CWO Bob Bunton was a product of the field. He came to the Note after leading Air Force bands all over the world. Before joining the Air Force, he had served his apprenticeship as a civilian musician. His credits included working with a radio and television house band, a symphony orchestra, and name bands like the Jimmy Dorsey orchestra. He was also an arranger, having studied the Schillinger system of music, and was a member of ASCAP. He knew the ropes. and he also knew what he wanted from the band and for the band.
The early part of Bob Bunton's tour as leader probably witnessed more changes than any other time in the history of the Airmen of Note. Underlying many of these changes was the fact that public relations had become a very important part of the band's mission. A key part of the public relations program was the concert tours, which under Bob became a regular feature of the band's calendar.
Radio broadcasts also continued to be important. To improve the quality of the Serenade in Blue radio series, the band began making regular trips to Hollywood and elsewhere to record with famous guest artists. Even the military jobs were screened, so that the band's efforts could be focused on appearances that truly required the Air Force's premier dance ensemble.
As the Airmen of Note's mission expanded, their musical repertoire had to be expanded as well. To meet the needs of the tour program, concert jazz arrangements were needed to showcase both the ensemble and the band's many talented soloists. To appeal to the younger generation at high school concerts, contemporary pop and rock-jazz charts were added. Even for dances and protocol dinner jobs, the book had to be continually updated to respond to changing musical tastes.
Bob felt that showmanship was just as important to a successful performance as having good music and musicians, and this was especially true for concerts. In preparing for the concert tours, he expended much effort in carefully scripting the program and arranging for lighting to enhance the musical offerings.
He continued Johnny's efforts to secure better logistical treatment. After a series of hair-raising aircraft experiences, he campaigned vigorously for use of special mission aircraft instead of station hacks. When on the road, the band was authorized to stay in hotels where adequate Air Force housing was not available nearby.
Some of these changes were the result of changing times and changing priorities within the Air Force. Others can be attributed to the groundwork laid by Johnny Osiecki in the preceding years. But a lot of the credit must be given to Bob's grit and his determination to have the Airmen of Note used in a way which would fully utilize the tremendous talent that the Air Force had at its disposal.
This was also a difficult time for the band. There was the continual threat that budget cuts would force the Air Force to eliminate some of its musical units. Bob knew that if the Airmen of Note were to survive, they needed support in the right places. Bob took full advantage of opportunities to perform at Air Force Association presentations. Providing entertainment for the annual Commander and Air Staff conferences held in San Juan, Puerto Rico was also a big help. The Note did an outstanding job of playing the music the brass liked to hear, and they responded with support when it was needed.
The time Bob led the band can be divided into two periods: the late 1960's, when the major changes in mission, musical style, and personnel were taking place, and the early 1970's, when things had stabilized somewhat, and the band could devote its energies to refining its sound and its repertoire.