I graduated from the University of Kansas in January, 1970 with a degree in Music Education. In those days we came back to school for a couple of weeks after Christmas break, had finals, and then the semester was over. February 1, 1970 my wife and I purchased a music store in downtown Lawrence and began to operate it. The Gaslite Gang, my jazz group, continued to play several times a month in Midwest. My lottery number was 166. In April, 1970, I received my draft notice and had a decision to make. I had an offer to join one of the Washington DC service bands…but I also had a bank loan for the music store along with other obligations there.
By "chance," a former KU marching band mate happened to come to the music store one Saturday–in uniform. He was a member of the 42nd Kansas National Guard Band…which I didn’t know existed. A week later I was the newest member of that band, Private E1 trumpet player. After basic training the bandmaster finished his six year tour of duty and recommended me to be his successor. I was appointed a Warrant Officer and given command of the 28 member band. Leading that unit was a privilege and pleasure and was musically very rewarding. I had great experiences and met and became friends with scores of wonderful people. However, when my 6 year commitment finished, I left the band and transferred into the inactive reserve, thinking that was the end of my military career.
However I was soon recruited by the 89th Army Reserve Command to take over the 312th Reserve Band — which was located in Lawrence, just a few blocks from my home! I led that 75 member band for 18 years and retired in 1995 as a CW4 Warrant Officer. We played at World Series baseball games, NFL football games, at West Point, for military and civilian events from coast to coast and achieved numerous awards and citations. I remain friends with member of both bands and treasure my entire experience.
I had the very rare privilege (for a musician) to lead and direct two highly accomplished professional military bands for over 24 years…without having to ever relocate and while continuing a civilian career. In 2007 my wife and I started receiving lifetime health care and lifetime monthly retirement income from my military career.
For me, having a low lottery number was a gift from God that not only provided 24 years of wonderful experiences and friendships, but that keeps on giving. I’m very grateful and proud to have served.
Today I still play every Thursday evening at the local American Legion post with other veterans at a weekly dinner dance for former service members and their spouses. At 67 I’m often the youngest member of this evolving band. Our leader, 97 year-old sax player, Clyde Bysom, played with Air Force bands during his service in World War II.
By the way, other former members of the Gaslite Gang include MG (retired) Wayne Erck (drums), SGT First Class Harold Keen (trombone and euphonium) and Staff SGT Roger Sprecher (all brass instruments), all KU students who had lottery numbers.