I am permitting myself to meander today. My two passions are aviation history and music, and today's entry covers both.
I still own a record player (three in fact) and several hundred records that have been with me for years, including most of the Beatles records (even the 45s) and all but a few of the Rolling Stones records.
For years, I've been a big fan of the Rolling Stones. Last October, I drove 850 miles round-trip from Idaho to Montana to see them in concert (and got caffeine poisoning from the all-night, coffee-fueled drive). My only regret was that my favorite Stone had long since departed Rolling Stones, Inc. and forged out on his own with independent projects.
Bill Wyman, who laid down the meanest bass licks in the business and formed, with Charlie Watts, the greatest rhythm section in the history of rock and roll, has the distinction of being one of the last of the Sixties rock and rollers to do national service in Britain. The only American who became as famous after serving time as a draftee is Jimmie Hendrix.
Wyman was drafted into the Royal Air Force in 1955. The photo shows Wyman in the summer of 1955 in Hereford.
In the fall of 1955, Wyman signed on for an additional year, and ended up posted at an RAF base at Oldenburg, West Germany, where he worked in the motor transport section.
Wyman writes: "The camp was comprised of 3 Hawker Hunter squadrons - 23 Squadron, 26 Squadron & 33 Squadron, & included 1,000 RAF Regiment members – the whole camp comprised 4,000 military personnel. The camp was on a 4-hour (evacuate the camp) alert for most of the time I was there, being only 100 miles from the Russian border."
"The Suez Crisis occurred while I was on leave in England, and I was obliged to return to base immediately. It was here that I heard the beginnings of Rock ‘n’ Roll on AFN Radio (American Forces Network), and took up guitar playing for the first time. In 1957 I formed a skiffle group on camp. I was demobbed in January 1958."
(For more on Wyman's military history, click on this link: http://www.britisharmedforces.org/ns/ns/nat_bill_wyman.htm)
When Wyman first joined the Stones, he still had a full-time job, and he treaded a fine line on his hair length and hip-ness. Of course, once the Rolling Stones took off, he could do as he pleased. After retiring from the Stones, Wyman has written a number of books on various subjects, from the Stones to blues to archealogy. He also continues to lay down his licks in various blues bands and still makes records. One of my favorite tunes, 'Stuff', is a Bill Wyman composition.
As Tom Wolfe once wrote: "The Beatles just want to hold your hand--the Stones want to burn down your town". The Stones and the Beatles are the two greatest bands of the Sixties, and of course the Stones are still rolling, but it ain't the Stones without Bill.
Today, I salute Bill Wyman of the Rolling Stones for his role in defending the free world back in the scary days of the Cold War.