How I got started in music & the military

 This is the story of how I got started in music and then the military. I started at a very young age playing accordion along with my older sister at an accordion school in Silverton, OH. They were fairly common back then – group lessons and just the basics. We both had small rented accordions. My sister Beth lost interest, but I stayed with it and finally my folks had to get me a full size accordion. I stayed with it for a couple of years after that. Mom would have me pull it out and perform anytime someone visited the house. My big number was 76 Trombones.

 When I lost interest, my brother Fred and I both wanted to play drums so my father craftily found someone in Kentucky who wanted to trade a set of drums for the accordion. We both got pretty good on the drums. I started taking lessons from a guy who taught at Lloyd Hazelbaker's Music in Oakley. I was his best student, learning both the rudiments and set playing. We used the Joe Morello book called "Around the Drums" I think.

 Anyway, the drum teacher was quitting so I asked Lloyd if I could have his job. Lloyd said I could, but that he also taught beginner guitar students. So I picked a guitar off the wall and bought it along with the first Mel Bay instruction book. I was literally staying a page ahead of the little kids I was teaching. The more I played guitar, the more I loved it and during that time, I had plenty of time to practice during the day and most days would put in 8 to 10 hours practicing guitar. I had a turntable and maybe one Kenny Burrell and one Joe Pass record.

 Cut to the Vietnam war and the draft lottery. I believe my number was very low, I always remember 38. That means I would have been drafted very early, so I took myself to downtown Cincinnati and visited every recruiter until the Army recruiter said I could audition for the School of Music. They gave me a bus ticket to Virginia Beach, VA and I stayed in some seedy motel and I guess I rented a car.

 The next day I went to the School of Music and auditioned on drums and guitar. They seemed to be happy and said I would be hearing from the recruiter. After I returned to Cincinnati I received a letter saying I had been accepted to the School of Music. Little did I know it was on drums and not guitar.

 So off I went to boot camp at Ft Leonard Wood, MO also fondly known as Ft Lost in the Woods. After I got through that I moved on to the SOM. I was putting in a lot of practice units on the guitar and was called into the office and informed I was a drummer and had to practice only drums. I asked them if I could practice guitar after putting in 40 units of drum practice each week and they said yes. 

 After I passed my F1 (first half of training) audition on drums I was then allowed to minor on guitar for the second half of my training. As soon as the guitar teacher heard me he knew I was his ticket out of there. So before I had my F2 audition on drums I had a staff audition on guitar and was hired as the guitar instructor.

 Here is the real twist, the Army did not have an official MOS (   Military Occupational Specialty) for guitar at that time, so my MOS remained 02M (drums) and I was filling a saxophone instructor slot for the SOM. However, the Army wanted to add guitar as an MOS so I was tasked with writing the first field audition for it and also in the process became the very first official Army guitarist - 02T. Then on my second hitch there I became First Sergeant of the Staff and Faculty Company at the SOM with the MOS of 02Z (band senior sergeant). 


Tom Dupin said…
Hi Bob, I didn’t know a lot of this about your background. You sure played you butt off (on guitar) when you were with the Jazz Ambassadors.
Unknown said…
Wow. Fascinating. Didn’t know you were the first 02T! When was this? And what happened next? Thanks
Alan Heuker said…
Interesting stuff... Thanks for sharing.
Rob Spear said…
What an interesting first tour of duty. You were my instructor when my unit (100th Div Band, Ky Reserves) did our two week summer camp at the Navy School of Music in 1979(?). I was the Spec5 who could play a B9 chord and that was about all. I still have your hand-written scales and chord charts from that time. Thank you for making me a better guitarist.

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