Strike Up The Band, continued

By Joe Talbot Jr. | May 03, 2018

Having just joined the Air Force and subsequently landed in Biloxi, Miss. after completing basic, I soon learned that marching across the base at 0500 hours with thousands of other airmen to go to school from 0600 to 1200 hours five days a week was indeed an unpleasant necessity. Then after the first of 12 months yet to come, I watched with interest the USAF Drum & Bugle Corps, who provided the marching music, standing at the halfway point. I looked into where they might be housed, found them, and within a week I was a tenor drummer watching the masses march by every morning. I still had to be at school every day, but aside from practicing with the corps, I was free as a bird by early afternoon, and KP was not in the picture, as with most of the others.

We marched in various festivals around the South, and then came a bonus, so I thought. We boarded a bus for New Orleans, to march in the Mardi Gras Parade. We were ecstatic with anticipation. We were extremely disappointed. By the time we loaded up for the trip back to the base, we were all soaked with every kind of alcoholic beverage known to man. It took us an entire morning to clean our instruments the next day, and the cleaning bill for our uniforms was unexpected. It was a nightmare. The parade route was down the narrow streets of the French Quarter, with only a few feet of space on our flanks. The buildings along the way had balconies, which were almost directly over our heads, and the partygoers were tossing everything they could get their hands on directly on top of us. The 1960 Mardi Gras Parade was a memory we all wanted to forget. On subsequent occasional trips to New Orleans later that year, I was able to form some really good memories, as we were able to drift from place to place in the “Quarter” to hear the likes of Al Hirt, Dizzy Gillespie, Pete Fountain, Buddy Rich, and some of the really great musicians as they started their careers.

Fast forward to the 1990s, I was able to play in worship bands at Grace Bible Fellowship Church in Rockland, Greater Grace World Outreach Church in Baltimore, Md., CLFC Church in Camden, Sea Coast Community Church in Charleston, S.C., & the Rock Church in Castle Rock, Colo.

The six years playing with the band in Baltimore was the most rewarding thing I could have imagined regarding my love for music. Every year we practiced long and hard for the annual concert to benefit the children who had AIDS, at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Some of the children and their families would be there at the concerts, and it was very difficult to hold back tears when they were introduced. I never forgot to thank Myrtle Wheeler for banging my fingers with that knitting needle, which resulted in my being a part of that effort.

Over the past few years, I’ve been blessed to go to musical offerings by Camden Hills Regional High School. I’ve always thought that good ole Camden High band was pretty good. The first rendering I attended at Camden Hills quickly dispelled that notion. I was awestruck, and could not help wiping the tears from my eyes so I could see, as the quality of what I was hearing was so mature, difficult, excellent, and worthy of high praise. I later learned that the person responsible for what I was observing was Nancy Rowe. The following paragraph was lifted from the website:

“Students who participate in this program will learn skills to help them enjoy music, whether as an active participant or a critical listener for their entire adult life.”

I’m preaching to the choir, no pun intended, when I say the music programs at Camden Hills are top quality, and that kind of musicianship can only be a result of dedication above and beyond by Nancy and her staff. I would be willing to bet that colleges would be thrilled to know that they are getting a graduate from Nancy’s program. Wow !

When I graduated from CHS, for some reason I didn’t have the wisdom to focus my musical desires toward making money. It wasn’t a conscious thought at any rate. I suppose many of you who are reading this now, knew who the “Kingston Trio” was. When I was married in 1961 in California, I learned my new brother-in-law, was the banjo player for the “Kingston Trio!” He was constantly trotting all around the world playing every kind of venue on the planet, even for the Queen Of England, so I didn’t get to know him very well, only a few times did we break bread together. I liked him immensely; he was very down-to-earth, kind, a great listener, and a humble person.

My Advice? Encourage your youngster(s) to be courageous. Get him/her into the music program at Camden Hills. He or she will be a better student, and a better person. Yeah, I know, when the 15-year-old comes home from school with a tuba, you’ll write a letter to the editor and ask him to throw me out with the fish! But be real, you never know when your kid will grow up to be another Burt Bacharach, or Alisha Keys, and support you in the manner you can only dream about.

Or….go online and google “DCI,” Drum Corps International. Cruise through the site, and see when the competition comes to Boston this summer. If you like music, if you love music, you’ll write the editor and tell him to buy me a lobster dinner for four, that is, of course, if you GO to see one of these spectacular competitions. Every genre of music on the planet is there. It’s not about marching, or formations. It truly is about a sound that cannot be duplicated anywhere else. Tens of thousands go to over 100 of these drum corps competitions all over America in the summer. Do you want to have a summer totally free from your teenager? Then get him into a drum & bugle corps. He’ll leave you in the spring, and come back to you in the fall in time for school. Then just wait till he tells you of traveling all over America in busses with over 100 other kids in his corps. He’ll tell you they all slept in high school & college gymnasium floors the whole summer. He’ll tell you that they played for thousands and thousands of applauding fans, as they continuously got better and better as they travelled, practiced every morning and evening, and then performed in the most rigorously scored event you’ve ever seen. You only have to go to one. You’ll be hooked, I promise. If you’ve never been to one, you don’t know anything about what you’re about to experience when you go to your first one.

Click on this link to see a fabulous rendition of the classic song, “Ballet For Martha” performed by the Santa Clara Vanguard Drum & Bugle Corp from Santa Clara, Calif. (Don’t mind the 13-second video commercial that proceeds it, that’s how it’s free on YouTube.)



Joe Talbot is a former columnist for Peterson Publications’ “Off Road Magazine” and “Four Wheeler Magazine” He lives in Belfast.











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