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2014, Aaron Elson


The Bandleader

Stan Freeman

2014, Aaron Elson

    Stan Freeman was a member of headquarters company of the 712th Tank Battalion. He began his service with the 11th Cavalry at Camp Seeley, Calif., in 1941.

    Hey, you know what I remember? I got a weekend pass to Long Beach. There were four of us that were buddies in the outfit -- two were from B Troop and two of us were from A Troop -- and three of us got together, one guy couldn't go, I guess he was on KP or guard; we went out there for the weekend. And on Sunday night, one of the military outfits had a band that played a concert on the pier, right at the beginning of the pier, and the three of us were walking up there. This was after Pearl Harbor, and we were in full uniform -- boots, spurs, the whole bit -- and they started playing the Star Spangled Banner. They always ended the program with that. We came to attention, and when you clicked your heels together you made a metallic sound and it was loud. We did that, and I think the 3,000 people turned around and looked at us instead of looking at the band.

    There was a Majestic Ballroom in Long Beach, and this was the first time I ever had an experience of running into a major bandleader in person. At that time he wasn't a major bandleader. We went in and the guy at the gate -- it was a nickel a dance, or ten cents -- there were about five of us, and he gave each of us free tickets, just handed them to us. He said. "Go on in guys. I'm drafted tomorrow."

    We went in there, and the Stan Kenton band was playing. He wasn't famous then. He was the house band at this ballroom. And the thing I remember about that is he had four trumpets, four trombones and four English horns in his band, and when he let it out, he'd blow you off the dance floor.

    After the war was over, I paid a hell of a lot of good money to go listen to concerts by Stan Kenton.