It WAS All About the Song!
It WAS All About the Song!
Prologue: It wasn’t until NOW when I realized the influence one song had, written 25 years ago, in the hearts and lives of my family, a community, and more importantly the children.
Imagine, a classroom teacher, like myself, writing the song, “Fearless Heroes”, for the military. A song making history on the day it was recorded and how everything seemed to escalade benefiting the lives of the children I worked with.
Have you ever seen a children’s entertainment group perform on the floor at a fast-food restaurant? Well, there was one group that did and they were called, “Amerikids of Ocean View.” The dancers of the group would perform an opening routine to a popular song played on a “woofer” boom box.
Following that number, the children would sing several original songs written by my younger brother, Warren, and myself. Imagine, being the manager of a group of children involved with performing dance routines and singing? Now, these children had raw talent, but I certainly didn’t. I couldn’t sing. I was the only girl in my sixth-grade class that wasn’t allowed to be in chorus. My voice sounded like a cat with its tail stuck in a door. Besides, not being able to sing, I certainly couldn’t play an instrument. Believe me, I tried! I tried playing the ukulele, but I couldn’t get my fingers to work. Then, I tried the flute, but I couldn’t blow correctly. So, when it came to writing a song, a song that made national airwaves, how could I've accomplished something so extraordinary? But, I did! This song changed my life and the lives of others, and to think it was all done on a whim!
The Amerikids of Ocean View performed several times at the local McDonald’s franchise in 1992, after the Persian Gulf War had ended. The franchise had purchased and designed special t-shirts for the group to wear as they sang an original patriotic song known as, “Fearless Heroes,” at the Mother Homecoming in Chesapeake, Virginia. This celebration was in honor of bringing home the last fleet of Navy ships that had served in the war. The performance group’s founders had agreed to have the children perform during the course of one summer as payment for the shirts.
As the founder of the group, I worked with this group of talented children, who came from low-income families. Performing in this group, meant everything to these children and to think that it all began with writing lyrics to the song, “Fearless Heroes.” My husband, Ron, was serving on the USS Guam during the Persian Gulf War. I wrote the song to honor my husband and the other military personnel that left on a whim believing they would come back soon. It wasn’t until nearly ten months later, when my children, Laura, Aaron, and Kelley would see their father again.
(video clip of Laura with the Amerikids of Ocean View performing at a local McDonalds)
Words cannot describe how difficult it was taking care of three children, teaching, and being the one in charge of a children’s entertainment group. But, I prefer to stay busy, rather than fill my days with worrying about Ron’s well-being.
I taught second-grade at Ocean View Elementary, a public school located near the outskirts of the Norfolk Naval Base. The students and staff were affected by the Persian Gulf War, since they either had a relative or a friend overseas. It was a time when patriotism was easily recognized throughout the City of Norfolk as businesses displayed American flags and yellow ribbons tied around almost every tree.
After I’d written the lyrics to the song, “Fearless Heroes,” I approached the music teacher at my school, Andrea Turner, to see if she could add music to it. Andrea agreed to listen to the song on a day after school, as I sang it. I can still remember Andrea sitting behind the old piano and began pressing down on the keys, as I sang the words. It took about an hour for Andrea to jot down the notes creating a score for the song. Since I knew I wasn’t a singer, I had to ask how she was able to create the score. Surprisingly, she claimed that my voice wasn’t that bad, but it was the words that helped. They seem to flow right off the page, making her job easy.
Creating this song had good timing, since it could be performed at an upcoming patriotic musical salute to the military. Many local schools had also planned a musical program to honor the military, but Ocean View Elementary was the only school having an original song. Andrea selected five of her best fifth-grade chorus students to sing the song along with my second grade class. I also included in the group, her older daughter, Laura.
(Here’s how my poem became a military song)
The school performance took place the last hour on a school day, rather than at night. The school’s auditorium was filled to capacity and there was standing room only! The camera crew and reporters from the local media had arrived early, so they could set up. Everyone received an agenda for the program and so all knew when the song would be performed. When it was time for the song to be played, the audience grew silent. In fact, so quiet one could hear a pin drop!
As the song was being sung, a photographer crept up behind Andrea and took a picture of the song’s musical arrangement. I was shocked and so was Andrea! Andrea kept playing, but it was difficult for her to remain focused. She really wanted to say something to the photographer. Then, a thought crept into her mind. Could someone steal this song? After all, we didn’t know anything at that time about having a song copyrighted.
Fortunately, a local folk singer had come to perform in the program. We met with him to discuss the possible stealing of the song, after we were interviewed by the press. The folk singer had mentioned the use of a pocket copyright. A pocket copyright is when one mails a copy of one’s original work back to oneself. As long as one doesn’t open the envelope, the work is protected for a period of two years, from the mailing date stamped on the envelope. However, the folk singer encouraged us to complete a copyright registration for the song, as soon as possible, since it would take up to six months or more to get the song registered by the Library of Congress.
After the song had made its debut, a story about the song was printed in the local newspaper, and the song’s performance from the school’s program, aired on the local television network. Soon after, it hit the national ABC network. But, the real reason I’d written the song was to honor the men and women along with Ron, who were serving overseas. I knew they wouldn’t be able to hear the song, unless copies were sent overseas.
(Homestyle Xmas A Song by Warren and Sharon with the Amerikids of Ocean View at McDonald's)
Since the folk singer had his own recording studio inside his music store, Andrea and I managed to convince him to make a recording of the song. About a week later, the five chorus students, Andrea, and myself, met on an evening at the studio to record the song. As it turned out, we couldn’t use the recording studio, since the space was too small to accompany the children and Andrea’s use of the piano. The folk singer assumed that Andrea would play a guitar and sing the song in the small space provided; instead, the song was recorded within the walls of the music store while Andrea played the piano, the children sang, and the folk singer played bass guitar.
I was given the original tape recording and made copies for the chorus students and to Andrea. Now, besides being a mother and a classroom teacher, I served as a volunteer with the Navy’s Adopt-a-School program. Military personnel on board ships were given an opportunity to volunteer at a local school providing needed educational support, whether it was assisting in a teacher’s classroom; provide tutoring, or other services. The U.S.S. Guam’s adopted school was Granby Elementary. I served as an “emissary of goodwill” being the sole contact between Granby Elementary School and the U.S.S. Guam. I was dedicated in picking up letters and packages from the school and taking them to an officer on the Norfolk Naval Base in charge of shipping.
Periodically, the officer would call me to see if there were any letters or packages forthcoming from Granby Elementary. On one such call, I told the officer about the song and how much it would boost the morale of the servicemen and women serving overseas, if they could hear it. Immediately, the officer wanted to hear the song. I offered to send him a copy, but he wanted it right then. So, I stayed afterschool with two of my children. Laura and Ace were students at Ocean View Elementary School, while K.K. attended a local preschool. I urged the officer to come quickly, because I would need to pick up K.K.
(Another video clip showing the Amerikids singing at a local McDonalds and the clip is Laura with K.K. sitting on the table. Ace is sitting at a different table closer to me.)
The officer arrived quicker than I would’ve imagined. It seemed like no sooner had I put the phone down, he was standing at the door of my classroom. Upon hearing the song, he immediately asked for a copy. Apparently, he knew the music director at the National School of Military Music in Virginia Beach, Virginia and would take the tape to him. Within a month, the officer called me to give an update about the song. The director at the school sent the tape to the head of the music department at the United States Academy in Annapolis and it was there that a military band arrangement for the song was created. The director had a copy of the taped instrumental band arrangement and would like to have a group of students come and sing the song on stage at the National School of Military Music, while a small band ensemble played the arrangement.
I drove to the National School of Military Music to pick up a copy of the tape and to meet with the musical director to learn the details associated with this musical project. They would need a date and time for the project. Students would need to have parental permission forms signed, since there would be a possibility that some of the students might be interviewed by a reporter, from the National Navy News program.
(Fearless Heroes Military Band Getting Warmed Up)
All of the parents in my classroom wanted their child to participate and eagerly signed the permission form. Once again, Andrea chose the five, fifth-grade choral students, who had been involved in the school’s program, to come, too. Copies of taped music were given to all the students along with copies of the lyrics. Students had to practice at home, since Andrea would only be able to meet with the students once a week, during their scheduled resource time.
There was a problem with transporting the students to and from the National School of Military Music, due to the day and time. The scheduled recording was during a school day at 2:00 p.m. and Andrea and I were on our own, in getting the students to and from the National School of Military Music. Fortunately, the parents were a big help! All of them showed up on time, checked their children out, and drove to the National School of Military Music.
It was an exciting event for everyone. The students were amazed at seeing the band ensemble in action. Bleachers were placed on the stage for children to stand on, as Andrea directed the students where to stand. It only took a few takes for the song to be recorded. Afterwards, Andrea and I were interviewed, along with the director at the school. Several children were randomly selected and asked questions about what they thought of the song. These interviews along with recorded segments of the song were aired on the National Navy News program, as well as, showing up on some ABC syndicated networks.
One day I heard on the radio that the Charlie Daniel’s Band would perform at this year’s Jubilee in Chesapeake, Virginia. This year’s theme was called, “The Mother Homecoming,” a tribute to honor the last U.S. battleships returning from the Persian Gulf War. My husband was on one of those ships and I was determined to have that song heard at this event.
(Fearless Heroes Children Getting on Stage)
I shared my thoughts with Andrea, but Andrea wouldn’t be available, since she was involved in planning her wedding. So, I made contact with the event coordinator for the Mother Homecoming and I was given the spot for the opening number. However, the children would only be allowed to stand on the grass and not on the stage. Furthermore, I would have to provide my own microphone and amplifier.
I was stunned! Surely, the band that was scheduled to play right after the children sang and before the Charlie Daniel’s Band would help. Fortunately, my brother, Warren, an experienced singer and musician, would help with this event. Since I’d heard about the event from a radio station, Warren contacted that radio station and told them about the situation. They were more than willing to help. In fact, they were going to host the event. All they needed was a professional recording of the song and they’d play the song through their equipment and the children could lip sync. But, I didn’t have a professional recording of the children singing the song to meet the requirements for air play. What had been recorded on stage at the National School of Military Music didn’t meet those standards; however, the tape containing the instrumental music did.
Warren found a nearby recording studio in Newport News, Virginia willing to do the recording for a fee. I paid the recording studio’s fee and arranged transportation for several members of the group to come and sing the song at the studio. It took two hours to get a near-perfect recording of the song.
(This is a short clip of the children on stage at the National School of Military Music singing the song, “Fearless Heroes.”)
On the day of the performance, the group of children, known as, “Amerikids of Ocean View,” wore their t-shirts from McDonald’s. The main singers in the group held an American flag. The flags were donated by the Veterans of Foreign Wars. The Amerikids of Ocean View made a half-circle around a microphone. Before the performance began, Warren was able to talk to one of the members of the band that followed the children’s performance. He allowed them to borrow a microphone. The microphone was turned off and arranged on the grass for the children to lip sync behind. However, following the children singing, “Fearless Heroes,” Warren had planned to sing the original song, “Peace is my Friend,” while strumming on his guitar and the microphone would be on using the band’s amplifier. The Amerikids of Ocean View would sing the chorus of the song with Warren.
The host from the radio station introduced the Amerikids of Ocean View. He announced Warren as being involved in both songs and that the group was sponsored by McDonald’s. The crowd cheered after the group had performed “Fearless Heroes,” while the children held their flags up high
with tears in their eyes. After the applause had ceased, Warren stood behind the center microphone as the Amerikids of Ocean View gathered around him, as he sang, “Peace is my Friend.”
For that summer, the Amerikids of Ocean View became celebrities around the local area and performed at a crowded McDonald’s, in the Ocean View area. Since they were so popular, they performed at other functions, besides on the floor at McDonald’s. The Amerikids of Ocean View performed for a period of two years adding additional members into the mix, such as my other two children, Ace and K.K. Imagine, all of this happened, because of a song written by a teacher with no musical talent, but happened to act on a whim!
(The children from Ocean View Elementary School in Norfolk, Virginia sing the song, “Fearless Heroes,” at the Mother Homecoming in Chesapeake, Virginia for the last sailors returning home from the Persian Gulf War.)