THE 330th C' FLIGHT JUG BAND
by James B. McCain
Entering Air Force flight school as a member of '56-N' was a unique experience for a country kid from Rosepine, Louisiana. It was even more unique since I received my commission out of the Army ROTC - antiaircraft artillery branch! It was our first day at Malden AFB, Missouri, when the reality of just how strange I was hit me right between the eyes.
The colonel was briefing us on the program in which we were about to plunge. He asked, "How many of you have a degree in aeronautical engineering?" Several hands went up and he said, "You men won't have any trouble with this course." He continued on down through the various engineering degrees, the sciences, the math people. And always assuring each group that they would do well.
Finally, in a very disdainful voice I heard, "Do we have any music majors in here?" Well, I raised my lonely hand, not so much proud of being a music major, but sure that the colonel had gone through the papers on everyone and knew there was one of those critters in the room! Looking at me, the colonel said, "Mister, you're gonna have trouble with this course!" What a wonderful welcome. There's nothing like a good motivational speaker to get you started off on the right foot.
However, there was also a fellow in the class by the name of Snodgrass who was a member of The Society for the Preservation of Barbershop quartet Singing in America. Gathering two fellows named Hamaus and Moriority, along with me, together, he organized a quartet, and the "Half-Flaps Four" soon made its debut. Thereafter, every time the base commander was invited to speak somewhere, he took us along. It was usually worth a good meal at least.
Later, after completing the F-86D school at Perrin AFB, Texas, my brand new wife and I were off for Stewart AFB, New York and the 330th Fighter Interceptor Squadron. After being there about a year, my new flight leader, Captain Thomas Miller, got around to looking over my 201 file and had a bright idea. He called me in and told me that since I was a music major, I was hereby directed to form a 'jug band'.Then he got all the guys together and told them what was about to happen. He expected 'C' Flight to not only be the best in the air, but also Number One at the O-Club.
I went about collecting bottles of all shapes and sizes over the next few days, all the while trying to figure out how I was going to get these guys, who only knew music by what came out of a juke box, to know when and which 'jug' to blow. Lt Giles Desmond was the only exception as he played a pretty nice piano.
Our apartrnent became filled with bottles which I fine-tuned by filling them partially with water and marking the water line so they could be refilled prior to a practice session or 'performance'. I eventually came up with a 3x5 card system, and an 'arrangement' with some oom-pa-pa type accompaniment to go along with a melody played on the kazoo.
We met at Capt Miller's home for our first rehearsel. It was a riot! The sound made by blowing over the top of the bottles in harmony, has to be one of the silliest sounds ever to fall on the ear of man or beast. We would play a few bars and all fall on the floor laughing. Just when we got going pretty good, we added the kazoo melody and all fell on the floor again. I don't know how one can describe the sound. But the 'music' from the bottles was a bit like hearing a steam calliope at half steam.
After a few rehearsals, we finally made our 'debut' at the O-Club - and got rave reviews! I added two racks of eight Coke bottles, which allowed two of our more adept pilots to play "Chop Sticks". Of course, that required a Chinese gong, so we took a steel shelf out of personal equipment that, when suspended on a small rope, rendered quite a good 'gong' imitation when struck properly with a commode brush. Add to this my dignified conducting using a "plumber's helper". We were a group you could not soon forget, even if you wanted to!
The one regret of my short military career is that I have no pictures of the 'C Flight Jug Band.' There is no doubt in my mind that it can safely be said that there were some experiences and accomplishments of 'C Flight' that will never be duplicated in the annals of military history.
No portion of this article may be used or reprinted without permission from the President of the F-86 Sabre Pilots Association or the editor of Sabre Jet Classics magazine.
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