Capt. Egge came to the Airmen of Note after 26 years in the Air Force music program, starting as a percussionist and working his way up to a commission as a bandleader. His previous big band experience consisted of leading the dance band at several of his field band assignments. Just prior to coming on the Note, he had served as Deputy Director of the Bands Branch in the Pentagon. Gene had long been an admirer of the Note. He considers this assignment to have been one of the high points in his career.
Like his predecessor, he felt that his best musical policy would be to keep on doing the things that the Note had been doing so successfully in recent years. He devoted a lot of his attention to choosing programs that would both spotlight the bands capabilities and please the audiences. This meant playing pop and rock-jazz for high school assemblies, Glenn Miller standards at dances attended by senior military personnel, and a heavy dose of contemporary jazz for the more sophisticated concert audiences.
With the exception of the trombone section, the personnel remained fairly stable during Gene's tour as leader. One notable addition, however, was Larry Trautman, who was to serve in the trumpet section for the next 16 years. Gene also added a full-time vocalist for the first time since 1966, Miki Bellamy, a Californian with a good, contemporary singing style.
Tim Eyermann (--74)
Gil Cray (73--)
Larry Trautman (73--)
Jerry Johnson (--73)
Dave Boyle (--74)
Harry Stephens (73)
Paul Rawlins (74--)
Lee Robertson (74--)
Miki Bellamy (73-74)
Mike Crotty (72--)
Probably Gene's greatest accomplishment as leader was to encourage the development of arrangers Roger Hogan, Gil Cray, and Mike Crotty - the men who were to be the mainstays of the Note's arranging staff for some years to come. Crotty had studied under Phil Wilson at Berklee and brought to the Note a flair for exploring new musical frontiers. He is also an accomplished performer on a number of instruments and has subbed in the Note's sax section on a number of occasions. Cray originally came in to play piano, but he eventually became a full-time arranger. He was particularly effective writing some of the prettier things, such as ballads and vocal backings. Hogan was a compulsive writer, and when the band was out on the road he always seemed to have a manuscript book in his hands. The men enjoyed playing his charts because they "seemed to lay just right."
The band also received some excellent new charts from outside arrangers like Pat Williams, Mike Barone, and Airmen of Note alumni Sammy Nestico and Kim Richmond.
Right after Gene took over the band, the Note embarked on a 2-1/2 week tour of Southeast Asia, where they entertained GI's at bases on Guam, Okinawa, Taiwan, and Thailand. They were scheduled to go into Vietnam also, but this had to be canceled due to restrictions on large gatherings of personnel in the war zone.
The Serenade in Blue recording sessions also continued to occupy much of the band's time, and some of the guest artists that the band backed during this period were Bud Brisbois, Frank Sinatra Jr., Damita Jo, John Gary, Sue Raney, Helen Forrest, Billy Daniel, Faye Reis, James Darren, Della Reese, and the Four Freshman. A particular thrill was the opportunity to record again with Sarah Vaughn, and the feeling was mutual. Sarah so enjoyed working with the Note that she went on to perform in concert with the band on several memorable occasions.
Concert tours included the greater LA area (including a date at Disneyland), the Northeast, the Midwest, and Virginia/Tennessee/Arkansas. Summer park performances became a big item, with the band doing fifteen around the DC area in 1973. About this time the Note started participating in the winter Guest Artist concert series at Constitution Hall. This series had been instituted by Col. Gabriel and generally featured the concert band backing well-known performers. Once or twice a year the Airmen of Note was called on to be the host band.
In 1973 they did another "Music of Black America" concert, with Clark Terry, Donald Byrd, Ethel Ennis, and a vocal group from Howard University. It was on this occasion that Gen. "Chappie" James delivered his famous narration on the heritage and responsibilities of freedom, accompanied by music composed by Roger Hogan.
The Note again served as host band at the Mobile Jazz Festival in 1973 and 1974, and they performed at the Mid-East Instrumental Music Conference at Pittsburgh and the Northern Virginia Stage Band Festival.
Captain Egge retired on October 1st, 1974, and Sgt. Dave Napier assumed leadership of the Airmen of Note.