Man Uncovers Records From Grandfather’s World War II Band
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – After his grandparents passed away, Jason Burt inherited a literal treasure trove of artifacts from World War II. Along with pictures and military decorations documenting the service of Richard G. Burt, were his trumpet and five records, containing 10 songs.
Collectively, Burt now believes those recorded songs are the only known remnants today of the 746th Far East Air Force Band’s music.
“You hear about the battles and everything — that’s what a lot of people are interested in,” Burt said. “You never hear too much about the band.”
That’s why Burt, a history teacher from West Sacramento, California, is now committed to carrying forward the legacy of his grandfather and the military band through a new album pointed toward release roughly 75 years after the 746th first created the wire recordings.
“Basically, they recorded an album of really popular big band songs from the time period and World War II,” said Burt, who has a particular interest in military history. “It’s a frontline band unit that played for soldiers at the front, maybe a couple miles back.”
Burt said he has enlisted the help of a Grammy-award winning sound engineer to produce the album.
“We’re going to modernize these records, we’re going to digitize them, they’re going to master it into an album,” Burt said. “We’re going to release the album for sale with the goal of getting this band from World War II to be a platinum-selling artist.”
Burt’s Service And The History Of The Records
Richard Glen Burt, 1924-2016, was raised in Salt Lake City.
According to his grandson and his own war history recorded to cassette in the 1980s, Burt was attending Brigham Young University at the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor and was inducted into the military on April 6, 1943, at Fort Douglas.
Within a week he was sent to Camp Kearns for six weeks basic training, where he ultimately transferred into the band as a trumpet player. His route also took him to Santa Ana Army Air Base and then March Field near Riverside, California.
“Each of these moves seemed to give me added experience and put me in the company of fine instrumentalists and performing groups,” Richard Burt reflected in the 1980s recording. “March Field was the ultimate in service bands. It had a rich mixture of marching and parades and a great deal of dance work. Three-fourths of the March Field band had been professionals in Hollywood recording industry and motion picture industry also, or they were members of nationally-known big swing bands.”
The trumpet player and his band were eventually dispatched to the Philippines, where Burt’s grandson said they played for soldiers, generals and even dignitaries after the war had ended.
“Before the band was to come home — so this was after the war had ended — they were going to record on wire,” Jason Burt said. “They recorded these in their performance tent in the Philippines and they finished up and grandpa was the lead trumpet player and he asked his commanding officer if he could have the recordings.”
With the blessing of his commanding officer, Burt returned home with the recordings and brought them to KSL in 1946.
“KSL was kind enough to put them on records for him — 78s,” said Jason Burt, referencing the records that play at 78 revolutions per minute. “KSL had put them on five records, two songs on each record, and it’s about 33 minutes worth of music.”
Jason Burt said the records were feared lost at one point in the 1980s, but were later uncovered after the passing of Burt’s wife, Marilyn, in Oct. 2019.
“We came across them when we were going through all of their stuff,” Burt said. “I’m a history teacher and I have a background and that’s kind of what I studied is military history, so I got all of his military belongings. I was personally surprised to see them and pretty excited at the same time.”
Making An Album
Richard Burt went on to study at the Juilliard School of Music and Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, and earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees.
He was a music teacher in West Sacramento for 27 years.
Jason Burt said he “idolized” his grandpa and his influence led him to a deep appreciation of the music of the era.
“You can close your eyes and it’s almost like grandpa is in the room playing for you — it’s pretty special,” the grandson said. “I look at this as my role in moving his legacy forward with music.”
He said there are tentative plans to release the band’s music in album form in November around Veterans Day.