American Airmen..... (from Pat "Sapphire" Burnett)


Ivy said "I lost nine members to Ramstein Airmen".

"American Airmen Real Hazard for All - Girl Saxy Band Players"

by George Markstein


London - The drummer put on a final touch of lipstick, the lead trumpet made sure her seams were straight and the bass player gave her nose a lst dab of powder.
These essentials completed, Ivy Benson's all-girl orchestra was ready for action.

From Ramstein to Lakenheath, and Baumholder to Wethersfield, Ivy and her 17 musicians have been proving that swing can be as easy on the eye as on the ear. There's something extra special about a trombone player whose curves are as harmonious as the note she's blowing. GI music lovers are fully appreciative of this, and it's a situation which causes band leader Ivy considerable worry.

"Another season at Ramstein, and I won't have any players left", she said. I lost nine of my girls there. They all married airmen". She cast an anxious look at a sizzling blonde in the brass section. "Oh dear, I think she may be the next one", said Ivy sadly. "She's heavily dating a boy in the Air Force. And good trombone players are so hard to get".

Ivy herself is married to a SAC NCO, SM Sgt Brant Callaway of Greenham Common AB, who's used by now to having the saxiest wife in the UK. For Ivy plays Alto, Tenor and Soprano saxophones herself, and handles a huge sax as if she was born with it. They met when Callaway, then manager of the Upper Heyford NCO club, auditioned the band for a possible engagement at the base.

Nowadays, whenever he can get away from his bomber base near Oxford, he joins Ivy and the girls on the road, travelling in their bus. "Guess you could call me the band boy", he grinned. "I help out, carry the instruments and so on". Whats it like being the only man in an all-woman band? "I know my place", said Callaway. Some superior types may raise their eyebrows at girls playing big band music, but soon change their tune when they hear Ivy and her performers.

But proof of how good they are is that Ivy's band is the only one on record to have played for 22 consecutive weeks at the London Palladium. "It wasn't easy to get ahead", said Ivy. "The men band leaders didn't like the idea of an all-girl orchestra. At first they scoffed at it, then when they saw we had made the grade, they gave us the cold shoulder".

Ivy is a titan-haired, five of her girls are blondes, one has silver hair and the rest are brunettes. And their looks are sweet music to GI audiences. That's Ivy's biggest problem. To her, air bases and caserns are graded by the players she's lost there.

Ramstein, of course, heads the list. "Let's see," said Ivy, "there's Bentwaters, where I lost Laura (Lynne) there, and Wethersfield, that's where Nina (Dellamura) married a Master Sergeant, and I lost Dina at Upper Heyford and Jean, ah yes, at Zweibruecken".

For the rest of this month the girls are playing at the Douglas House, London's EM club, and while Ivy likes the engagement (her home is in London, and it's within driving distance of Greenham Common), she's already looking perturbed about a further depletionof her ranks. "Luckily, I have a book filled with the names of would be recruits", she said, eyeing a GI in a corner who seemed taken with one of the sax section.

Ivy played the piano at the age of three, and believes in catching her girls young. "Many start with me when they are fifteen, but at that age they haven't got what it takes to make music. You have to learn to laugh, to love, to cry before you're a musician". "So I train the girls for three or four years, and by the time they're 18 or 19, they're really good and all set for a career in the band - and then what happens? Some GI comes along and grabs them.

Callaway smiled to himself, and the GI in the corner moved nearer the sax section.

Apart from Ivy and the piano player, not one girl actually in the band is married. "Married girls have husbands to look after", sai Ivy. "You can't expect them to travel all over the place with a band. That's why I prefer single girls - and get so anxious when we play at a place like Ramstein".

And she gave a hard look at the GI, who had now moved very near indeed to the sax section


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