Do You Know This Lady?? The mystery of the 1961 Yalova girl….

I am getting away from my usual subjects of nature and wildlife, to ask all of my readers in 168 countries, “Do you recognize this lady?”

Yalova Mystery Girl

It all started yesterday, when I received this sketch from one of my readers, Audra Yocum of Coweta, Oklahoma.  She was browsing a thrift store when she came across the picture.  She loves black and white pictures and decided to purchase it.  As a reader of my blog, she found a resemblance to a caricature of me that you can find in chapter 4 of my Yakkety-Sax Man page.  It tells of my musical experiences in Turkey.  She wanted to ask me if I recognized the lady.  Click HERE to read it.  Here is that sketch.


Both caricatures were made at the same event.  I know.  I was there.  It was an event at the NCO club at Karamursel Air Force Base, about ten miles from Yalova, Turkey, which in turn, was about 60 miles west of Istanbul.  The event was a dance, and a troupe of performers from the USO had arrived to entertain.  Among them was a caricaturist that was making sketches of anyone in attendance that wanted one.  I have long forgotten his name.  That was 56 years ago.  Here is a close-up of his signature.


I would like to believe that the lady pictured was a lady that was enjoying my saxophone music.  She is wearing her dancing shoes.  If she is alive, I would imagine that she is probably in 70s or 80s by now.

Anyway, the coincidence is so amazing.  I appreciate Audra letting me use her photo for this post.  She, like me, is interested in knowing who the lady is.  I didn’t recognize her as anyone I knew personally after all of these years.  She was probably a military wife, or girl friend.  Definitely not a child, as there were no children in attendance.

It will be interesting to see if anyone does happen to recognize her.

So, I hope you enjoyed this post, and are intrigued by the mystery.  I will get back to my regular programming soon. 🙂

Yakkety-Sax Man – Part I: A Star is Born

Since the birding is a bit slow, I thought I would enlighten you a bit more of my personal history.  Don’t worry, I will have some more birding posts soon.

This post is the first in a series, describing my approximate 50 years as a saxophonist, 40 years professionally.  I don’t know how many parts I will need as I probably will try to cover everything I did over the years.  However, I think it will be fun for me as well as you, my readers, and I have thrown in some old pictures.  I have no idea how it will go.  I am just going to start typing and see what comes out.

I guess it all began when I was about five or six years old, when it was discovered that I had a strong aptitude for music.  I was always singing something.  My mother said that my favorite song was “Old Shanty Town”.  I guess I probably picked it up from the radio.  But you know how mothers are.  They tend to exaggerate quite a bit.  Personally, I wouldn’t know.  I don’t know if I could read at that age.  Maybe I just hummed.

My first grade teachers marveled at my voice, always inviting me to sing with at any school programs that would arise.  My music teacher, probably when I was about seven years old, who I only remember as Mrs. Hahn, started a bunch of us to use the “Tonette”.  It was a little plastic, tubular shaped thing with holes that you covered or uncovered while blowing through one end.  Kinda like the old “Sweet Potato”, if you remember them.  That was my first experience with any music “instrument”.

I think it was when I nine years old, I decided I wanted a real music instrument to play.  I didn’t know which one I wanted, whether it would be brass or woodwind.  So my parents took me downtown to Berman’s music store.  The owner showed me several different instruments; trumpets, clarinets, etc.  Finally my eyes landed on the saxophone.  I looked at all of those fancy keys, and I was in awe.  It was a Buscher Alto Sax.  I wanted one of those.  Thus, a star was born. 🙂

The man at the music store said that he could give me private lessons.  So we made plans for that and we drove home.  There, I couldn’t wait for a lesson.  I tinkered with it a bit myself, and was able immediately play a sour version of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”.  The neighbors probably heard that and thought, ” what are we in for now?”

Well, it didn’t turn out too bad for them.  My parents made me practice thirty minutes everyday.  At the time, there were times that I didn’t want to practice, buy they kept after me.  Eventually, I think the neighbors started to enjoy it.  I got pretty good, and my folks wanted to show me off to everybody that came to the house.  Even traveling salesmen were subjected to my mother’s insistence that they hear me play.

Muskegon, Michigan, High School Big Red Marching Band

Muskegon, Michigan, High School Big Red Marching Band – that’s me in the dark uniform.

I entered junior high school I guess when I was about 12 or13 and was able to get into the school band.  But I had my eye on the senior high school band.  The Marching Big Reds.  But I had to wait for that.  However, when I was in the ninth grade, when technically I was still in junior high, I was asked to join the big high school band.  I was about 15 years of age at the time.  One-hundred and eight members strong, it was one of the best in the state, and a blast to be marching with them in the football games.

The Muskegon High School Big Red marching band was under the directorship of Mr. William Stewart, Jr.  A strict disciplinarian.    I was always scared of him.  I don’t think he smiled much.  Under him, though, the members were alway winning state marching and concert competitions.  Our chests were proudly covered with blue ribbons.

Meanwhile, yours truly, was working towards other ambitions, such as playing professionally as a dance band musician.  Mr. Stewart definitely did not like dance band musicians.


Drummer Ken Twining

I guess I was fourteen when a drummer in the high school band decided to start up a ‘dance band’, Ken Twining and his Orchestra.  It was small, just a drummer, trumpet, sax (me), piano and bass.  We played our first gig at a school dance and got five dollars each.  I also sang for the first time professionally.  I stood at the mike and crooned “Because of You”.  My knees were knocking all the time.

About a year or so later, I broke away to do some free lance work.  I worked with any band that needed me.  I was doing a lot of night club work at the time and doing quite well financially. At 15 or 16, I couldn’t buy a drink.  But I was still playing in the Muskegon High School Big Red band, too.  One day Mr. Stewart called a night rehearsal in preparation for a school trip to Chicago, where the band was going to play at the Hotel Sheraton for some fancy affair.

Morrie Bectel and his Orchestra.  Bob Zeller 2nd from left in front row.

Morrie Bectel and his Orchestra. Bob Zeller 2nd from left in front row.

Well, heck, I had a paying gig at Ted’s Night Club in Muskegon Heights.  I was playing with a newly formed big 9-piece band, “Morrie Bectel and his Orchestra.  I opted to not attend rehearsal.  The next morning Mr. Stewart informed me that “we no longer need your services, Mr. Zeller”.  I was kicked out of the high school band.  He also added that ‘I would never be a soloist anyway’.  Yeah, right.

At this point, I might point out that Mr. Stewart had heard me play professionally on a previous occasion.  I was playing with the Charlie Bird Orchestra for the school prom, when he and the assistant band director, Alex Posvistak walked into the gym.  He completely ignored me, but later pointed out that he didn’t like the dance band tone that I used in school.

Check back soon for Part II of this exciting epic, and hear my Ann say, “What?  Are you gonna blow that thing again tonight??”

Actually, I will wait and see how this is received with my readers, whether to go on with Part II.

Notes about my musical past………..

After I posted that picture of the band I once played in, in my “Ann and I” post a couple of days ago, I got to thinkin’ that lots of you guys are really unaware of my checkered musical past.  So here is a little bit more about that period in my life.  Actually, that period starts when I was about nine, until I played my last gig at the age of about sixty-four.  In other words about 55 years.

Yeah, that's me - Mr. Cool

In grade school the music teacher, Mrs Hahn, decided to not only teach us singing, but got us each a little thingee that I think was called a Tonette.  It was similar to the old Sweet Potato, that many of you may or may not remember.  You blew into the end of it, and it had little holes for each finger, which you could cover or uncover to make notes.  I got pretty proficient at playing it.

Later, I decided I wanted something more substantial if I was going to be a great musician.  So my parents took me to down to Berman’s music store in Muskegon, Michigan, to pick out something.  An alto saxophone caught my eye, as it had a lot of fancy, shiny keys and I thought, boy, that looks fun to play.  And it ought to attract the girls. So a star was born that day I took that bugger home and started “entertaining” the neighbors.

After some private lessons, plus experience playing in the school band I really did start to shine on the danged thing.  In junior high school a friend decided we needed to start a band.  So four of us got together and played at a little dance.  We got 5.00 each and I got my first experience singing with a dance band.  My knees knocked but I sang “Because of You” to a sold-out crowd bunch of teeny-boppers.

I was playing in night clubs when I was fifteen years old, much to the chagrin of my high school band teacher.  (I’ll have you know that I didn’t drink a drop back then).  Mr. William Stewart summarily kicked my little butt out of the band because he did not believe is such goings-on.  That was OK, I just started to play every chance I got.  I got to be on stage with some pretty big names over the years.

The Melody Rangers

In the Air Force I played with a bunch of guys that played more western music.  We called ourselves the Melody Rangers.  Catchy name, don’t ya think?  We were pretty dog-goned good.  Good enough that the Air Force flew us to several places in the area in a C-123 cargo plane, to entertain the public.  Billy Deaton was the lead singer.  In the picture, he is second from left.  He went on to be a producer in Nashville.  At the far right, Stu Basore, ended up playing steel guitar for Ray Price.  I am second from right.  This pic was taken during practice, but on stage we wore fancy western shirts and cute little neckerchiefs.  The guy in the middle, Lou Brown, the drummer, was always wanting me to ask his mother out.  He said she had a thing for me. 🙂  I didn’t. 🙂

I sat in with the big bands, got on a traveling Grand Ole Oprey show in Oklahoma, with Judy Lynn and Brenda Lee.  She was about ten years old at the time.

When I went home to get married, I told you previously that I met Ann for the first time when I got off of the bus.  So, this is my wife-to-be whom I meet at 2:00 in the afternoon.  The first time I ever layed eyes on her.  The wedding rehearsal is at 4:00.  So what happens that evening, our first evening out together?  Of course!  I end up playing with the band at a little dance hall.  My old buddies found out I was in town.  From my brother, I guess.  So I guess I broke Ann in right away about my music.  That was a memorable first date. 🙂

There is one little period that I almost left out.  While stationed at Ardmore AFB in Oklahoma, I and two other staff sergeants formed a little singing group.  We called ourselves the Skyliners and we purposely, sang and sounded like the Four Aces.  We played shows around the state, and entered the Air Force Blues talent composition.  We ended up in second in the country, to a what I called then a Do-Wop group.

Back here in San Angelo, after my short career in the Air Force I played with just every band in town at one time or another over the years.  Leonard King’s Orchestra, Alton Baird’s band, Frank Trevino’s Orchestra, Billy Aylor Orchestra, Johnny Dutton’s band.   I joined the Cavalliers and we auditioned J. Frank Wilson to sing with us.  As you know the Cavalliers made a top ten record, “Last Kiss”, featuring J. Frank.  We are in the West Texas Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame.

I ended my musical professional career in December of 1996, playing with my own band, The Concho River Band, at the San Angelo Convention Center for the West Texas Utilities Company Christmas Party.  But I have lots of stories that sometime I may pass on to you.