Chicago: Music is The Universal Language

Posted on 7/08/2009 by Monica Yasher

While in the US Navy I visited many different cities.

Yokohama and Yokosuka , Japan, Karachi, Pakistan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Mombasa, Kenya, Port Lewis Mauritius, Rodriguez Island, Manila, Philippines, Guam and too many to list here.

The guys I hung out with knew that I was a guitar player. At each port and bar my steaming (drinking) buddies coerced me to play. I had to sit in with the band. I was one of about half a dozen guitar players on that ship and I was one of the few that had an instrument on board. There were a little over a thousand men on that ship. There was a gunners mate from Seattle that we called Fly, because he was a little guy. He and I were jamming ship mates while at sea. He also had a guitar and many times we would go up to the gun mount to play. One of the songs on my CD called gator smoke was developed during those gun mount jams. Fly could not hold his liquor. Most of the time if he went with us, we ended up carrying him back to the ship. One late night I saw him in a port town leaning against a post. He was obviously out of it. He did not recognize me so I let him be.

In Japan the band members did not speak English, but they sure spoke the blues. I would motion that I wanted to play guitar and invariably I was handed a guitar. I had counted 1,2,3,4 and my version of Johnny B. Good filled the room. They knew exactly what I was doing and where I was going. It was crazy, but fun.

In the Philippines (PI) the port of call was Olongapo. Those of you who have been there know what kind of port it was. Let me just say it was a sailors dream. Whatever you wanted was there and many a sailor availed themselves of its resources. PI was what we called a working port that had a large US Naval contingency. Every day, one sixth of the crew had to remain on that ship for 24 hours. Most of the time that sixth day was a respite from the other five. Olongapo was party town. The beers cost around 14 cents. I would hit the front gate of the base at about four fifteen and stop at the very first club. I believe it was called the California club. Right inside the front entryway was an ice cooler loaded with San Miguel beer. First order of business was to flip a quarter to the attendant, grab a beer, chip off the ice and guzzle it down. PI was HOT and humid just like Chicago in August.

While we were on temporary duty in PI Marshall Law was in place. Marshall Law affected sailors in one area and one area only; we could not be on the streets between the hours of 12am and 6 am. No problem we had plenty of time to get back to the ship if we wanted or stay the night at some locals house. The bars closed at 11:30 each night.

Every club had a band and the club I frequented was called the Inn Motion. That club was located on the second floor and the stairs were situated right in the middle of the room. I remember the stairs were extremely wide. The Inn Motion was about ten thousand square feet and accommodated quite a large number of military personal, a varied amount of rival military personal. When military guys drink, they start bragging about their unit and how much better it is than that unit and so on and so on. I’ve seen fights break out over the color of a shirt a guy was wearing.

One night some Marines made the mistake of calling a couple of Navy Seals wimps. I have never seen anybody go down as fast as those marines did. They were carried out on stretchers and the Seals were arrested by the shore patrol. I never found out what happened to those Seals, but I would venture to guess nothing. The navy has too much tied up in training Seals to kick any one Seal member out. They are the baddest of the bad, very skilled warriors.

The Inn Motion had a band called Friction*. This band was very good. They had the steady gig there for two years. Two years of 7 night weeks. I asked the leader what happens if anyone of them took a day off, his reply was you lose the job. They had a waiting list of players trying to get into that group. The band learned how to play from dropping a needle or spinning records. The thing with PI bands was they could mimic right down to the beat, but they did not have much soul. They were so good that sometimes you could not tell the difference between the band or the juke box. When I look back on those PI nights I realize that 90% of the military didn’t care what the bar band sounded like. They were there for the “booze and the broads”. Do not criticize, go to sea for thirty days without touching land and then let me know what you would do. The last place I would visit would be the library.

It was weird, the Friction Band could technically play, but they did not know what they were playing. They all played by ear. I shared my limited knowledge of guitar with Frictions guitar player. He would give a big smile when I walked in the club. First thing he would ask is, "Anything new?" I learned that the guitarist had a very difficult time getting guitar strings so I wrote home and asked if my brother could get some. He sent about two dozen sets. Those strings ended up getting more free drinks then I could handle.

Most times I would jam with these port bands to tunes like “Mojo”, “Who do you Love”, “Sunshine of Your Love” and general I- IV-Vs. like “Red house” or “Little Red Rooster”. They loved it and so did I.

While visiting Mombasa, Kenya I played “Who Do You Love” in an out of the way bar down a side alley. Once I got the band on target they would not stop. After about 20 minutes I put the guitar down and walked out. I staggered down that alley to the sound of the monster I had created.
I swear when I hit the beach (Off Duty, liberty) the next evening, I could still hear them in the distance. What a time that was. By the way that band, like so many others, did not speak English.

It goes to show you that music is the universal language. Language uses vowels as its roots, and Rock music uses the blues.

Terrance "Gatorman" Lape
Mark of The Gator CD at
Amazon .com
* Friction band name is stilled used in PI.

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