The United States Air Force Band of the Golden West has a long history that dates back to 1941. The current band is a descendent of two different Air Force Bands: the 15th Air Force Band and the North American Air Defense Command Band.
15th Army Air Force Band
Stationed at Scott Field, Illinois, the constituted Air Force Band, the oldest ancestor of the USAF Band of the Golden West, was created 1 Oct. 1941. While at Scott Field, the band was re-designated several times as the “23rd Army Air Forces Band” in 1942, the “523rd Army Band” in 1943, and finally the “523d Army Air Forces Band in 1944. The band was moved to Camp Shanks, New York in 1944 and was stationed there until the 15th of January 1945 when they were sent overseas. There they served in Le Havre, France and Warton England until 2 Dec 1945. Coming home from Europe, the 523rd Army Air Forces Band was stationed at Camp Patrick Henry, Virginia and deactivated on the 13th of December 1945.
After almost a decade, the 23rd Army Air Forces Band was re-activated and moved to March Air Force Base, California on the 1st of December 1952. October 1st, 1991, the band was re-designated the “Fifteenth Air Force Band of the Golden West”, and in 1994 was moved to Travis Air Force Base, California, where they merged with the “America’s Band in Blue”. After the merge, the band was known as the “Air Mobility Command Band of the Golden West” and effectively became the only active duty Air Force band west of the Rockies. In 1997, the band was re-designated with the current name, the “United States Air Force Band of the Golden West”.
North American Air Defense (NORAD) Command Band
Created in 1959, The America’s Band in Blue comprised the Air Force component of the “NORAD Command Band”. The NORAD band was formed in 1959 as a 90 member touring orchestra with members from the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, and the Canadian Royal Air Force. Usually billed as a “Cavalcade of Music”, the band made numerous radio broadcasts and television appearances including the “Today Show”, the “Tonight Show’, and the “Dinah Shore Show”. The Band retired in 1979, but the USAF component continued on as the 504th Air Force Band of the Golden Gate, and was moved to Travis Air Force Base, California. In 1991, the band was re-designated as “America’s Band in Blue” before merging with the 15th Air Force Band of the Golden West in 1994.
The 574th and 575th Air Force Bands
The 574th and 575th Air Fore Bands were the first to be designated the “Band of the Golden West”. Stationed at Parks Air Force Base, Pleasanton, California from 1952 until the bands were inactivated in 1954, they performed in the San Francisco Bay area under that name. Notable among their performances was the AF band appearance in the Pasadena Rose Bowl parade on January 1st, 1953, where members of the Band of the Golden West from parks AFB combined with the AF bands from March AFB, Edwards AFB and George AFB. The Band of the Golden West was also featured in a series of 30 minute television performances on KPIX channel 5 Television, San Francisco in 1953.
Members of the Band of the Golden West from Parks AFB combined with the Air Force bands from March AFB, Edwards AFB and George AFB in rehearsal December, 1952, for the Pasadena Rose Bowl Parade of January 1st, 1953. Technical Sergeant James McMillen, NCOIC and Drum Major; CWO Harold Hoyt, Commander of the band at George AFB and Bandleader for this combined performance.
The band at KPIX 5 Television Studio, San Francisco, in June 1953. The band performed a series of 1 hour concerts titled “On Wings of Song” 6 to 7 pm Saturday evenings throughout the summer of 1953. Performances featured Concert Band, Dance Band, Dixieland Band, Barbershop Quartet and Vocalist and were a favorite with the local community.
Thank you to Chief Warrant Officer 4, USAF (Ret.) James E. McMillen for these photos and notes on the 574th and 575th AF Bands!