The only reason I was going to school at Texas Tech was because of the Vietnam War. I had a student deferment and as long as I stayed in school and made my grades, for the immediate future at least, I couldn’t be "called up." I didn’t know what to do with my life, but I knew I didn’t want to be in college or Vietnam and it seemed they were the only two choices I had at that point.
I watched the First Draft Lottery along with millions of other draft age boys and their parents, girlfriends, brothers and sisters. After number 100, I started to breathe a bit easier. At 200, things began to look even better and at 250 and then 300, I knew I was "home free." In the end, I got number 309. I went to the Lubbock Draft Board and asked what this meant. I told them I was thinking about quitting school for awhile and trying my hand at making a living as a musician on the road. The Draft Board man told me they figured they’d take around 35 numbers a month and at that rate, I would have plenty of time to get back in school and reinstate my student deferment if it got close to my number. He said he thought I’d be safe for at least a year.
I didn’t know who to talk to for advice. My parents would take a dim view of me quitting school, so I looked for someone I respected to talk with. That person was Dr. Mary Brewer. She taught creative writing at Tech and was my professor. I scheduled a meeting and told her I had received a high draft lottery number and I was thinking about dropping out for a semester or two and what did she think? She said, "Bob, you KNOW what want to do with your life and it is not a normal career. I think you should follow your dream. You know what you really want to do, don’t you?"
With this sound advice in my pocket, I quit school forthwith and headed out to seek my fortune on the musical roads of America. I have made records, played at Carnegie Hall, supported myself as a musician for the past 46 years and finally made it Viet Nam after all on a tour sponsored by the US State Department.
The Draft Board never got close to number 309 and the hammer of the draft was no longer there for me and I never went back to school again, for better or worse. Many of my friends were not as lucky as I and went to Vietnam and their stories were mostly tragic, if they survived. I can only think, "Somebody" was watching out for me…
I am writing a book about my experiences in the music business for Texas Tech Press. If it wasn’t for No. 309, I don’t know what would have happened to me, but I doubt I would be sitting here writing this.
You can find out more and reach me at BobLivingstonMusic.com