History-making music group for UMM - morris mn

History-making music group for UMM - morris mn
The UMM men's chorus opened the Minnesota Day program at the 1962 Seattle World's Fair (Century 21 Exposition).

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

America's Youth in Concert 1972: a blast

B-10 bus members (l-r) Hyland, Chris and Tom
Don McLean gave us the song "American Pie" in 1972. The last U.S. ground troops left Viet Nam in that year. John Lennon was at the peak of his musical powers, going it alone. Atari released its "Pong" game. We watched "All in the Family" which underscored the generation gap.
The summer of '72 afforded me a wonderful opportunity. I traveled with a group called "America's Youth in Concert." It was truly a once in a lifetime experience.
There are better ways I could have spent that summer, really. I could have gotten involved in activities, like a real job, that would have led me to greater maturity. I remember I was chosen for Farm Bureau Camp, but had to decline due to the music trip. Doesn't Farm Bureau Camp instill conservative/Republican political values? I didn't need that. So, my trumpet was my partner for much of that summer of '72.
It was a time when many my age watched "Monty Python's Flying Circus." We loved Benny Hill's comedy. Why the reliance on so much British talent? Lennon was in that category too. After years of young men being in such fear of the military draft, and of actually getting drafted and being forced to face so much peril in Viet Nam, young talent in entertainment had not been given a chance to flower and develop. 
Here I am in Salzburg
The '70s gave us weird movies like "A Clockwork Orange." Bobby Fischer was at the peak of his chess powers. A current movie focuses on the dramatic rivalry of Fischer vs. Boris Spassky (of that menacing Soviet Union). The Cold War was a scourge. The Viet Nam war was a more direct scourge. Young people of today must read the history and appreciate what it was all about. Understanding the past helps keep us from repeating mistakes. Or, at least it ought to in theory.
The Cold War put pressure on U.S. schools to really push kids in science and math - bad news for me, because my aptitude was not in those areas. I had to stay in school because it was compulsory. It was a matter of survival for me, not enrichment. But in the summer of 1972, I spent a month immersed in music and with musical friends. It was an oasis type of experience for me. 
A photo of our group appeared on the front page of the style section of the Washington Post. The Washington Post! Remember what was happening, or starting, in the summer of 1972? Watergate! I'm not sure today's young people should read about Watergate - it was too stupid. But again, we must learn about past mistakes, even those that grow out of nothing more than paranoia and mendacity. The same Post edition that had our picture had an early Bob Woodward article. He co-wrote this article with someone other than Carl Bernstein. I didn't tote this paper around with me for the rest of the trip, but when I got home I special-ordered one, so I still have it.
You could get a Ford Pinto automobile for $2,078 in 1972. A gallon of gas cost 55 cents. ABBA was giving us the kind of music that would inspire the musical and movie "Mamma Mia!" The Oakland A's won the World Series. 
When I was chosen for America's Youth in Concert, I was supposed to drop off a news release at the local paper. The release had a bit of a political edge, asserting that such youth in the program set an example in contrast with what we might call the hippie or counterculture of the time. My family disapproved of such a political statement and we modified the release. 
The counterculture was part of the generation gap which was really quite a significant conflict of the time - more severe than the youth of today can imagine. I'm puzzled and disturbed as I reflect on it. The World War II generation was raising kids who by comparison to them were drenched in prosperity. Those kids got many luxuries before they even knew they wanted them. The WWII generation had also endured the Depression. They grew up without television. Television! It was ubiquitous by the time I was an adolescent. Alexandria MN got its own station in 1958.
America's Youth in Concert is a division within the Universal Academy. A check on the web indicates they must still be in existence. It began in 1970. I gathered it was a bunch of Mormons from Utah. In 1971 the first group of musicians were assembled and traveled, even witnessing the signing of the 26th Amendment to the Constitution: the 18-year-old vote. Three of the young people were actually chosen to sign the document! 
I was proud to wear that maroon blazer, black tie and white shirt in that unforgettable summer of 1972. We began in Italy and finished up in England. We crossed the English Channel and saw the white cliffs of Dover as we neared England. We performed in many interesting and important places. 
I'm sure the price of my trip was a fraction of what it would be today. We didn't talk about "terrorists." We were composed of both a band and choir. I was pleased to be sitting next to Joan Force, an attractive blond from Iowa, in the trumpet section. In the U.S. we played at the Kennedy Center, when it was quite new, and Carnegie Hall. We dined on the rooftop of the Kennedy Center. "I wonder what the poor people are doing." Just kidding. 
You should seize the opportunity to see Europe - don't put it off.
My little trademark among my peers was my tendency to want to do a little jogging. This was just before the pastime of jogging (or distance-running) began taking off. In '72 if you engaged in such a thing, you might be considered a little oddball. I remember a fellow trumpet player, Mike McVicker, who I think was from Washington state, took special interest in my pastime. So did an African-American gentleman named Hyland Brooks from the Carolinas. Hyland is still active in music as you can appreciate by clicking on this YouTube link. He had more hair in 1972! Here's the Hyland Brooks Quintet with "Come on Back."
I was in Salzburg, Austria, when I saw the cover of Time Magazine that had George McGovern with Thomas Eagleton. Eagleton was the senator from Missouri who had only a short stint as the runningmate. We learned he had had multiple medical treatments for psychiatric depression. He had kept that secret. Once revealed, the background forced him out. 
The McGovern campaign was completely futile partly due to Richard Nixon's dirty tricks. Nixon eventually left office in humiliation. I have watched the movie "Frost/Nixon" and found it wanting. I agree with the Star Tribune's movie critic, who had a problem with the movie because it made Nixon look too sympathetic. Movies are supposed to show us the multiple dimensions of people, of course: the bad and the good. Nixon was a bad and dangerous person toward the end. Bob Scheiffer later revealed in a book that Nixon wasn't even the commander in chief at the end: any military intentions he voiced had to be relayed to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs. That's rather concerning, considering that our system is based on civilian control of the military. The reason coups work is that, who can stand up to the military? Fortunately the coup we're considering here was a benevolent one, necessitated by the instability of our nation's leader. Thanks Republicans. How did the Farm Bureau rationalize all that?
You know, I think McGovern would have been a good president. Remember his "peace buck" proposal?
The first push toward the running/jogging "boom" or fad was Frank Shorter winning the Olympic marathon, within a few months after our trip. We were mesmerized watching Shorter on TV. My generation in particular became thrilled with the pastime, thus we saw the blooming of all those 10Ks and 5Ks. And marathons. I ran the Twin Cities Marathon three times, in 1984, '87 and '88. I ran it once really well, in '84 with a time just a minute over three hours - a great time for someone my size.
In 1977, James Fixx came out with a book that pushed the running pastime considerably. Its title: "The Complete Book of Running." I have to chuckle a little, because it's hardly necessary to read a book in order to learn how to run. Fixx died of a heart attack while jogging at age 52. Irony? Really not, as he had a genetic predisposition for heart problems, and other previous lifestyle factors. He had atherosclerosis. Kenneth Cooper took over as an exercise/running guru.
The boomers in their vitality of youth, and showing their tendency to get obsessed with various things, really took to running. Today we have moderated. We endorse a variety of activities in an exercise regimen. 
As kids we endorsed both the counterculture and the political "new left." The counterculture survived, the new left did not. Jim Morrison at the Sun Tribune (of Morris MN) joked: "The new left is now the old left."
Yes, I could have spent my time better back in that summer of '72. I lived for the present, not a bad idea considering all the economic inflation that was on its way. We got "stagflation." The '70s were by and large a cynical and rather discouraging time. Jimmy Carter tried rescuing the hostages in Iran and the helicopters broke down. The Roe vs. Wade decision on abortion wouldn't come until 1973, the year I graduated from high school.
No one can ever take those trip memories away from me. I stood at the front of the stage at Carnegie Hall, as we dispersed for free time in NYC, and played my trumpet, improvising. That's a precious memory if ever there was one. The sound of my trumpet filling Carnegie Hall! So, 1972 had its charms, even including the game of "Pong," which I first played at an arcade at the Willmar shopping mall.
The full names of the three gents in the photo at top-right of this post are: Hyland Brooks, Chris Kuhs (not Kush) and Tom Crossler. Tom was a real character from Idaho. He gave us his "Tom the Tourist" character.
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

1 comment:

  1. Hi Brian....
    Just on a whim I googled America’s Youth in concert 1972, and was pleasantly surprised to find so much info.
    I too was a member of this incredible group, hailing from SC, and I can recall so many wonderful experiences we had while touring Europe. BTW.... we started in England and ended in Italy. I have always wondered about my choir mates, over the years, and thought how wonderful a reunion would be. I’m going to go look on some of the other sites listed, but I wanted to say hello and thanks for your blog.

    Amelia Easler Wall