The north Atlantic can be a wicked mistress, and we had been bouncing around on her cold tree top waves for several weeks. The aircraft carrier, Intrepid, on which I served as a radar man, was in need of repair, and heading for the Brooklyn Naval Yards. (I was never so glad to have my feet on solid ground in my life.)
My guitar playing buddy Mac, went into the city (NY) first, and since he was an enterprising Catholic boy, judicially discovered there was a Catholic U.S.O. on 52cnd street, that welcomed sailors. They offered free sandwiches, soft drinks, and girls from the various churches and schools, came there to dance and socialize with service men, who were away from home .
Since neither of us were drinkers to any degree, and loved to dance , hear great music, and girls, it sounded like the place to go, and we couldn’t wait for the weekend.
Upon arrival at the U.S.O. , a cordial , stoutly built lady with graying hair, and a steady eye , surveyed us as we walked through the door. You could sense right away that no hanky panky would be allowed on these premises. (We later speculated, rightly or wrongly, that she was a nun in plain clothes.)
After being offered a sandwich and soft drink, we turned towards the main hall, and our eyes fell upon a sizeable group of well groomed, disciplined young ladies, who appeared that their college classes had just been let out, and had recently arrived at the U.S.O. , in order to be with us. Now that’s a fanciful stretch, but when you have long been at sea , in many foreign ports, where hardened perpetual ladies of the evening follow the fleet, you can’t imagine how utterly wonderful it is to see so many nicely dressed and mannerly young ladies all in one place, unless it’s been a long time since you’ve seen one.
They did not have a band that evening , but a Wurlitzer juke box, turned up to a high volume, provided enough enthusiasm to set the stage for dancing feet. Mac and I waited for a couple numbers to work up our nerve, and walked over to the group of girls. One young lady, conservatively but tastefully dressed, reached out her hand when I asked her to dance. As we walked onto the dance floor, the words “That’ll Be The Day” hit my ear. The Crickets ! I had never heard of them, or the song before, but I loved it and punched the play number on the Wurlitzer, twice more, before the evening was over.
New York City is light years away from a dusty little town named Clovis, New Mexico. However, that was where the music was , before it died, and in my wildest dreams, I could never have imagined, that in a year in a half, I would be singing over the same microphone, in that far away place, as the great singer who had made that recording. In fact, if I had speculated to someone, that I would ever be in, and of all things, recording in Clovis , New Mexico , they of course would have laughed and replied “That’ll Be The Day !” ……….That’s how the journey began !