The U.S. Fourth Army Band

History - 2012

Ft. Sam Houston, Antonio, Texas

     The U.S. 4th Army Band (FAB) was one of the finest service bands during the Korean and Vietnamese Conflicts. The Commanding General at Fort Sam Houston in the early 1950s was Lt. General I.D. White who endorsed appropriate music for all occasions, a tradition which was followed for more than two decades. Warrant Officers Dawson McElwee, Emil Krochmal, John Parrott, Homer Tampke, Alexander Difronzo and others were able to obtain qualified musicians to provide fine military, concert, jazz and string orchestra music for the many requests. Of paramount importance was a weekly radio program, The 4th Army Show (Concert In Khaki beginning in 1953) a 30-minute show that included military features and the finest concert literature, broadcast throughout five states of the Southwest. On Sundays the band was found in the Quadrangle on the Post in a formal Guard Mount and Concert setting. The FAB traveled to Houston in 1952 to honor the 1st Armored Division from Ft. Hood as they left the Houston Harbor for assignment in Europe. In 1954 all the bandsmen were fitted with smart "dress blues." The FAB participated in the annual River, Fiesta Flambeau and Battle of Flowers Parades in San Antonio. The "Turkey Trot" celebration in Taylor, Texas was a frequent gig. While playing for a Boy Scout Jamboree on a ranch near San Antonio in 1952 a raging bull took offense and charged through the band. Fortunately everyone survived. Armed Forces Day always found the FAB in a Texas community for a special event. Governors called upon the FAB to march in the Inaugural Parade every four years. Falcon Dam was a Texas/Mexico flood control project on the Rio Grande River dedicated in 1953 by President Eisenhower and President Cortines of Mexico. The FAB represented the U.S. contingent. President Eisenhower was very complimentary regarding the band's participation. The FAB was sent to New Orleans three times in the mid-50s. They led the Rex Parade at the Mardi Gras in 1955 and 1956, and were flown to New Orleans in 1955 to perform on the pier to welcome home a division from Korean service. The band performed at two movie World Premiers in San Antonio, and as a concert band performed as the official reading band annually for the Texas Bandmasters Association in the 1950s-1970s. The FAB String Orchestra performed for visiting dignitaries, including the Secretary of the Army and Mexican generals. 


 The weekly Fourth Army radio shows were produced by the Headquarters Fourth Army Information Office. In the early days the program featured a jazz band, a combo and soloists. By 1954 the entire concert band was featured. The radio show enhanced the Army's image during the unpopular Korean Conflict. Two show examples follow: 

                                     FOURTH ARMY SHOW - 1951

                          March Bombasto                               Concert Band

                          I'll Walk Alone                                  Jazz Band

                                                 Ellen Carroll, Vocal

                          March Opus 99 - Prokofiev                   Concert Band

                          The Moon Was Yellow                         Jazz Band

                                                Bill Kimple, arranger

                          Yankee Doodle - Gould                        Concert Band

                          Mahacita                                           Jazz Band

                                                Kent Hughes, arranger

                          Guadalhara                                        Male Choir & Concert Band

                          March Invictus - Karl King                     Concert Band

                          Summertime - Gershwin                       Jazz Band


                                     FOURTH ARMY SHOW - 1953

                          Theme: THIS IS THE ARMY                         Band

                          YOU AND YOUR BEAUTIFUL EYES               Vocal w/Band

                          EARLY AUTUMN                                       Vocal w/Band

                          THE TOUCH OF YOUR LIPS                        Combo

                          MAHLOO                                                 Combo

                          WONDER WHY                                        Vocal w/Band

                          DON'T BLAME ME                                     Vocal w/Band

                          (SALUTE TO ALBUQUERQUE)                     Band w/Narration

                          TINY'S BLUES                                          Band

                          WHAT IS THIS THING CALLED LOVE?         Vocal w/Band

                                 VOCALS: Cpl. Vic Damone, Don Cherry

                                 COMBO: The Pastels

                                 ANNCRS: Cpl. Frank Fallon, Sfc. James Van Reeth


The Concert In Khaki programs in 1954 and 1955 consisted entirely of Concert Band literature. The following selections were programmed:

Carnival of the Animals - Saint-Saens

Clarinet Concerto - von Weber - Cpl. Charles Nix, Clarinet

First Suite in Eb - Holst

Folk Song Suite - Ralph Vaughn Williams

Forty Fathoms - Walters - Pfc. Howard Bell, Tuba

Granada - Arranged John Butler - Sgt. Gene Ferguson, Tenor

Hary Janos Suite - adapted by Fred Teuber

Lincolnshire Posy - Grainger

The Lord's Prayer - Arranged John Butler - Sgt. Gene Ferguson, Tenor

Lover Come Back to Me - Arranged Pfc. Rule Beasley

March from The Love of Three Oranges - Prokofiev

O Holy Night - Arranged John Butler - Sgt. Gene Ferguson, Tenor

Overture for Band - Mendelssohn

Pictures At An Exhibition - Moussorgsky

Polka and Fugue from Schwanda the Bagpiper - Weinberger

La Virgen de la Macarena - Cpl. Ralph Kimball, Trumpet

West Point Symphony - Morton Gould


In the spring, 1955 the FAB performed before music students and educators at the District Music Festival, Brownsville, Texas. A tape recording of the concert remains. The selections were:

                              Outdoor Overture                           Copland

                              Chorale & Alleluia                           Hansen

                              Spiritual                                        Alfred Reed

                              Lover Come Back to Me                   Arr. Rule Beasley

                              Viennese Musical Clock                    Arr. Fred Teuber

                              The Typewriter                               Anderson

                              The Girl in Satin                              Anderson

                               Irish Washerwoman                        Anderson

                               Hit the Leather & Ride                      Willson



     Balbina Ahr                           Don Cherry                            Mary Mayo

     Ray Baldessari                        Vic Damone                          Jerry Pitzenbarger (Lackland AFB)

     Pat Burnett                            Billy Eckstine (prerecorded)     Melissa Smith

      Elin Carroll                           Gene Ferguson                       Gene Stover              Jack Litton




 The Fourth U.S. Army was organized as Fourth Army in the Organized Reserves in 1922 in New York City and allotted to the Regular Army as an inactive unit. It was activated October 1, 1933 and headquartered at the Presidio of San Francisco. The Fourth U.S. Army moved headquarters to Fort Sam Houston January 7, 1944. In July 1971, the Fourth Army was consolidated with the Fifth U.S. Army before being relocated to Fort Sheridan, Illinois in the 1980s. The Fourth U.S. Army was decommissioned in 1991. An active remnant of the U.S. 4th Army is the FAB Reunion Band.


 CWO Claude Hedspeth was the director of the 5th Army Band that replaced the 4th in 1971. In 1993 CWO Donald Barton, Bandleader of the 5th Army Band at Fort Sam Houston, was relieved that the threatened elimination of the band had been thwarted by pressure from Fort Sam Houston, the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce and a senator. The band was reassigned to the Army Medical Department Center School at Fort Sam Houston and their designation changed to the old 323rd Army Band (eliminated by military cutbacks in 1973). Master craftsmen from the National Park Service began renovations to the Band Building at Fort Sam Houston in October 1993, marking the 100th anniversary of its construction. The building is unique for two reasons: It is the only structure of its shape in the country and the only band building in the Department of Defense inventory. It was designed by famed San Antonio architect Alfred Giles and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The original structure included a belvedere roof (large gazebo) that was replaced. The roof sheltered band members while they played for post parades. The pyramid-shaped roof was blown off in the 1940s by a powerful gust of wind. The latest repairs were completed in 1994.


 In the period from 1974-1977 the 5th Army Band was directed by Warrant Officers Jerry Cottingham (deceased) and Louis Wells. The band played the area parades and for the Annual Texas Bandmasters meeting. A special assignment was to fly to Houston to perform at the arrival of the Concorde from France. A woodwind quintet played often at the Menger Hotel. When the WAC Band was disbanded at Fort McClelland, Alabama, Liz Sanders, a flute player was the first woman to be assigned to the 5th Army Band. Beverly Garafano, French Horn and Pauline Keehn, flute/piccolo, piano followed.