Like many young men in the 1940's, Dave Brubeck was drafted into the Army and served in Patton's Third Army in Europe. One day, some Red Cross girls came to entertain his unit that was camped outside of Verdun at a place they called "the Mud Hole". They asked if anyone would volunteer to play piano for them to sing. Brubeck was sitting on his helmet with the rest of the GIs and raised his hand. The next morning when their unit was lined up to be sent as replacements on the battle front, his was among three names called and told to step out of line. All three were musicians. The colonel in charge had heard him play and decided that he wanted to hold Brubeck back in order to form a band. That was the beginning of the Wolf Pack Band.
The Wolf Pack was the first racially integrated band in the U.S. Army. When a soldier was wounded or sent back from the front for recovery, if his records showed he played an instrument, he was sent to Brubeck. They played many popular tunes of the day, including "Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree (with Anyone Else but Me", "Where or When", "When I Grow Too Old to Dream", and "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To".
In 2004, Brubeck released a solo piano album with many of the songs he played in the Wolf Pack. This week's song is one that he wrote himself about his experiences in the war.
From Private Brubeck Remembers, here is "We Crossed the Rhine":
Monday, May 26, 2014
Monday, May 19, 2014
I heard this on WBGO the other week, and I knew it was Duke Ellington from the first piano lick. Duke and Frank Sinatra recorded an album together called "Francis A. and Edward K.". This recording of "Follow Me" is from that album.