The Jive Bombers February 25 2010, 0 Comments

Contributed by Jack Kopstein Jive Bombers Today, the U.S. military is often used as an example of racial equality and opportunity, but before 1948 segregation was the rule. Even though President Truman ordered formal integration, President Franklin Roosevelt made a step forward six years before that by suggesting that the Navy create black bands to elevate the status of black Navy men. During the World War II, blacks were recruited into the Navy to serve only as cooks, mess attendants, or stewards. By Executive Order of the President blacks were allowed to serve as yeoman and other ratings in 1942. Starting in 1943, 5,000 musicians were recruited from across the country to officially serve as musicians. They were then sent to the Great Lakes Naval Base, near Chicago, for training to play in big bands. As a result this experiment was called "The Great Lakes Experience of World War II." Following training, 25-piece bands were formed to tour naval bases across the United States and to raise morale where they played. When the war ended, the musicians went home. Some of them formed bands or joined other bands, and some became renowned jazz artists and arrangers. A couple of the more notable ones were Von Freeman and Clark Terry, the jazz trumpeter who later performed with Duke Ellington and the ''Tonight Show” band. Many of them just went into other lines of work. In Seattle, we know that one of these bands may have been stationed at Naval Air Station Seattle, now known as Warren G. Magnuson Park. One member of the band (not known if he is shown in the photo) was Alvin Larkins.  Larkins came to Seattle when the Navy stationed him at NAS Seattle in 1943. After a long career of teaching music, Alvin Larkins Park was named after him in the 1970's. Other known members of the band include, drummer Duke Moore (arriving in Seattle in 1942). Moore and other black musicians were best known for the jazz group, "The Question Marks." Another member was vocalist Babe Williams, known for his renditions of tunes by the Ink Spots and Mills Brothers. On February 28, 2003, tribute was paid to the Navy's first "official" black musicians through several events in Chicago. Jive Bombers jazz band of World War II: In January 1943, the U.S. Naval Military Band transferred from the Great Lakes Naval Training Center in Illinois to Sand Point Naval Air Station in Seattle. A group of these musicians formed their own jazz ensemble, the "Jive Bombers." This information and the band roster was prepared by Jacqueline E. A. Lawson and band member John Willis correctly captioned a photo in the collection of the National Archives. The Naval Military Band, originally formed at Great Lakes Naval Training Center, consisted of about 24 members. The Military Band was transferred to Sand Point Naval Air Station in January 1943. They performed weekly at bond rallies in "Victory Square" which was located in downtown Seattle in front of the Olympic Hotel on University Street between 4th and 5th Avenues. They also participated in parades and performed at various Navy functions. Several members of the band (about 18 of the below-named individuals) formed a jazz group, calling themselves the "Jive Bombers." They performed locally (out of uniform) at various private functions -- such as weddings and fraternity parties -- often with jazz groups organized by local musicians such as Al Hickey and Bob Marshall. Here are the names of the musicians pictured at the top: First Row Robert Braxton, clarinet Andrew E. Wade, III, clarinet Al Hickey, clarinet Wm. Funderburg, saxophone Charles Ethridge, saxophone John Irons, trumpet “Doc” Wheeler, trumpet J. Chavis, trumpet Second Row John Willis "Baby" Greer "Deany" Clark Clifton Rice Robert Young unidentified F. Leftrict Dave Bradford Alvin Cola Standing unidentified Jarvis J. Jacquet Alvin Larkins Robert Marshall Edward Middleton Edwin Middleton After discharge from the service, some members of the Jive Bombers remained in the area and continued to play professionally for private and public social functions and dances. Additional local musicians who performed with these groups included: Kenny Boas (piano), "Baby" Greer, Ralph Davis (drums), Elmer Gill (piano), Duke Moore (drums), Johnny Moton (piano), Wyatt "Bull" Ruther (base), Leon Vaughn (trumpet), and Gerald Wiggin. The Jive Bombers also made a recording of the Dixieland tune ROSETTA as seen above Since this recording is marked as “3” there may have been several others in the same series recorded by WESTERN RECORDING STUDIOS (Seattle Washington). The label shows the name THE USS Bunker Hill. It was one of 24 Essex class aircraft carriers commissioned during the war. The ship went into action in the Pacific in 1943 and the Jive Bombers band may have been the ship’s band and made the recording prior to shipping out. On February 28, 2003, tribute was paid to the Navy's first "official" black musicians through several events in Chicago. Sources Laney, Mary. Time has come to honor Navy's black musicians in WWII. February 10, 2003 Chicago Sun Times. Lazarus, Judy R. The Navy's 'jazzy' history. February 2003. Great Lakes Bulletin. Museum of History and Industry. Duke Moore drummer with The Question Marks. 2002. Museum of Music. Integrating the Navy with Jazz: The Great Lakes Experience, 1942-1945. May 19, 2003. Vibrations. Seattle Parks and Recreation. Alvin Larkins Park. December 31, 2003