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Back cover text from Oscar Brand's "Wild Blue Yonder" album.


Two caterpillars were crawling through the grass one warm summer's day.  Suddenly one of them scraped to a halt and flipped his antennae skyward. "Look up there," he said excitedly to his companion.  High above them a beautifully-colored butterfly was circling in majestic grace. "Very pretty, very pretty," droned the second caterpillar, "but you'll never get me up in one of them things."

In every age there have been a few groaners for whom flying was strictly for the birds. But man's desire to free himself from the bondage of gravitation is as old as his tribal memory. Daedalus wasn't the first man with both feet on the ground who endeavored, at the same time, to maintain his head in the clouds.

One would expect, therefore, that the opportunity to achieve this ancient longing would cause the aviator to compose countless eulogies and paeans. Instead, the Air Force Songbag is revealed as a bawdy vintage in which the gripes of wrath are stored.

Try to keep in mind that this fruity form of expression is standard operating procedure for men at war. A normal man generally restricted to the company of other men begins to see womankind in a very special light-the kind of light that sometimes shines brightly behind a pretty girl in a filmy negligee.

Freed from the familiar injunction to "watch your language," the wayfarer begins to adopt oral patterns of unspeakable intensity. Soon he finds himself trying to impress his companions with his masculinity by intoning such inanities as: "So I walked down the frigging street, and I seen this frigging girl and I took her by the frigging arm and we went to her frigging room and we got on the frigging bed........... and then made love."

Other standard gambits in the folklore of the soldier, landlocked or airborne, include the complaints about the food.

When Caesar's men traveled on their stomachs it's likely that at least one noble Roman scratched out a message home to the effect that the chow was poison-and not enough of it. And the dangers of war did not go unnoticed in the ranks. How many variations do you know of the story of the soldier on the field who tried to resign explaining, "You can get killed out there!"

And, of course, target for tonight and every night is the officer, traitor to humanity and bootlicker to the high command. And the officer, too, has his natural enemy -- the hated upper echelons, the big brass, any part of the monolithic chain of command that remains above him.

Perhaps there were a few inspirational, patriotic songs constructed, but self-consciousness edged them into obscurity. America's male population can face any danger save the peril of being considered a sissy. An Air Force St. Exupery could fly a hundred missions and still be looked on as "queer" if he sang the mystic beauty of the skies. As for patriotism, that is still considered the refuge of scoundrels and civilians.

Consequently, these songs are a bawdy, gusty, griping lot. We could have bowdlerized them, edited them, needled them up with lofty sentiment and enervated drool, but we didn't. Frankly, we didn't have the guts necessary to alter the sentiments sung by thousands of the finest fighting men this country ever produced, men whose mission it was to fly and die to keep our country free.

ABOUT THIS RECORD.   I knew there were Air Corps songs.  I had even recorded some of them.   But I was unprepared for the thick volume of material which one day came in the mail.  It was the result of a short correspondence with Capt. William J. Starr, stationed at the time at Cannon Air Force Base in New Mexico.  "Are you interested in Air Force Songs?" asked Capt. Starr. "I am," I answered.

The hectographed folio was 122 pages long and contained 238 songs and snatches.  Half of them were standards-bawdy songs familiar to soldiers and sailors for centuries.  A few were poetic banalities trying to pass as respectable folk music.  But there were enough honest-to-badness lyrics to light up even my jaded young eyes.  I strung them along on my guitar for a while and then realized that I should be sharing them with the unsuspecting world.

Even before I knew of the existence of the material, I had promised an album of the sort to Jac Holzman of Elektra.  When he saw the material and heard the songs I knew by heart, he decided to make the album.  When I diffidently asked whether I should set about laundering the material, he was indignant.   "Let's make it honest," he said . . . fighting words apt for a military document.

The music was easy, since, as has been the usual custom with war songs, well-known parodies predominated.  Where I didn't know the song, Capt. Starr supplied the melody for me by way of taped recording.  And, during the recording sessions, spectator Jerry Newman, tape specialist, and Dave Jones, Elektra chief engineer -- both former airmen -- made a great number of suggestions and emendations.

The recording was made at full throttle and we were really flying from beginning to end.  We tried to keep in mind the mad ebullient spirit so beautifully expressed in the old song:

"Twas a hell of a war as I recall, Parlez vous
Twas a hell of a war as I recall, Parlez vous
Twas a hell of a war as I recall,
But still it was better than none at all,
Hinky Dinky Parlez Vous."

- OSCAR BRAND

OVERCAST OF CHARACTERS - the Roger Wilco Four

OSCAR BRAND. Director of Folk Music for New York City's Municipal Radio Station, Oscar Brand has been broadcasting every Sunday at 6 pm since 1945. His folk song book for Knopf, Singing Holidays is a standard in libraries and schoolrooms around the country, and some of his forty-five film documentaries are part of America's classic motion picture archives. Unlike most folk music authorities, Oscar has been singing his collection around the country, beginning with the children's songs he learned in Winnipeg, Canada as a boy. He presents the material in this album not as a musicologist, but as a balladeer from the ranks-having spent "twenty miserable years" from 1942 to 1945 as a member of America's Armed Forces.

DAVID SEAR. An excellent. soloist in his own right, David Sear's galloping five-string banjo has galvanized lethargic audiences in clubs and concert halls throughout America. Featured appearances on CBS-TVs "Camera Three," and other top-rated TV and radio shows have further earned him the reputation for first class folk singing, and accompaniments.

BRADLEY SPINNEY. Percussionist par excellence, Brad Spinney has played easy to get for aggregations ranging from Spike Jones' madcaps to the Philharmonic. His musical box of tympanic tricks enables him to produce lions' roars, train whistles, plane crashes, and police sirens, all the while maintaining an impeccable beat on the big bass drum and snares.

BILL SMITH. Bill Smith's been so busy these past few years playing wild music on the bowed bass in nightclubs and cafes that he almost forgot he could play the guitar skillfully and saw out a beautiful descant on the violoncello. But he had performed these demanding tasks years before on Oscar Brand's radio show, and a simple reminder was all he needed to revive his remarkable talents.

DINNY THOMAS. A clarinetist whose dulcet melodies have sparked many a dance hand aboard cruise-ships and ocean liners, Dinny Thomas has one of the few genuine basso-profundo ranges available. Since it was difficult for him to sing and play the clarinet simultaneously, it was necessary to divide him up carefully.

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