Navy Musicians Association

Program Notes

This page provides reminiscences, anecdotes, and stories from members' personal experiences in the Navy Music Program.

(The following was contributed by Jack Rodway)

I don't know if you are aware that back in the 1960's there was a proposal by a Captain Alendorfer (not sure of the spelling on that name) to take E-6 Musicians and put them aboard ships to organize ship's company bands. He had seen how top heavy bands were back then with E-6's and thought they would be of more use to the Navy if they were aboard ships and put together bands from the ship's crew. Finding anyone who could play an instrument and go from there. Theoretically a good idea. The problem is, as I saw it, was that if the E-6 did a good job then he would be hurting the Music Program. If he did a bad job he killed his own career. Lose, lose situation.
  There were two E-6's to get the "honor" of doing just that. The first in 1962 was Duke Garrett , a trumpet player in the COMCRUDESLANT Band stationed in Newport. He was given one musician striker to help him. Richard Auger. To the best of my knowledge Duke and Rich did a good job, although Duke came back from a 3 month cruise to South Africa with part of his stomach missing from ulcers. Of all places for a black man to have this operation in the 1960's was Cape Town South Africa. By the way this cruise was on a Destroyer Escort. Captain Alendorfer was the Commodore on that cruise. He introduced Duke to the band and the band to Duke and said, "OK, Let's hear something!" As far as I know Duke has since passed away.

The following year, I was "volunteered" to do the next one.

At least I was given a month to rehearse my group. We did it in the COMCRUDESLANT  bandroom at night during our liberty time. I was given an MU striker by the name of Chuck Jones, now a New York musician known  as Olu Dara, who sings and also plays guitar and cornet. His son is a big Rap star now. Chuck was "volunteered" because he was black and they wanted to show the Africans how well the races got along in the states.

We had a 13 piece band and a 4 piece combo out of it. Two guitars, me on Alto sax and Chuck played drums for us. We did everything with that band that a regular Navy band would do from morning colors on out. Our combo played cocktail music for the President of Nigeria while we on a cruise.  The Van Voorhis was a Destroyer Escort. We went from Newport to Norfolk, from Norfolk to Trinidad where Commander McDonald was the XO He came to hear us at a dance we played there swapping sets with Gerry Minard's COMCRUDESFLOT 4 dance band.  From Trinidad we went across to Freetown, Seirra Leone, then Lagos Nigeria, Capetown, Malagasee, Madagascar, Red, Sea, Aden,Saudi Arabia, the Suez Canal, Athens, Naples, Barcelona and back to Newport. In all, it was a three and a half month cruise. I lost 23 pounds, but came back with my stomach intact.

Following is a picture of that combo as we played a concert at the Nigerian National Guard barracks. I'm the E-6 sax player in the center and Chuck is behind me. (Editor's note: apparently this photo was printed reversed, judging from Jack's stripes and the way he's holding his sax)

Here's another, taken in Diego Suarez (Madagascar). Chuck is playing trumpet on my right.



Chapter Two of the Van Voorhis Saga.

On the first Sunday at sea, I was called to the CO's stateroom. It seems that the Chaplain, LCdr. Hebert Bowles ,who was with us for the cruise had a problem. He had a piano player record all the hymns for the whole three and a half month cruise. All he had to do was press the play button for the next hymn. The problem was that the pianist had not taken into consideration the slight pause at the end of each phrase for the singers (The CO) to keep up.
 
The CO, Cdr. Reed, asked me to help the Chaplain. I went to meet the Chaplain for the first time. He explained his problem and I  asked him to give me a weekly list of his hymns. I would  transpose four parts from the hymnals each week for either four brass or four woodwinds and I would alternate Brass and Woodwinds each Sunday. It all worked out fine. The Chaplain and I became great buddies and would hang out on the Signal Bridge while I transposed and he learned to use the signal light from the E-6 Signalman. I figured that if I ws going to have to skate I would skate in front of God and the Bridge. That E-6 Signalman is still a good friend of mine living here in Rhode Island. My wife and I just had dinner last night with him and his wife.

 At the end of the cruise in 1963 was the last time I saw Chaplain Bowles until, much to my surprise, Jack Geary, who was the first andmaster of the Northeast Navy Band, found him in Newport. CAPT. Hebert Bowles was the guest speaker at my retirement ceremony. I was the first to retire out of the Northeast Navy Band.

Chaplain Bowles also retired in Newport.  He was  head of a local Episcopal parish in Portsmouth, RI  I was the Music Director of the local city band in Newport. He would often borrow our PA system for his fairs and bazaars at the church.

After my first wife passed away and I had met and decided to marry my present wife, Mickie, I called the good Chaplain and he was more than happy to perform the ceremony for us. So on 8 June, 2003, forty years after we first met, he was there for me. I've said before and I'll say it over and over, there's nothing like friends we make in the service.

 There's even more to the saga of the Van Voorhis cruise to South Africa, but it will have to wait for the next Chapter.

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(The following was contributed by Arthur Nau)

I was in the music program from October, 1950 to August, 1954. I was in unit band 183 that went aboard the Battleship Missouri out of the school of music. I was in that band for fourteen months and was transferred to NAS Pensacola for the rest of my enlistment. The rest of the band stayed aboard the "Mo" and went to Korea with it.  After we got out of the navy, I hooked up again with unit band 183 and we have been playing at the "Mo" reunions ever since. In 1998, the Missouri was towed from Bremerton, Wash. to Pearl Harbor where it was turned into a museum. Our band, 183, was there to play for the dedication. This is just a quick note of my association with unit band 183.

 

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