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.

img001-bob-caracature

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.

Yalova-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 V: Cavaliers’ Rockabilly Heaven


Part IV concluded with me having that twinge mi my chest while I was doing my job as chief cashier at Karamursel AFB.  Thinking that it was just a minor muscle twitch, I tried to walk around.  Wow!  All of a sudden, I was short winded after taking just a few steps.  Fortunately, the infirmary was just next door, so I limped over there to see a doctor.

It turned out that my right lung collapsed about 75% in those few seconds.  I had been smoking, but that wasn’t the cause.  It turned out later the blame was with the Marfan Syndrome that I was later diagnosed with many years later.  Unable to correct this malfunction at Karamursel, they put me on a stretcher and flew me to Istanbul, where I would meet a larger aircraft that would take me to Wiesbaden, Germany, where a larger military facility existed.  It was a three day trip through Athens, Greece, then Tripoli, North Africa and finally to Germany.   A tube was inserted in my chest there and I was kept there several days so my lung could re-expand.  I would spend a total of about two weeks there before being flown back to my home station in Turkey.  At that time, the medical people still had no idea why my lung had collapsed.

Meanwhile, back in Turkey, orders were issued for our transfer back to the United States.  Since I wasn’t there, Air Force personnel assisted Ann in making arrangement for our furniture to be shipped back to the USA.  So, when I walked in the door of the apartment,  Ann says, guess what??  Of course during the time I was gone, we had no communication between us.  No phones, cell or otherwise.  So, three days later, we left Turkey for good, spending a weekend in Frankfort, Germany, then making the final trip home in a civilian TWA Boeing 707.

English: Shows a decent view of downtown San A...

View of downtown San Angelo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We arrived here at Goodfellow AFB on December 20, 1961.  The next day we purchased a brand new house and decided that San Angelo would be our final home.

After reporting in to my duty assignment, and getting settled into our new home, I turned to the next order of business;  finding music work.  I put an ad in the newspaper that I was an available sax player, adept at any genre of music.  I promptly got a call from guitarist Sid Holmes, who along with a bass player Lewis Elliot, were re-organizing the Cavaliers, a band that had broken up several months previously.  They liked my credentials so we became a three-piece band  We got booked into a small club, “The Blue Rail”.

We played all instrumentals as we lacked a vocalist then, mostly western and rock-a-billy hits.  We finally found an airman on base that wanted to sing.  We auditioned him at the club.  Lewis, the bass player, and I, didn’t think he could sing worth a flip, but Sid, the leader, over-ruled us and hired him. His voice was high and raspy, but with us backing him up, he sounded good for the rock and roll music of that era.  His name was J. Frank Wilson.

J. Frank Wilson

J. Frank Wilson

Word got around about us, and were packing them into the tiny little club.  J. Frank was getting better.  I was only with the band for about four months, leaving when Sid Holmes and I had a few differences.  But it was a fun period playing that type of music.  Sid Holmes wrote the book, “Rockabilly Heaven”, the story of the Cavaliers, and on page 95 he gave me a nice write-up with my photo, saying that I was “San Angelo’s best kept secret”.  In 1964 the Cavaliers, along with J. Frank Wilson, recorded the song, “Last Kiss”.  One of the greatest hits of that time.  But that was J. Frank’s only big recording.  He died several years ago in a nursing home in south Texas.joz4006

The Cavaliers and I  were inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame in 2004.

In April of 1962, I joined the Leonard King Orchestra.  Now it was back to the dance music that I was more accustomed to, the old big band style.  We played country clubs, officers clubs, etc., with our ballroom style of music.  I also was back to doing vocals along being the front man with my sax.

San Angelo was called the Wool Capital of the World back then.  Sheep production was one of the main industries here.  The annual Miss Wool of America Pageant was held here at our coliseum.  Our band furnished the music at that event for a couple of years.  There were always special guests and we backed up the likes of Peter Nero among others.  The pageant finally went on national television after a few years.  A larger band from Dallas was booked to replace us.  Upon arrival from Dallas, they needed a good sax player.  Guess who they called upon.  You got it.  I was one of their sax players for the TV production.

English: San Angelo Cactus Hotel, old Hilton.

San Angelo Cactus Hotel, old Hilton. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But before that, on June 4 of 1962, we were playing for a dance in the ballroom of the Cactus Hotel.  During the second intermission, I took a smoke break.  After sitting back down with the other saxes to begin the third set, I felt that familiar pain in my chest.  I thought, “Oh sh*t, not again!”  I said to myself, “Zeller, you had one too many cigarettes.”  It was my left lung this time, collapsed nearly 90%.  I went into denial, and managed to play three more songs before I admitted it was for real.  Without going into details, I will say that I managed to drive home.  There, Ann called the air base and an ambulance was sent for me.  I never smoked  another cigarette after that evening.

I was flown to Wilford Hall U.S. Air Force Hospital in San Antonio.  There I spent three months recuperating and having tests done to see what was causing the spontaneous pneumothorax’s,  the medical term or my collapsed lungs.  In the end, as before mentioned, I was diagnosed with Marfan Syndrome and given a medical discarge from the military.  I was told by the medical staff that I would eventually get emphysema.  I proved them wrong on that, but my dreams of a full time professional music career were ended.  After I healed, I resumed playing with the Leonard King band.  I continued just being satisfied playing with bands and musicians locally, so to be near medical help if needed.

I do believe that by continuing with my saxophone playing it was good

Randy Dorman

Randy Dorman (Photo credit unknown)

therapy for my lungs.  During the 60s, I also played with the Billy Aylor Orchestra, Johnny Dutton Western band, Alton Baird and the Moonlighters, and a few other local bands as needed.  Randy Dorman, the great jazz guitarist with Kenny Rogers, started his career in San Angelo and I was honored to play with him during one engagement.

One funny anecdote.  Al Ricci, John McMillan, musican friends, got booked to play for a dance following a dinner/play in Wichita Falls, Texas on New Year’s Eve.  We were being paid 175.00 each to play from 10:00 until midnight.  The dinner and play ran late and we didn’t get started until about 11:45.  We played for the fifteen minutes, collected our money and drove home.  I was riding with Al in his pickup.  Al wore a toupee, and during the drive he opened up his window, the toupee blew off and fortunately landed in the bed of the pickup with his string bass.  We got a good laugh out of that.

All of these years Ann had been working for the local Coca-Cola Bottling Company.  In 1968 she was asked to transfer to the Las Cruces, New Mexico plant to re-organize the office operation there.  Our four years there will be the subject of Part VI coming next week.

The book, “Rockabilly Heaven” is published by Ft. Phantom Lake Publishing, 6204 S. Freeway, Ft. Worth, TX 76134.  It is also available from the author Sid Holmes at sid-holmes@charter.net.  It is the untold story of the Cavaliers from 1956 -1964.  West Texas music in the 50s and 60s.

My own book, “Birds, Beasts and Buttes” is still available from my Blurb publisher.  Click on the link on right side of this page or e-mail me at bob.zeller@aol.com.

To read Parts I thru IV, click Categories, then select Music Career on right side of page.

Yakkety-Sax Man – Part IV: It’s Istanbul, Not Constantinople


Istanbul, Turkey.  Formerly Constantinople.  Getting off the plane the smell is instantly noticeable.  Turkish cigarettes and other odors cling to the air.  This is Istanbul International Airport.  We were debarking from an Air Force Super Constellation that brought us via Bermuda, Madrid, Tripoli, and Athens.  The Madrid stopover was necessitated by a failure of one of the four engines over Gibralter.  We stayed there overnight while the engine was replaced.

Harbiye'deki Hilton otelinin Taksim tarafından...

Istanbul Hilton (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After staying over night at the Istanbul Hilton for about  $15.00 American, we were flown to Karamursel AFB, which would turnout to be our home for nearly three years.  This flight was a rickety Air Force C-47 that was from our duty station there to pick us up.  The pilot, who eventually became a family friend, had to. at times, poke a broomstick that he carried in the cockpit, up into the engine on start-up.  I don’t know what this accomplished, except to raise the eyebrows of new arrivals.

Karamursel AFB, was the home of TUSLOG Det. 3, (Turkish United States Logistics Group),a unit of the United States Air Force Security Service.  But other branches of the service were represented there, too.  It is on the Sea of Marmara southeast of Istanbul.  Our mission was monitoring communications of our friends north and east of the Black Sea.

English: United States Air Force Security Serv...

United States Air Force Security Service emblem (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yalova Turkey Provinces locator

Yalova, Turkey upper left.  Just north of it you can see the Bosphorus canal that separates the two parts of Istanbul, between the Sea Marmara and the Black Seas. Meditereanean is at far left. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Initially, Ann stayed in the States, as I didn’t have the rank for the Air Force to pay her way.  There were no quarters for families on the base and married couples lived in Yalova, a village about 12 miles away.  But after living in a barracks environment for about two months, I asked Ann to sell the Buick and use the money for a plane ticket to Turkey.  A few weeks later, she made her first plane trip ever, and I met her in Istanbul.  After a night at the Hilton,  we took the ferry to Yalova, about an hour’s trip.

I had found an apartment on the 4th floor of a building in Yalova.  Another military couple was the previous tenant, and our neighbors in the building were all military, too.  The rent was about $11.00 per month.  These low prices were because of the exchange rate.  We had a maid, $3.00 monthly and a houseboy, another $3.00.  These rates were American money, but with exchange rates the wages were average for the Turkish.  The apartment was two bedrooms and a kitchen.  The bath had a hot water tank with a fire-box underneath.  You had to build a fire before going to bed to have hot water in the morning.  Then you built another fire to have hot water in evening.  Our house boy took care of that, lugging firewood up the four flights of stairs.  He also met us when we came home from work, to carry any of our groceries, etc. upstairs for us.

But I am getting ahead of myself.  After my own arrival earlier and getting settled in, I stopped by the Airmen’s Club, that was in the base fire station.  It was temporary and plans were in the offing for a permanent club.  Anyway, some musicians were jamming one evening.  They were using instruments from the special services department.  My sax was still in transit so I picked up this battered looking alto and and used it.  I was immediately invited to play with a group that was playing a few gigs around the area.  It was made of of Navy personnel mainly.  We played at the NCO club a time or two and down at a submarine base at Golcuk, Turkey.

To do the appearances at the club at Golcuk, we needed a vehicle to haul the large equipment, drums, base, etc.  One of the sailors worked at the motor pool, and we “midnight requisitioned” a van of some type, and sneaked it past the military police on the gate.

Ann arrived then, and I ran into some Air Force musicians that also had a group and we re-organized.  We really could put on a show.  We had a piano player, upright bass, trumpet, sax, (me) and drums.  We romped to the style of Louis PrimaI fittingly happened to play a Sam Butera style at that time.  What a blast it was!  We would occasionally go to Istanbul and entertain at a USO club there.  We had to take our equipment on a ferry across the sea.  Quite a chore, but there was always a bunch of Turkish civilians that were more than anxious to help us.

Turkish ferry.  Harbor at Istanbul, Turkey.  @Bob Zeller.

Turkish ferry. Harbor at Istanbul, Turkey. @Bob Zeller.

Ann had gotten a job as office manager for the Officers’ Club and was instrumental in getting us to play at the dances there.  We played for the grand opening of the new NCO club, and many dances after that.  It was during one of those outings that a USO Show was there for extra entertainment. The caracaturist that drew the likenesses of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis was there with the group and he thought I was a great candidate for a caracature.   Below is the resultblog_bob_caracature.  I think he liked my Adam’s apple.

Our trumpet player was a member of one of the major big bands before entering the Air Force.  He was only serving a two-year hitch and was planning on re-joining that orchestra.  I don’t remember the name of that band.

Our upright bass player, Les White, had been a radio announcer, and he was our MC.  We didn’t do many vocals, as we were more of a show band.

By now you may be wondering where my photography came in.  It was at this Air Base that I bought my very first 35mm camera.  It was a German-made Kodak Retina IIIs rangefinder type.  Of course, I had always owned a camera of some sort, but they were the cheap little box cameras of the era.  The Brownie Hawkeye comes to mind.  I started shooting Kodachrome slides with a film speed of ASA 10.  To me the best slide film ever made.

Turkish Fishing Boat  @Bob Zeller

Turkish Fishing Boat @Bob Zeller

I began to get serious, and I enrolled with the home study course from the New York Institute of Photography.  I shot hundreds of slides while in Turkey, but during the shipment of our household goods back to the States many of them were lost or damaged.  But while I was there, I got acquainted with the official base photographer and he let me use the darkroom.  In return I let him use some of my own photos to use for the base commanders briefings for VIPs that dropped by.

Topkapi Palace, Istanbul, Tukey.  ©Bob Zeller

Topkapi Palace, Istanbul, Turkey. ©Bob Zeller

Since Ann and I were doing so well, with our “side jobs”, we extended our tour an additional year.  My job on base was Chief Cashier and in charge of the payroll.  I was responsible for paying all military and indigenous civilian personnel at the air base, plus two smaller detachments on remote sites on the Black Sea.  Most of the time, I was sitting in a cashiers cage, with a .45 caliber pistol at my side, handing out thousands of dollars each day.

It was on one of these days, in September of 1961 that I felt a twinge in my chest while I was sitting there.  Uh oh!……….  To be continued…………

Watch for Part V in about another week.  If you missed the first three parts, click the links below.

Part I, Part II, Part III