I had heard that the high school did not have a second-string band, so I thought my cornet playing days were finished. Then I got a post card telling me to come to the school and pick up my band uniform.
That really motivated me. I spent every free minute at school practicing my cornet. I learned all the third section cornet music, which was easy; I went through the first and second section music as well.
Then Mr. Campbell gave me a simple solo to practice, which was to be played with band background.
About six weeks into the year, Mr. Campbell called for the band to play this number that had the simple solo. He asked the first chair cornetist, “Think you can play it?”
The first chair cornetist smiled and the music started. He blew a couple of wrong notes and stopped.
Mr. Campbell liked to make dramatic moves. He said, “Johnson, get up to first stand and play the solo part.”
I had practiced the solo, and played it. It wasn’t that hard. Dan left me on first stand and the other guy, embarrassed, quit the band.
I remained on first stand through the rest of high school. In my senior year I also played in the Junior College band, which was really a semiprofessional dance combo of junior college students that also played for their basketball games.
That year I also organized a pep band to travel to out-of-town basketball games. Mr. Campbell didn’t want the responsibility of giving us permission, but Mr. Blackford, the school principal, thought it was a great idea. We had to find our own way to and from the games, but we worked that out.
It did give us the opportunity to get to know the cheerleaders better.