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
Thanks Andy for the informative interview and thanks Cedric for the story of your musical journey. Some names mentioned were of my primary school classmates and others I met later in life but what ever the case Cedric you have made music in the worst conditions and have come out as heroes of the time. Well done mate enjoyed the journey down memory lane. Cheers 👍👌 Cedric
Yes D Moonglows was entertaining in d war zone of Vietnam d Gis during Vietnam War here in Spore D Silver Strings were entertaining also d GIs during their R n R (Rest n Recreation) at d Serene House situated at d junction of Farrer n Adam Road.
SS was perforimng for about 1 year n after 6 mths our singer late Shirley Nair wanted to get married n migrated to d USA where she passed on at d Age of 29 (1975) n I got another replacement singer Ms Anita Sarawak to join d band to fulfill d Contract.
Funny thing is being a Chinese d GIs thought I was a Vietcon n avoided me until I convinced them.
During Chinese New Year I threw a packet of Fire Crackers n all d Gis jumped n lay flat on d ground n later found out that I was resposible They were angry n threw me with my uniform into d Swimming pool which is next to d lounge.We had to back up shows n 1st time I saw a striptease show presented by Ms Rose Chan n being a young man I had to hide my hard on with my Bass guitar on stage hehe.
Thank you Andy for continuing saga of a musician in an unsettling time. You can almost feel the tension in the atmosphere as you read about how the musicians went about doing what they loved. Though the performers were relatively far away from the actual fighting, being in the war zone itself would have certainly been an experience to last a lifetime.
With the Ukraine war now raging, let’s hope music is able to lift the spirit of those caught in the fighting, and let’s hope the conflict would quickly resolve itself. Let’s PLAY.
Thanks to all 3: CEDRIC COLLARS, AUDIE NG and CHOW WEN HING for the detailed and sincere comments. I am very sure Cedric Cork would be pleased to know the interest you all have taken to realize his tale about the Vietnam War.
He told me it was a harrowing experience sometimes but being the positive person that he is, it was all done because he had in his own words, "to earn a living".
I am just wondering why these "unsung heroes" [I always call them] have never been established in our record book of musicians, if there is one.
I never knew we had Singaporeans who entertained and sang for soldiers from the Vietnam War. Thank you for sharing this story Andy.
Thanks Malvin for your comment.
Yes, and these are the true blue heroes and music makers who represented Singapore.
Nice to hear from you again after some absence.
That's a great writeup of your exciting Vietnam adventure Cedric, yeah I like this ...
"Our army boys didn't go to war but our musicians did"...
A good one ...
Bravo and salute to all of you!
John Chris Kams
Cedric De Silva
THE READERS LIKE THIS POST
Interesting piece by Cedric.
Having worked with Sunny and Cedric way back I've heard their Vietnam War stories personally but to read about it on your blog. does make a very interesting read.
I've sung with Sunny Bala and The Moonglows at Ion Bar [Apollo Hotel].
With Cedric again at Kings Hotel with Peter Richards on keyboard, Moses Tay on bass and Cedric on drums.
Thanks for sharing.
BTW, one drummer I've worked wwith and really fond of till today is CEDRIC.
He makes us laugh all the time during our breaks.
A great joker. Bumping into him every now and then, he is always a joy cos we will reminisce and laugh at the good old days.
Oh yes, he's very positive.
I went through a few chats with him during our interviews, especially getting the dates and band members' names right. He's always so gracious. ''fond'' describes what others will feel for Cedric if they know him.
Thanks Irene for your feedback.
Thanks also to others who wrote in, MALVIN and FREDA, TED also.
Stay well guys.
We can beat covid.
That music has its place in peace and war shows its invaluable role in life. Amongst other things, it uplifts the spirit. It cannot be dismissed as something trivial or frivolous.
Our men and women who brought their music to the Vietnam War are certainly not frivolous.
Thank you Eddy, your pragmatic comment struck a strong note in me about the realities of war those years and how near we were to the dangers of destruction and death.
We were all at the doorsteps, Vietnam being close by...
Whether it is America or Russia, invading another country is morally unjustifiable.
Sonny Lee of the Zodiacs later formed a duo called Leo Brothers comprising him and Gary and I sent them to Taiwan to perform and stayed there till now.
Gary was the original GINGER BREAD comprising lead Gabriel, bass Gary, keyboard Dudley Nonis, a drummer whose name I forgot. I sent them to perform in Ipoh at the Mayflower Nightclub under 10th Storey Musical Agency [Michael Tan and Audie Ng].
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