By the time that Capt. Egge retired, it was apparent that the Airmen of Note had established a lot of momentum. The personnel were all skilled professionals, most of whom had been playing together for a long time. The band had a great book, constantly being updated with fresh, new material. And the performance schedule of military protocol jobs, concert tours, recording dates for the Serenade in Blue, summer park concerts, and occasional special appearances at jazz festivals and music conferences was well established.
With the band having reached this degree of maturity, many people felt that it was now time to choose a leader from among the Airmen of Note. With more than ten years of service on the band - as musician, arranger, and road manager - Dave Napier felt that he was the logical choice. So as soon as Gene Egge announced his retirement, Dave approached Col. Gabriel expressing his interest in the job. Shortly thereafter Dave was appointed as the first leader to be chosen from among the musicians on the band, establishing a tradition that has continued to the present.
Dave had joined the Airmen of Note in 1964 following a series of field band assignments, the last being with the NORAD Band in Colorado Springs.
Like his predecessors, he felt that the overall approach the Note was taking to big band music was generally sound. He did, however, stress ensemble work a bit more than previous leaders.
Brent McKesson (--75)
Ephraim Woolfolk (75--)
Mike Smukal (--75)
Gary Hall (75--)
Doug Scarborough (?)
Other than the trombone section, which was still having some turnover, the personnel remained fairly stable. Two musicians came in that were to become Airmen of Note mainstays - Gene Gaydos on jazz alto and newcomer Gary Hall on trombone. Ernie Hensley continued to lead the sax section, Dave Steinmeyer the trombones, and Ken Smukal and Jimmy Lay split the trumpet lead. Dave could call on almost anyone in the band when it came to choosing soloists.
The band continued to record good jazz instrumentals for the Serenade in Blue program and travelled to LA to do sessions with Dick Haymes, Rosemary Clooney, Louis Jordan, Faye Reis, Bob Eberly, and Steve Shannon. They also played host at the Bolling studios to Phil Wilson, Nancy Lee Howe, Jan Shapiro, and William Conrad.
The spring and fall concert tours continued, with the band touching all four corners of the country during Dave's stint as leader. The West Coast tour in the spring of 1976 commemorated the Nation's Bicentennial. Also in connection with the Bicentennial, the band did a tour of Air Force Bases in the southeastern quarter of the country.
The Airmen of Note again performed at the Mobile Jazz Festival in both 1975 and 1976. Other notable performances included the 1975 Lively Arts Festival in Meridian Mississippi, the Left Bank Jazz Society, the Texas Bandmasters Association, the 1975 Mid-East Instrumental Music Clinic, the 1976 Virginia State Jazz Festival, a jazz workshop at Howard University, and the Mike Douglas television show, where they backed Sarah Vaughn.
Sgt. Dave Napier retired from the Air Force in September of 1976, and leadership of the Airmen of Note was assumed by lead alto Sgt Ernie Hensley.