"In the military, I would go out for the post bands. If you are used to playing six nights a week and you love playing and somebody says, 'Give me your trumpet, and here's your rifle,' my first response is, 'No, give me my trumpet back.' They didn't see it that way.
"The put me in the infantry. I auditioned and made the post bands at Fort Ord, in Hawaii and in Vietnam, but they wouldn't let me out of the infantry. The said they had too much invested in me. So I was stuck.
"When I got home, I went to West Virginia Tech and majored in music. In the fall of 1969, I joined the Esquires and I've been with them ever since.
"I can remember walking in a fraternity house and everybody said, 'You have to hear the Esquires. They're the best band around.' They had a fantastic drummer, Jimmy Neal. He could keep the beat and throw up at the same time.
"When I was about 17, I bought a Maynard Ferguson record. 'Danny Boy' was the first song. He went up to a double C and it was incredible! I wanted to be able to do it. That started the challenge. It's like a rock climber. We are going to present you with a challenge and you have to do all these things to get there.
"In college, a bunch of us trumpet players went to see Maynard Ferguson playing in Ohio at the Brown Derby. We got to sit about 10 feet from the stage. None of us was the same after that.
"Maynard did this inner-circular breathing on the last note of 'Hey Jude,' which was a high F. I think he went to India to learn the breathing. It's where you breathe in and out at the same time.
"He was playing this high F. After 20 seconds, you would think any human would falter, but he kept playing it -- one minute, two minutes, three minutes. All this time, his stomach was gyrating. He definitely was my inspiration. I went to see him maybe 15 times.
"I taught music as an itinerant teacher in Boone County for five years and went to Marshall at night and got a degree in elementary education. I taught at my old school, DuPont Junior High. I got into computer science and got a library certificate. I became a librarian for 20 years and ran the computer lab at Pratt Elementary. I retired nine years ago.
"I played with the Esquires until 1971 when the band broke up. In '82, they had a reunion concert at the Civic Center and we've been playing together all these years. Butch Evans joined the band before me and Phil Martin joined a few months before I did. So we're the veterans.
"The Esquires play music that allows a trumpet player a lot of opportunities to play high notes. But the upper register has one drawback with this band. Every time I play a note between a high C and a double C, Kevin, one of our singers, starts to sing like Yoko Ono.
"So I at least have fun when I play. The main focus, the only reason I play, is to have a good time. I watch other bands, and you can tell by looks on their faces if they're having a good time. Regardless of how good you are, you have to be into it. You can't do things mechanically.
"There's a sense of satisfaction knowing you have pretty much accomplished your goal. But you hit that genetic wall. Even though you know what to do is right, you can only do it so well.
"Even though I made the military bands every time I auditioned, that doesn't mean I'm good enough to make the big Army band. There's a difference. A lot of people can play semi-pro football, but they can't make the big league.
"Ideally, I would have been brought up near North Texas State. They have the One O'Clock Lab Band there. They play big band music, and I would have just fit right in.
"It takes money to go down there, and it's a little late to go and say, 'Will you teach me to play this stuff?' Music is a continuous learning process. If you don't strive to get better all the time, you stagnate.
"I'm the only trumpet player I know of who also plays saxophone and flute. When I retire from the huffing and puffing of horn playing, I will pick up acoustic guitar. I love acoustic guitar. I just never have time to do it."
Reach Sandy Wells at san...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5173.