40-YEAR-OLD RECORDINGS: A MIRACULOUS SURVIVAL
One event that accompanied the organization of the 40-year reunion this weekend in Orange County of the 314th Army Special Services Band might be termed a minor miracle: the discovery and resurrection of recordings of the band’s Sunday afternoon radio broadcasts, 1946-49.
As required by the Armed Forces Network, each of the broadcasts was recorded on 16-inch plastic discs. When the orchestra disbanded in 1949, arranger Dick Doerschuk rescued the 38 discs (most had a concert recorded on each side) and took them home to Michigan. When he left the country to work in London, he left the discs with his parents.
From there, the tale gets complicated. “His folks gave them to their neighbors, the neighbors gave them to other neighbors, these neighbors moved and gave them to their son and said, ‘Keep these for Dick Doerschuk. Someday he’ll want them back,’ ” said Richard Stott, the reunion’s main organizer. “The son moved to Virginia. And I’ll be damned if Dick didn’t trace this all down.”
Doerschuk sent the discs to the band’s former conductor and commander, Lin Arison, who sent them to Stott about four months ago. Stott hand-washed the recordings, which had grown moldy.
“I then, just by coincidence, discovered that the chief engineer who recorded all those records had retired in Oceanside,” Stott said. He called the engineer, Walter Cleary, and told him about the records. “He just about died and said, ‘You can’t have the records because they have a shelf life of about three years,’ ” Stott recalled.
The recordings had survived, Stott and Cleary decided, because they had been packed so tightly together all those years. The recordings on the outside had dried up and deteriorated, while the music in the middle survived. The pair listened to 35 hours of recordings, transferring 20 hours to reel-to-reel tape.
“And then as a special reunion memento, I culled through those 20 hours on the reel-to-reel tapes and put 90 minutes on a cassette, choosing the very best of the performances,” said Stott.