Lt. Ken Green came to the Airmen of Note from an assignment as commander of the SAC Band at Westover AFB. He was a Music Education graduate of Brigham Young University and had been in the Air Force since 1967. In his first three months with the Note, Ken held both the SAC Band and Airmen of Note jobs, commuting between Massachusetts and DC. Gary Scott was serving as assistant leader at that time, and he fronted the Note in Ken's absence.
Ken liked the musical direction the band was following, so he didn't institute any major changes there. The men were already good readers, but he honed their capabilities even further, to the point where they could easily run through 20 or more charts in a 3-day visit to the Hollywood recording studios. He also worked to use the band more as an educational tool, making the band available for clinics and workshops in conjunction with concert tours and other performances.
Personnel changes were few during this period, the major ones being the return of John Dodge as jazz tenor upon the retirement of Gary Scott and the addition of two new trumpets. After the departure of Scott Waller (after 13 years on the band) and Steve Wright, the restructured trumpet section had
Ken Smukal and Jimmy Lay splitting the lead, and Smukal and Dick Perry doing most of the solos. Other newcomers were jazz trombonist Mike Smukal and drummer Dave Palamar.
Gary Scott (--72)
John Dodge (72--)
Dick Reiten (--72)
Jim Nolan (71)
Dave Palamar (71--)
Steve Wright (--72)
Scott Waller (--72)
Tim Bowen (72--)
Dick Perry (72--)
Mike Smukal (72--)
Ken Green played a little jazz piano, but with Dick Reitan on the band, he didn't feel that spotlighting himself was necessary. Reitan retired in May, 1972, and the band was without a piano for a number of months. Ken occasionally sat in, but Rick Whitehead on guitar usually covered the piano parts.
The band made two recording trips to LA, where they did sessions with Sue Raney, Jaye P. Morgan, Michael Dees, Joanie Sommers, Kay Starr, Gloria Loring, Frank Rosolino, and Sarah Vaughn. They also did recording dates in Washington with Phil Wilson, Marian McPartland, and Ethel Ennis.
The format of the Serenade in Blue program changed somewhat during this period. The Airmen of Note was still the host band, but some of the other Air Force big bands, such as the Air Force Academy Falconaires, the NORAD Commanders, and the USAFE Ambassadors, were also featured from time to time.
This brings up the point that the Airmen of Note were no longer unique as a service big band. It is true the Falconaires, Commanders, and Ambassadors had been around for some years, but they have never have been dedicated, full-time big bands. Their personnel must also share their time with ceremonial and concert band work, and until the early 1970's, their big band performances were mostly for troop entertainment. However, with renewed interest in big band music, increased emphasis on public relations performances, and the success of the Airmen of Note, the field bands started looking for more opportunities to showcase their big band units. The other services jumped on the bandwagon also. In the late 1960's ex-Note saxophonist Charlie Almeida organized what was eventually to become the Jazz Ambassadors of the Army Field Band. About the same time the Navy Band formed the Commodores, and the Army Band soon followed with the Army Blues, all of which became full-time jazz ensembles like the Airmen of Note. If success bred imitation, it also bred competition.
But there was still plenty of interesting work out there. Besides the usual military jobs and the concert tours, the Note found time to serve as host band at the 1972 Mobile Jazz Festival, beginning an association that was to continue for many years. A highlight of the 1972 Festival was a performance with trombonist Urbie Green. Another well-known trombonist who was featured with the Note was Phil Wilson. He recorded with the Note, and in July of 1971 he did a concert with them at the Capitol. Louis Armstrong had just passed away, and Wilson took this opportunity to compose Sleepy Walk for the Note to perform in honor of Satchmo.
A memorable "protocol" job was an invitation to the White House to join with Danny Thomas in providing entertainment at a banquet for the 1972 Governors Conference. Perhaps the high point of Green's tour of duty with the band was performing on the Tonight Show on September 7, 1972. The Note was scheduled to do just one number, but unknown to the band, Johnny Carson was listening while the band was rehearsing before the show. Johnny was so impressed that he scrubbed one of Roger Miller's numbers to give the Note a chance to do an encore.
Lt. Green was transferred shortly after the fall 1972 concert tour, and command of the Airmen of Note was passed to Capt. Gene Egge.