CINCLANT, '68 to '70 or '71.

    Do we have an alto player?

    Where's the second trombone book?

    He couldn't make it this year, but he's coming to San Antonio.

    Guys, could you get on the bandstand so we can see what we've got?

    I haven't played since the last reunion.

    How do you turn this amp on.

    Where's CJ?


    Unit band 79.

    Guys, could we get started?

    Checking aboard

    Debbie Holl doesn't remember how long she's run the registration desk at reunions of the Navy Musicians Association.

    "About ten years," she says. "And I love every minute of it."

    "No, I'm serious," she adds as she reads the skeptical look on my face. Why, I'm wondering, would anyone love managing the data bases, lists, sign-in sheets, goodie bags and dealing with the scores of MUs that parade past her desk during our reunions?

    It's about the people, she says. Dealing with nervous newcomers is a challenge that Debbie particularly enjoys. "Every year we get new people who tell me they're afraid they won't know anyone," she says. "And by Friday night you see them standing in the halls laughing about some gig back in 1942."

    A job like this takes a "people person," and that's what the NMA has in Debbie.

    A rare, quiet moment at the registration desk

    Reveille, reveille.

    Up all hands--up all hands. Sweepers, man your brooms. Clean sweepdown, fore and aft.

    Now reveille.

    Tuesday, June 23, 2009

    The reunion is off to a good start . . .

    . . .considering it doesn't start until tomorrow.

    It's a dirty job...

    Always vigilant, the Board of Directors ensures that everything flows smoothly.

    They know we're coming

    It's still early . . .

    . . . but this will change.

    Traveling by air?

    If you're flying to the Norfolk airport, arranging free transporation to the Executive Center is a snap.

    A large display by the luggage carousel shows codes for various local hotels and motels. On the free phone, dial the code for the Holiday Inn Executive Center and a clerk here at the hotel will tell you when to expect the shuttle to arrive. Then grab your luggage, head out the door and remember you're back in the South. The shuttle will come. Believe me.

    Hurry up and wait.

    The sumptuous meal served aboard Northwest airline's flight 1848.

    A-one and a-two

    The downbeat is tomorrow, but the prep has begun.

    Signs are going up, identifying the rooms we'll be using. I was glad to hear that Marshall Hawkins, our archivist, will be here this year. I always enjoy looking at and listening to the Navy music memorabilia he collects during the year.

    A squad of volunteers is setting up the registration room. I stopped in and said hello to Deb Holl and Cecil Strange, but I couldn't get close enough to the desk to get a peek at what sort of bling will be in our registration packets this year.

    Executive Vice-president Bob Leketa says we can expect up to forty members to arrive today. A preliminary jam session in the lounge tonight is a likelihood.

    A friend of the NMA

    Because I flew to the reunion, I had to leave my guitar at home; traveling with musical instruments nowadays can be an expensive gamble in which the pot you lose is your vintage 1968 Gibson E-335.

    Terry Chesson solved the problem. He plays in a band with local musician Randy Matthews, who was willing to lend me a guitar for the week. (I spoke with him a few weeks ago; he's been playing with MUs in Virginia Beach since the 1960s: all the fun of Navy music without the sea duty.)

    Terry and I just drove to Randy's home to pick up the guitar. I just tried it out, and it plays quite well; in fact, it plays better than I do.

    Another first reunion

    I talked with new NMA member Bob Kuhl an hour ago. This is his first reunion, and he wasn't sure what to expect. He hasn't played in a few years, was concerned that his chops wouldn't meet NMA standards, wondered whether he'd know anybody at the reunion.

    Sound familiar?

    I told Bob that I hadn't played in a decade before attending my first reunion. Then I introduced him to NMA president Terry Chesson, and within seconds they were talking about their experiences in the UNITAS band, places they'd played, shipmates they had in common.

    Welcome aboard Bob and all first-time attendees. We're glad you're here.

    The Dialy Popp - 23JNU09

    Me stay up late last night.
    Me wake up want coffee.
    Me need coffee.
    Me not want decaf.
    Me not want french vanilla.
    Me not want starbucks moca-jamoca happy smile blend.
    Me want USS Blue Ridge (LCC-19) CPO mess coffee.
    Me go down to lobby get free coffee.
    Me have cup coffee. Me have another cup coffee.
    Everything be okay soon..

    Monday, June 22, 2009

    The Daily Poop -- Mon, 22JUN09 - Late Edition

    -- Sorry for posting so late today. The length of my airplane trip was enhanced by delayed flights in Detroit. I reached the Virginia Beach Holiday Inn Executive Center in the early evening.

    -- A few others were here already--John Branam (rehearsal director) and his wife, and Bill Allen (Leger Lines) and his wife, who cheerfully sells us raffle tickets each year. Cecil Strange is around and Terry Chesson has been in and out.

    -- Hard to believe, but the weather here is cooler than it is in Illinois.

    -- The rooms here have been upgraded since we were last here. On my dresser is a flat-screen television the size of a Fender Rhodes stage piano.

    I'll post more tomorrow morning as the tempo begins its accelerando.

    Sunday, June 21, 2009

    The Daily Poop - Sun, 21JUN09

    -- While it's too far off for an accurate weather predictions for the NMA reunion, the NOAA weather forecast  for Virginia Beach during the reunion week is: golf.

    For those who will be bringing their clubs: Wednesday and Thursday will be cloudy with temps in the 80s; Friday and Saturday have a slight chance of showers and thunderstorms.

    -- I'm flying to Virginia Beach out of Moline, IL, tomorrow morning. I've never flown with a laptop before, and hope the Department of Homeland Security doesn't confiscate it or fry it with x-rays.

    -- LCDR Ron van Hoose, as CO of the School of Music, used to tell each Basic Course graduating class, "As professional military musicians, how you look is as important as how you sound." Remembering these wise words, last night I did some last minute clothing shopping at Wal-mart. I will definitely look as good as I sound.

    -- After posting the news that I had to miss the performance by Navy Band Great Lakes's rock group, Horizon, I heard from NMA member John Pastin that his son is Horizon's drummer. I always knew that John was a superb musician and leader, but I had no idea he was also the founder of a dynasty. All the more reason for me to catch Horizon's final show today. Those cursed thunderstorms are back in the forecast, but it's still early; we'll see.

    Saturday, June 20, 2009

    The show goes on

    In an earlier post about my plans to see Horizon, the rock contingent of Navy Band Great Lakes, in concert during Navy Week in the Illinois/Iowa Quad Cities, I referred to that old line we used to hear when an outdoor concert was cancelled due to rain:

    What's the matter, is the Navy afraid of a little water?

    We've had five to seven inches of rain this week in western Illinois; streets in downtown Rock Island, where Horizon was scheduled to play an outdoor concert yesterday, were under water.

    The show, however, went on as scheduled; the weather broke, the venue provided a tent for the band and the sun shone long enough for a fine afternoon concert.

    Which I missed. I live in cornfield country outside the Quad Cities, and heavy rains tend to flood roads and take out bridges. In this case, it wasn't the Navy that was afraid of water; it was Yours Truly.

    All is not lost. The thunderstorms appear to be over, and Horizon has a few more gigs in the area this weekend. I'll hope to make one of them.

    I can't think of a better way to prime myself for the Navy Musicians Association reunion than by spending an hour or so witnessing the work of the active duty MUs who are still carrying the load.

    The Daily Poop - Sat, 20JUN09

    Last night I started getting clothes ready for the NMA reunion. While digging around in a rarely-used basement closet, I came across my CPO khakis. I'd forgotten I kept them after I left the Navy.

    I wondered if I'd dare try them on. I still wear my peacoat once in a while, but those bulky things hide a lot of sins. The khakis, I knew, would camouflage nothing--they were "tailored to the sailor."

    The experience of trying on your old uniform has been compared to attempting to squeeze a 16-oz. salami into an 8-oz. casing. How much did I want to degrade myself?

    What the hell, I finally said. I pulled the khakis out of the closet, made a wish and put them on for the first time in a quarter of a century.

    Well, shipmates, all I have to say is:

    Friday, June 19, 2009

    The Daily Poop - Fri, 19JUN09

    -- As I mentioned last week, I'm going to downtown Rock Island, IL, this morning to see a concert by a contingent of Navy Band Great Lakes. "Horizon" is a rock band, although this morning's performance will be a jazz concert. The band is busy--it's Navy Week here in the Quad Cities, and, as you can imagine, Navy bands are a big part of it. Unfortunately, Illinois has been plagued by rain and thunderstorms for the last week; I hope a little water won't get in the way of the show.

    -- I keep hearing about more old friends who will be at the Navy Musicians Association reunion next week, guys I haven't seen since active duty. Today, I've learned that John Pastin, with whom I served on staff at the School of Music, is coming. Dennis Jansen, I believe, is also on his way. Perhaps he'll bring his steel drums.

    -- I've got to get over the fact that Lee Hudson will be at the reunion on Friday and Saturday. I've been looking forward to the reunion for a year; why should I let it be ruined by this lowlife, sack of swill, Demster Dumpster excuse for a human being?

    Thursday, June 18, 2009

    The Daily Poop - Thurs, 18JUN09

    The real reason I've been posting about former MUs who can't make the Navy Musicians Association reunion next week was to encourage my enemy, the tedious and egocentric Lee Hudson, to stay home. I figured I'd make it easy for him to manufacture some half-baked excuse which I would graciously accept.

    But, no. Instead of an apology for missing the reunion, I get a long, incoherent message from Fleabag plastered all over my Facebook page. He's coming, although only for two nights, thanks be to God. To make things worse, he's bringing his toilet tuba, urinal eupohium and firewood bass.

    Couldn't we alter the NMA membership requirements to read "All past and present members of US Navy bands, with one small exception"?

    Wednesday, June 17, 2009

    The Daily Poop - Wed, 17JUN09

    -- I just wrote to Marshall Hawkins and am hoping to hear that he'll be at the reunion. Hawk had to miss last year, and we missed his presence as well as his archives of Navy band memorabilia.

    --Speaking of missing the reunion, I recently mentioned that John Vasquez won't be with us because, as newly elected head of his local American Legion post, he has to attend the state convention.

    This is the level of patriotism and service that qualifies an NMA member for a NavyLyres Certificate of Approved Absence. Similarly, I now give a pass to Milo Wood. His grandson, a National Guardsman, has only four days at home--the four days of our reunion--before shipping out to Afghanistan, so Milo needs the time to spend with his soldier.

    See the pattern? Lame excuses like "I have to bring the cake to my niece's Sweet 16 party" and "That's the week of the Polka Club Singles Barbecue" don't cut it around here.

    If you're planning to write me with your excuse as to why you can't come, make it good.

    Tuesday, June 16, 2009

    The Daily Poop - Tues, 16JUN09

    If you're new to NavyLyres, or haven't been here in a while:

    -- Now begins the season of "Live-blogging the Navy Musicians Association reunion. For a demonstration of this exciting technological innovation, you may peruse the archives of last year's blog season here, in reverse chronological order.

    -- The reunion season is NavyLyres's busiest time of year. I hear from those who are coming, those who can't come this year, and those who haven't made up their minds. (For those of you in that last category, take a look at the counter on the right--chop, chop, buddy.) I'm glad to get your news; it's often worth passing on to everyone. What's up? Are you coming? Who are you looking forward to seeing?
    Drop me a line.

    -- One of this site's most popular features is the
    Navy Musician's Lexicon. Stop by for a few updated laughs.

    It's been a challenging year for many of us, our complicated lives further stirred up by economic worries. All I can say is, I am so ready for this reunion.

    Calling all guitarists.

    Now that the NMA Rock Band is getting off the ground, let's hope a talented, versatile guitarist will be at the reunion this year.

    Some things, as we learned last year, are not pretty.

    Monday, June 15, 2009

    At least it's not an accordion

    This photo, sent by NMA member Patrick Stone, shows the band on the USS Arkansas, sometime before World War II.

    I am struck by the presence of the banjo player on the far right. I knew a few MUs who doubled informally on the banjo--Ed Henson, Bob Marquart, Geary Thompson (and even me, when the beer was flowing)--but this photo looks official, as though everyone is holding the axe they are paid to play.

    Which makes me wonder: what were the duties of the band banjoist in those days? Did he do solo banjo gigs at the "O" club, noodling soft background modulations between "Hold That Tiger" and "Darktown Strutters Ball"?

    Ceremonies must have been different, too:

    Adjutant: "Banjoist, sound 'First Call.'"

    The Daily Poop -- Mon., 15JUN09

    I'm heard from a few shipmates who won't be able to attend the Navy Musicians Association reunion this year.

    I'll particularly miss John Vasquez. John and I never met while on active duty, but if you've been to an NMA reunion, you know how it is: new acquaintances become shipmates.

    His reason for missing the reunion this year is righteous: as the newly-elected Commander of the Dania Beach, Fla. American Legion Post, he must attend the Legion's state convention in Orlando.

    John's a busy guy, considering he also manages the Florida 9th District American Legion Symphonic Band. Next year, for sure, he says.

    Sunday, June 14, 2009

    The Daily Poop - Sun., 14JUN09

    Last night,out of a heart-felt, sacrificial and generous desire to tell members of the Navy Musicians Association that I will be Live-blogging the 2009 reunion, I sent messages to all Email addresses on the membership roster.

    About 100 bounced back.

    As humble, shy and self-effacing as I am, I have to say this:

    You rotten, self-centered SOBs:
    • You change your email address and don't inform the NMA.
    • You let your mailbox fill up so Emails are rejected.
    • You write out your Email address illegibly and send it to the NMA by snail-mail, expecting the staff to understand the address, " ."
    • You apply ridiculous security filters that refuse messages that contain suspicious words like "hello," "there," and "shipmate."
    People, inform the NMA when you get a new Email address. Check your settings. Make room in your mailbox for new messages. A little preventative maintenance goes a long way, shipmates.

    There. I feel better already.

    Live-blogging the 2009 NMA Reunion

    Yowza, yowza. The 2009 Navy Musicians Association reunion is only days away.

    The blogging lamp is lit.

    For those who don't know, the NMA is a growing group of former and active duty members of U.S. Navy bands. We are one-hitch sailors and career MUs. We have worn seamens' stripes, petty officers' chevrons, chiefs' anchors and officers' bars.

    Once a year, we gather for a few days of camaraderie, sea stories and music--big band, concert band, jazz and rock. At Navy Musicians Association reunions, performance is optional; enjoyment is unavoidable.

    If you can't attend this year--or you're not yet a member of the NMA--you can get a taste of the reunion without leaving home.

    I'll be "live-blogging" throughout the week of the reunion. This means you'll be able to follow the action here at Navy Lyres.

    From Monday, June 22 (two days before the official opening) until Sunday, June 29 (departure day for most attendees), you can come right here, night or day, for:

    • highlights of each day's activities
    • interviews
    • photos 
    • assorted reports, rumors and revelations, heavily censored in case your children or grandchildren use your computer
    Between now and the reunion, I'll be blogging frequently; stop by any time, check it out, leave a message.

    Drop me a line if you have any questions, and please pass the word--forward this URL to any past or present Navy musicians that you're in touch with.

    Saturday, June 13, 2009

    The Daily Poop - Sat., 13JUN09

    I've been reading about renovations to the Holiday Inn Executive Center in Virginia Beach, where the Navy Musicians Association will soon meet. Rooms have been upgraded, changes made in the restaurant. I'm particularly glad to note that rooms and public areas now have wireless connectivity. (I also recall a small business center off the lobby with computers and a printer.)

    One thing I'm sure hasn't changed is Virginia's summertime weather. Reunions in Virginia Beach always bring to mind the indignity of being forced to run around the Amphibious Base in the broiling afternoon sun in formation with a contingent of deranged Marines who did not understand the concept of "cruel and unusual punishment."