Vietnam veteran hears his band for the first time in 45 years



Posted on May 13, 2014 at 5:06 PM

Updated Tuesday, May 13 at 10:58 PM

SPOKANE, Wash. -- Forty-five years ago, Gilbert Frank managed a military band while stationed in Germany.  For decades, their music had seemingly been lost to time.

That is, until Frank’s daughter contacted KREM 2 On Your Side. She was making a last-ditch effort to transfer a couple of old reel-to-reel recordings for her father, a Vietnam veteran, who longed to hear the music after all these years.

Gilbert Frank never talked much about his time in the service, with the exception of his band.

“I've never heard them, I've only been told about them," said Frank’s daughter Tanya.

Frank proudly managed the group in the 1960s. According to Tanya, on his last night in the service, her father made certain to record his beloved band.

But the old reel-to-reel tapes that were used might as well have been in a locked safe without a key.

"You could get an old reel-to-reel player, but then you couldn't get it to play the right speed," Tanya explained.

For decades, Tanya searched for a way to get the music transferred so her dad could hear his band again.

"I took them to college thinking I could get it done in college and I wasn't able to get it done," she said.

That was in North Dakota. Then the tapes then travelled with her to Wisconsin, but also with no luck.

After that, Tanya took the tapes to Idaho where she thought she had a lead.

"And I think that's when we lost them because there was a house fire."

But the tapes turned up again.  Tanya's mother took them to her home in Minnesota, then back to Washington, back to Minnesota, and then to Washington again.

It was time for Tanya's last-ditch effort.

Tanya knew KREM 2’s Randy Shaw put together an Honor Flight CD and wondered if he knew someone who could help.

"He responded and said, 'I would love to help a vet,'" said Tanya.

Randy sent the tapes to the producer of his Honor Flight CD, Karl Bingle at Mission Control Records.

Bingle had to dig-out and dust-off the old Norelco reel-to-reel player to finally hear and copy the tapes onto CD’s.

"He's going to be so excited to hear them,” said Tanya.  “I just can't believe they did it."

Tanya kept the CD’s a secret until her parents came to visit from Minnesota. She arranged for the music to be played at the Deer Park Farmer’s Market and Bakery, where she invited her unsuspecting parents to lunch.

It only took a few moments for Gilbert to recognize the music - snapping him right back to his last night in Germany in 1969.

“What is that?” he laughed.

That night, the music was dedicated to Frank.

"When I heard Don's voice [on the recording], right away I knew," he said.

For the first time in 45 years, Gilbert steeped in his greatest memories from the service.

"Yep, some of the best," Gilbert reminisced. "That's when we had the good times."

"I knew when he heard it.  It was sad - I mean it was happy,” said Frank’s wife Kathleen. “You know, I'm just so happy for him."

Gilbert thought he'd never-again hear that music he loved so much; and certainly not on a lunch date with his daughter.

"No idea, whatsoever.  She kept bragging about the soup [that] was so good here,” Gilbert laughed.

Gilbert will find a safe place to put his new CD’s of old music, if he doesn't wear them out on his drive back home to Minnesota.

"Well, I'm going to be listening to it all the way home,” he said.

Tanya said she and her parents spent the same afternoon listening to the CD’s. She said her father talked more about his time in the service than she had ever heard before.

Gilbert said he is now hoping to find some of his old band mates to bring them copies of the music.