masthead_37.jpg
Local NPR for the Cape, Coast & Islands 90.1 91.1 94.3
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

Grandson Finds Only Known Recordings Of Music From Frontlines Of WWII

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Next, we have a recording of music from the front lines of World War II.

(SOUNDBITE OF 746TH FAR EAST AIR FORCE BAND'S PERFORMANCE OF JOHN BLACKBURN AND KARL SUESSDORF'S "MOONLIGHT IN VERMONT")

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

Jason Burt is a history teacher in Clarksburg, Calif. He'd known his grandfather, Richard Burt, had played trumpet in the 746th Far East Air Force Band in the Philippines. A couple years ago, he and his family were going through his grandpa's things.

JASON BURT: And we'd always known about these recordings. Like, my grandpa talked about them his whole life, and I was kind of hoping they would turn up at some point. And we found them in the attic.

INSKEEP: So he had these recordings, and then last year, like a lot of us, Jason was stuck at home with time on his hands. So he borrowed a record player.

J BURT: I put the music on, and it was like my own private concert with my grandpa. It was like he'd never left.

(SOUNDBITE OF 746TH FAR EAST AIR FORCE BAND'S PERFORMANCE OF JOHN BLACKBURN AND KARL SUESSDORF'S "MOONLIGHT IN VERMONT")

MARTINEZ: Burt got the records digitized and published in an album called "Sentimental Journey." He says it may be the only known recording of a frontline military band during the war.

(SOUNDBITE OF 746TH FAR EAST AIR FORCE BAND'S PERFORMANCE OF HARRY JAMES' "TRUMPET RHAPSODY")

INSKEEP: Now, Jason knows his grandfather to have been devoted to the music. In an oral history from years ago, Richard Burt said that he would walk into the Philippines jungle to practice trumpet without waking his fellow servicemen. Think about how far away you'd have to go with a trumpet.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

RICHARD BURT: And I remember going around a tree in that narrow little trail with the foliage, just froze with my heart in my throat. My hand went to my Marine knife that I had strapped to the belt. And then I saw this beautiful bird go flying off into the trees, and I breathed, really, a sigh of relief.

MARTINEZ: In 1946, after the war was over, the big band recorded 10 songs in a jungle tent in the Philippines.

(SOUNDBITE OF 746TH FAR EAST AIR FORCE BAND'S PERFORMANCE OF JUAN TIZOL'S "PERDIDO")

INSKEEP: He went on to Juilliard, a top performing arts college, but his grandson says he gave up his musical dreams to raise a family.

J BURT: This was always something for me that I could do for him and his bandmates from the war and to really give my grandpa that professional musicianship spotlight that he never had.

MARTINEZ: Jason Burt's goal is for his grandpa's band to win a Grammy in 2022 for best historical album.

(SOUNDBITE OF 746TH FAR EAST AIR FORCE BAND'S PERFORMANCE OF JUAN TIZOL'S "PERDIDO") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.