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WWII In American Music: Pre-War Defense
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Part 3: Pre-War Defense
In the summer of 1940 Franklin Roosevelt, pressured by his party to run for a third term, agreed to once again be the Democratic Party's candidate for the presidency in the 1940 election. Roosevelt was pressured by Republican nominee Wendell Willkie for not doing enough for the defense of America. As it turned out, in September 1940, congress passed The Burke-Wadsworth Bill and Roosevelt signed it into law, establishing the selective service and authorizing the first peacetime draft in U.S. history. The first draftees were selected later that year. American musicians reacted to the draft in varied and interesting ways.
 
The Draft: Classification
Draft registrants were classified by the board in one of 4 main categories. Those designated 1-A were deemed to be fit for unrestricted military service. The other classifications were exemptions or deferments for a variety of reasons, including conscientious observer status, family hardship, for being a government official, and for being a minister or a minister in training. At the bottom of the list was 4-F: "registrant not acceptable for military service under the established physical, mental, or moral standards." Nat King Cole's narrator in "Gone With The Draft" (discussed below) was happy to be 4-F because of his flat feet.
Sheet Music: "He's 1-A In The Army And He's A-1 In My Heart" (1941)
Sheet Music: "He's 1-A In The Army And He's A-1 In My Heart" (1941)
"He's 1-A In The Army And He's A-1 In My Heart" by The Four King Sisters (1941)
sound "He's 1-A In The Army And He's A-1 In My Heart" by The Four King Sisters (1941)
"He's 1-A In The Army And He's A-1 In My Heart" by Les Brown & Betty Bonney (1941)
sound "He's 1-A In The Army And He's A-1 In My Heart" by Les Brown & Betty Bonney (1941)
"He's 1-A In The Army And He's A-1 In My Heart" by Harry James & Helen Forrest (1941)
sound "He's 1-A In The Army And He's A-1 In My Heart" by Harry James & Helen Forrest (1941)
But that attitude soon changed. With patriotism running high only a few months before the attack on Pearl Harbor, however, the new message in the very popular song, "He's 1-A In The Army and He's A-1 In My Heart" was clear: The physically fit soldier assigned to unrestricted duty would not only get the respect, but also the lovin' of a fine woman.
 

The Draft: Goodbye
Separation was, of course, one of the central themes of the war. In fact, nearly a quarter of the WWII-related songs in the AHC collection deal with that topic. Most of those songs are dealt with in in Part 11, but those related to the Draft and included here. Most of them deal with the forced separation between a man and his best girl. Many make reference to the one year duration of service. These early draftees had no way of knowing that so very few of them would be returning "in a year," as a Horace Heidt song proclaimed in April 1941. They couldn't know that many would never return, or that so many others would return seriously wounded, physically and psychologically.


"Good Bye Dear, I'll Be Back In a Year" by Horace Heidt (1941)
sound "Good Bye Dear, I'll Be Back In a Year" by Horace Heidt (1941)
"Good-Bye Dear, I'll Be Back In a Year" by Mitchell Ayers (1941)
sound "Good-Bye Dear, I'll Be Back In a Year" by Mitchell Ayers (1941)
"Draft Board Blues" by Cliff Bruner (1941)
sound "Draft Board Blues" by Cliff Bruner (1941)
"I Feel The Draft Coming On" by Nettle Brothers String Band (1941)
sound "I Feel The Draft Coming On" by Nettle Brothers String Band (1941)
"I'll Be Back In a Year (Little Darlin')" by The Prairie Ramblers (1941)
sound "I'll Be Back In a Year (Little Darlin')" by The Prairie Ramblers (1941)
Draft songs cut across all music genres. Cliff Bruner and his Boys represent the Texas Swing sound, and in "Draft Board Blues," they too lament having to leave home. But what can they do? Uncle Sam is calling. Likewise, the narrator in the Nettles Brothers' "I Feel The Draft Coming On" wishes he were 55 years old, rather than just 21, so that he could avoid the draft. Some of the string picking on this song foreshadows the electric guitar work that would be the hallmark of the rock and roll sound more than a decade later. In "I'll Be Back In A Year (Little Darlin')" by The Prairie Ramblers, the narrator

patriotically says goodbye to his two best girls. Six months later they recorded a follow-up song called "Answer To I'll Be Back In a Year", in which the woman left behind characteristically promises to be true until his return.

One of the most interesting draft songs is Chuck Foster's "I've Been Drafted (Now I'm Drafting You)". Even before the war, so many young men, predicting the loneliness of army life, found lifelines to home in the form of sweetheart romances. Many of these young couples, seeking mutual security, got married. Most of them would delay starting families until after the war, resulting in the demographic anomaly called "The Baby Boom." Society placed clear expectations on young American women too: be strong, be positive, write your man often, and remain faithful.

"Answer to I'll Be Back In a Year" by Prairie Ramblers (1941)
sound "Answer to I'll Be Back In a Year" by Prairie Ramblers (1941)
"I've Been Drafted (Now I'm Drafting You" by Chuck Foster (1941)
sound "I've Been Drafted (Now I'm Drafting You" by Chuck Foster (1941)
"I've Been Drafted (Now I'm Drafting You" by Kay Kyser (1941)
sound "I've Been Drafted (Now I'm Drafting You" by Kay Kyser (1941)
"They Drew My Number (Goodbye My Darlin) by Lunsford Brothers (1941)
sound "They Drew My Number (Goodbye My Darlin') by Lunsford Brothers (1941)
 
 
The Draft: African Americans
"Draftin' Blues" by Count Basie (1940)
sound "Draftin' Blues" by Count Basie (1940)
"Gone With The Draft" by King Cole Trio (1940)
sound "Gone With The Draft" by King Cole Trio (1940)
"In The Army Now" by Big Bill Broonzy (1941)
sound "In The Army Now" by Big Bill Broonzy (1941)
Reaction to the draft reveals a cross-section of American race and musical genre with similar notions about giving up a year for dear old Uncle Sam. Count Basie's "Draftin' Blues" reluctantly acknowledges that the black man, like all American men, will have to "do his share to help defend this dear old land," while Nat King Cole's narrator "Skinny" has the last laugh because his flat feet have kept him out of active service while all his friends with enviable physiques are all "gone with the draft." Big Bill Broonzy somewhat sarcastically
says that he received a letter this morning from "a dear old uncle" in his song, "In The Army Now." Recorded just five days before the attack on Pearl Harbor, it represents the last of the peacetime war-related songs.. Count Basie also had a hand in several other instrumentals with draft-related titles, "What's Your Number", and Benny Goodman's "Gone With What Draft." Benny Goodman was known to make good use of the talented musicians in his own orchestra but also for his willingness to work with musicians from other bands, including African Americans. His integrationist view of music wasn't always popular in an era still ruled by Jim Crow etiquette. His song "Gone With What Draft" features not only Count Basie, but drummer Jo Jones, trumpeter Cootie Williams, and pioneering guitarist Charlie Christian.
"What's Your Number?" by Count Basie (1940)
sound "What's Your Number?" by Count Basie (1940)
"Gone With What Draft" by Benny Goodman (1941)
sound "Gone With What Draft" by Benny Goodman (1941)
 
The Draft: Army Life
If there's one truism in the military, it's that soldiers will gripe. Not surprisingly, army life for those who had not volunteered for the change of lifestyle was not a welcome change, and the songs reflected that. Many of them, however, or good-humored, like "You're In The Army Now" by Abe Lyman and his Californians, recorded November 27, 1940. Despite the notorious bad food and other hardships (like bedbugs), the narrator acknowledges that it's rather fun hanging out with the gang, and at least you don't have to listen to your wife nagging you all the time. Apparently not all draftees anticipated missing their best girls.

Dick Robertson recorded a pair of army life songs in November 1940. One was a remake of the classic World War I song, "Oh, How I Hate to Get Up In the Morning," while the other was more akin to the Abe Lyman song.
"You're In The Army Now" by Abe Lyman (1940)
sound "You're In The Army Now" by Abe Lyman (1940)
"Oh, How I Hate To Get Up In The Morning" by Dick Robertson (1940)
sound "Oh, How I Hate To Get Up In The Morning" by Dick Robertson (1940)
"Oh! They're Makin' Me All Over In The Army" by Dick Robertson (1941)
sound "Oh! They're Makin' Me All Over In The Army" by Dick Robertson (1941)
"We're In The Army Now" by Frankie Masters (1941)
sound "We're In The Army Now" by Frankie Masters (1941)
"I'm In The Army Now" by Carson Robison (1941)
sound "I'm In The Army Now" by Carson Robison (1941)
"I've Changed My Penthouse For a Pup Tent" by Texas Rangers (1941)
sound "I've Changed My Penthouse For a Pup Tent" by Texas Rangers (1941)
"'Til Reveille" by Gene Krupa (1941)
sound "'Til Reveille" by Gene Krupa (1941)

One army life Draft song with a bit of a plot twist was recorded by the Andrews Sisters in early 1941 and quickly became one of the most famous songs of the entire war period. "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" told the story of a trumpet man who was so good that his captain went out and drafted an entire band to accompany him. Though the song was recorded by a few others, it was the Andrews Sisters record that made history.

The Andrews Sisters were a group of singing sisters who patterned themselves after an earlier successful singing group, the Boswell Sisters. They were: LaVerne (contralto, died in 1967), Maxene (high harmony, died in 1995) and Patty (lead). All were born in Minneapolis, Minnesota to a Greek immigrant father and a Norwegian American mother. The sisters performed


"Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" by Andrews Sisters (1941)
sound "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" by Andrews Sisters (1941)
"Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" by Andews Sisters V-Disc version (1944)
sound "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" by Andews Sisters V-Disc version (1944)
in various dance bands and toured on Vaudeville before becoming nationally known in 1937. Their popularity peaked during the war years when they entertained Allied troops, including performances for soldiers serving overseas, helped promote the war bond campaign, and even appeared in several films. During this period they recorded many songs with Bing Crosby, but perhaps their greatest hit, one that came to represent the new sound of swing, was the draft song "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy". They were so popular that some of their records were smuggled into Germany after the labels had been changed to read "Hitler's Marching Songs."
 
Any Bonds Today?
On December 29, 1940, President Roosevelt announced he would make America an "arsenal of democracy". This meant the retooling of large factories, like the automobile manufacturing plant at Willow Run near Detroit, for the making of weapons of war. A few weeks later, Roosevelt announced the famous Lend-Lease policy. It was now much easier for America to send arms to the allies. America too was beefing up her armed forces, financed in part by an aggressive, patriotic war bond drive (initially referred to as the National Defense Savings Program) that would last beyond the end of the war. The pitch to buy bonds appeared everywhere in popular culture, from magazine advertisement, to postcards, to children's toys, to movie cartoons. Many famous Hollywood and radio personalities were enlisted by the government to aid the war bond drive, from Bing Crosby to Bugs Bunny, and from Frank Sinatra to the Andrews Sisters. Irving Berlin's "Any Bonds Today?" urged Americans, many of whom were still hurting from the Depression, to "scrape up" the most they could in order to buy "a share of freedom."
Sheet Music: "Any Bonds Today?" (1941)
Sheet Music: "Any Bonds Today?" (1941)
"Any Bonds Today?" by Barry Wood (1941)
sound "Any Bonds Today?" by Barry Wood (1941)
"Any Bonds Today?" by Kay Kyser (1941)
sound "Any Bonds Today?" by Kay Kyser (1941)
"Any Bonds Today?" by Andrews Sisters (1941)
sound "Any Bonds Today?" by Andrews Sisters (1941)
"Any Bonds Today?" by Jimmy Dorsey (1941)
sound "Any Bonds Today?" by Jimmy Dorsey (1941)

"Arms For The Love of America" by Barry Wood (1941)
sound "Arms For The Love of America" by Barry Wood (1941)
"Arms For The Love of America" by Kay Kyser (1941)
sound "Arms For The Love of America" by Kay Kyser (1941)

Less famous than "Any Bonds Today" but far more militant and rousing is a song Irving Berlin wrote for the Army Ordnance called "Arms For The Love of America."

On land and on the sea and in the air
We've gotta be there, we've gotta be there
America is sounding her alarm
We've gotta have arms, we've gotta have arms
Arms for the love of America!

The urgency expressed in the song of an ongoing arms race was punctuated by the line, "Oh the fight for freedom can be lost or won by the man behind the man behind the gun."

In 1941, as white and black men and women alike were about to embark on a campaign to rid the world of the most heinous example of State-sanctioned racism in human history, it was worth pointing out that America's record on race was far from perfect. That year, Josh White released Southern Exposure, a six song album of 78s that railed against racial injustice in America, from discrimination in housing, to Jim Crow laws. Two songs, "Defense Factory Blues" and "Uncle Sam Says" dealt directly with the government's appeal to Americans to contribute to the war effort and the contradictory lack of opportunities for black Americans to do just that. President Roosevelt himself took an interest in Josh White and invited him to perform at the White House. White accepted, and he would return to the White House for visits with the President and First Lady several times during the war years.
"Defense Factory Blues" by Josh White (1941)
sound "Defense Factory Blues" by Josh White (1941)
"Uncle Sam Says" by Josh White (1941)
sound "Uncle Sam Says" by Josh White (1941)
 
Post-War Defense (The Victory Loan, 1945)
"Any Bonds Today?" by Barry Wood (1945)
sound "Any Bonds Today?" by Barry Wood (1945)
"The Spirit of '45" by Leonard Stokes (1945)
sound "The Spirit of '45" by Leonard Stokes (1945)
"We've Got Another Bond To Buy" by Bing Crosby (1945)
sound "We've Got Another Bond To Buy" by Bing Crosby (1945)
The war was fought and financed, in part, by seven war bond loans. At the conclusion of the war the treasury department launched one last war bond campaign, this time calling it a "victory loan." The message was that though the war was over, the peace had yet to be won. Irving Berlin wrote new lyrics for "Any Bonds Today?" And Bing Crosby crooned to America's war-weary citizens that "We've Got Another Bond to Buy".
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Last modified July 21, 2012