Saturday, March 19, 2022
Vietnam War With Singapore Music Maker Cedric Cork: Part 2
and established artistes but participated in the
Vietnam War as musicians to entertain the troops there.
The late Sunny Bala was their band leader and Cedric Cork,
Music Amidst A War In Vietnam:
Things got more serious when Cedric had an offer to fly to Vietnam to play with a band in the war zone. Their Vietnam tour was to entertain the U.S. Troops and other people who were stationed there!
In his own words:
"I went there in 1968 with Sonny Bala, Teddy [Ah Chye] and Granville DeSilva. We were the first batch. The 2nd batch was with Sonny Bala, Granville, Bozo Hamid and George Lim...
The rest is History!"
The bands that Cedric Cork performed with were all over South Vietnam. Their tours would include: Saigon, Quang Tri, Camranh Bay, Danang [map] and other cities and towns, wherever there were US troops stationed; in fact they were on stage in quite a number of South Vietnam towns. And you're not looking at a distance from Toa Payoh to Woodlands. The towns may be hours apart. And the groups were entertaining the G.I.'s, that is, the US army only.
They would be moving even amidst the bombing, and would travel from the airport to the venue within the confines of huge three-tonner trucks and escorted with jeeps and machine-guns. No Ricky Nelson here, "walking in the sands of Waikiki," with a pretty Polynesian baby. There were soldiers hidden everywhere among the trees.
A Three Tonner Truck
It sounded exciting when I listened to Cedric's story but he said it was not for them because a skirmish was always at hand and all the time they were on dangerous ground. A skirmish is an episode of irregular or unpremeditated fighting, especially between small groups in the armies. Cedric explained that they would see in the jungle the remains of the soldiers who had passed away. It was a tearful sight because of the plight of the families who came to collect the remains of their dead relatives or friends.
Cedric remembers that during their short trips around, they had to wear bulletproof vests with heavy helmets protecting their heads but with civvies [civilian clothes] on. They had to travel in dense jungle, a jungle with a terrain so alien, it was unbelievable. In many areas the winding roads also had challenging mountainous areas to cross . The soldiers themselves, guarding the musicians and their troupe, were also heavily armed, with rifles, bayonets and machine guns attached.
"You've been travelling
Down the wrong road,
Better turn around,
Cause baby you're headin'
For dangerous ground..."
Because of its ability to land anywhere the C-130 [a Hercules turbo-prop airplane] with its diverse and versatile air-lifter, was used. Normal helicopters were also utilised to transport the musicians and they flew together as a group. These were two bladed choppers, and according to Cedric, a mini aero-plane [Chinook gunship].
They travelled as a troupe and there were occasions when three planes flew together as a squadron, carrying ten to twelve performers; these included road managers, singers and dancers. These flight machines were also used to transport the band-boys, their music equipment and the ever effective, ever alert G.I.'s who would be around for protection and immediate defence.
"I got a hup, two, three, four,
Occupation G.I. Blues,
From my G.I. hair to the heels
Of my G.I. shoes..."
[Elvis Presley: GI Blues]
The venue itself would be a wide open space to accommodate the soldiers who would be watching the shows. The audience, or spectators, to be more precise, consisted of about 300 to 500 soldiers per show. But it depended on where they were performing.
One factor to note was, that they played only at the camps, as war-zone areas had no entertainment. It sounded commonsensical, but there was always this idea that they performed everywhere.
The stage was made up of two three-tonners back to back. The tough and rugged soldiers who were watching were a tired lot of people in a war zone but they were at their happiest when they listened to the music, song and dances. In short they were well entertained. The pretty girls in the chorus lines brought the most applause and rock music kept the spectators attuned.
Ann Margret and Bob Hope
"We gotta get out of this place,
If it's the last thing we ever do.
We gotta get out of this place,
'Cause girl, there's a better place in life,
For me and you..."
According to Cedric, there was no fear in any of them. They were young, adventurous and felt safe, enjoying the day to day situation that existed and trying to boost the morale of the boys who were there.
"The good old Vietnam days!" he called them, "1968 to 1971! The war years!"
Cedric perked up when I asked him if he met any Hollywood stars.
"Yes!" he answered, "we met both Bob Hope and Ann Margret. But they were not performing, and just like the rest of us... were taking breaks and relaxing in between shows."
There were times when Cedric and his group brushed shoulders with other artistes too but the busy in-betweens took up their time and effort to actually befriend these well-known performers. It was never in his mind to get their autographs; they were too busy.
"When our tour was over Sonny Bala, Teddy, Granville, Bozo and George returned home to Singapore but I stayed back and performed with a band from the Philippines Band and a Korean group. Our singer was Veronica Young.
We returned to Singapore on 1st April 1971, where I joined Tony Castillo & the Castillians; we preformed at the Spot Spot at Hilton Hotel. After the contract I joined Sonny Bala again to perform at Pebbles Bar in Singapura Intercontinental Hotel where I met my Wife ( Alice ) and we got married in 1973!"
This posting is one of the highlights of this blog and a fascinating experience for me as a listener. I shall let Cedric end his story as he had started it...
"Our army boys didn't go to war but our musicians did!"
Thanks so very much Cedric.
Comments are always welcome!
Images: from Google and Cedric Cork.
There is no intention to glamourize nor condemn the Vietnam War that has happened so many years ago. This post has been written to explain how certain professional Singapore bands have performed during that particular war, even risking their lives and limbs to earn a living; unsung heroes among our 60s and 70s musicians.
Please do not just copy wholesale this article if you wanted information; personal photographs included. It was done with a lot of hard work with Cedric's help. Also CREDIT us if you read it for information: with date and internet connections from Andy's 60s Music Blog.
There is a behind-the-scene computer software on this blog that recognizes visitors who view the postings, so we know who you are if you just take wholesale of what we have posted. Thank you.
The Animals with Eric Burdon:
We Gotta Get Out Of This Place.
The Eric Burdon Tribute Channel 13
Introduced by David McCallum, the man from
UNCLE himself. We had Tik-Tok long ago, but
it was more, 'tick, tick, boom, boom...'
Eric Burdon - vocals
Hilton Valentine - guitar Chas Chandler - bass Dave Rowberry - keyboards John Steel - drums