30 June 2009
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.
29 June 2009
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?
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.
28 June 2009
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.
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.
27 June 2009
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."
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.
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.
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."
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."
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.
26 June 2009
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.
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 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.
25 June 2009
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.
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.
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.
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.
24 June 2009
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.
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
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.
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.
Unit band 79.
Guys, could we get started?
"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.
23 June 2009
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.
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.
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.
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.
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..
22 June 2009
-- 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.
21 June 2009
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.
20 June 2009
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.
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:
19 June 2009
-- 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?
18 June 2009
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
Couldn't we alter the NMA membership requirements to read "All past and present members of US Navy bands, with one small exception"?
17 June 2009
--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.
16 June 2009
-- 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.
15 June 2009
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.'"
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.
14 June 2009
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, "email@example.com ."
- You apply ridiculous security filters that refuse messages that contain suspicious words like "hello," "there," and "shipmate."
There. I feel better already.
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
- assorted reports, rumors and revelations, heavily censored in case your children or grandchildren use your computer
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.
13 June 2009
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."
11 June 2009
Although I've seen some fine performances by Navy ceremonial bands at recent NMA reunions, I haven't seen a public concert by a Navy band since I left the service two decades ago.This, then, will be my first opportunity to play the traditional role of Clueless Old Man who Harrasses the Bandleader.
I'm planning to get tto the venue early so I can bombard the bandleader with endless questions while he's trying to get the band set up. Here's whatI've come up with so far:
-- My nephew is in the Navy. Maybe you know him? Dan
-- What is your real job in the Navy?
-- No, I mean what do you really do when you're not fooling
-- If I set up my chair here, will I be able to see when the band starts
-- You'll still play if it rains, right? The Navy's not afraid of a little
Please feel free to suggest any other inane questions you remember. The band is traveling a long way for this gig, and I want to give them a proper welcome.
07 June 2009
“Any person subject to this chapter who through neglect or design misses the movement of a ship, aircraft, or unit with which he is required in the course of duty to move shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.”-- Art. 87, Uniform Code of Military Justice.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
The 2009 reunion of the Navy Musicians Association begins on June 24. In other words: the ship is about to weigh anchor.
If you haven't made your plans, now is the time.
To register for the reunion, download an NMA reunion registration form .
There are still some rooms at the Virginia Beach Holiday Inn Executive Center. For reservations, call (800) 567-3856 or (757) 499-4400.
I look forward to seeing you, and all members of the NMA.
W-w-what? You haven't yet joined the NMA?
Send a $30 check made out to NMA to:
Cecil Strange, Treasurer
PO Box 2294
Plant City, FL 33564-2294
(Include information on your service dates, instrument(s), telephone number, and email address.)
Take care of this right away and save yourself a boatload of trouble later.
03 June 2009
Some are old shipmates I haven't seen in decades. Chuck Harris, Dale Vanderpool and Ed Henson, friends from my first duty station, Navy Band San Francisco, are rumored to be coming, as is John Pastin, a shipmate from my tour on staff at the School of Music.
I'm especially glad to hear that my Newport and SOM shipmate, Max "G.F." Murray, is coming. Because the families of MUs visit this site, the explanation of what "G.F." stands for cannot be given here. It will, no doubt, be explained at the reunion.
01 June 2009
The players: MU3 Joseph Calicari (violin), MU2 Wilfred Batchelder (bass) MU3 Charles Apellonia (accordion).
Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.