1966, Sounds of Freedom

So, now I’m going to go back to 1966 and tell you about my years with the singing groups at BYU.

At that time the student body at the Y were still doing assemblies almost every week on the playing floor of the Richards Building (where all the basketball games were played at that time–before the Marriott Center was built) The 60’s, of course, were times of terrible student riots, San Francisco’s flower children, and the same most everywhere, along with drugs, and in general a downgrading of the U.S. and very little patriotism. One summer about 1965, we as a country were involved with the Hippie movement and the student riots and revolts at many universities. It seemed that no one had any feeling of patriotism for our country and as I ’cogitated’ during the summer, I came up with what I thought was a wonderful idea. When the Vice-President of culture, Steve Nadault, came back at the end of the summer, I sat with him in my office and told him my idea. I thought we should get a singing group together who would sing patriotic songs, perhaps standing on risers with soloists stepping down to sing solos, and narration. He said off-handedly that it sounded good, but I could tell he really wasn’t involved and wouldn’t do anything about it. And then what should break into the scene but the UP WITH PEOPLE groups, who were doing exactly what I had pictured with great success on TV, etc. Well, one of the gals who was working on our floor, who had a beautiful voice decided that she would get a group together to do an assembly in the Fieldhouse, which they did, and to everyone’s amazement they got a standing ovation–something unheard of with student assemblies. They wanted to stay together so they were just what I had my ’vision’ about, I decided I had better help them. They did that assembly under the Vice-President of Culture’s office.

And so began the ’Y AMERICANS’ at first. I started with the group that sang for the assembly and most were terrible. None of them had auditioned and some could barely carry a tune, but I worked with them and we learned new songs and started doing shows here and there. And to my great amazement, they were a great success wherever we went. There was a spirit about them that reached across the ’footlights’ and took the audiences into their arms. We even sang in Tabiona, a wide place in the road somewhere out towards Vernal, Utah. Every person in town was there and even the dogs in the aisles. The people loved the kids and forever after when we get together the talk about the beginning of the group, we often mention little Tabiona and what a great experience it was for everyone there.

Meantime Janie Thompson in about 1953 had come to the University and started the Program Bureau, which my three girls sang for. But the Sounds of Freedom were not connected in any way with the Program Bureau at that time. Janie struggled all by herself for years with the talent without any financial help or help otherwise, but did a great job. I did the same with the Sounds. Finally, they were such a success that the University Booking Office began booking them, first all around Utah and then around the country.

I supposed that my ’boss’ who was head of the Wilkinson Center, could see the good they were

doing the Church and the University, so long as I didn’t neglect any other part of my job, they gave me time to be with the group. At the same time there were so many other talented young students at the Y who weren’t quite good enough to get into the Young Ambassadors (Janie’s main group) or the Sounds, that I started several other small groups and they also traveled. One group of girls was called THE HONEY BUNCH, and another group of fellows and girls, THE SUNSHINE EXPRESS. Some of these students were taken into the largest groups after they had progressed in experience.

In 1970, I had my first overseas trip with a group, The Sounds of Freedom. We went to the Orient on a USO tour, and what a marvelous experience. The Orient was a whole new world to all of us. Before we left we had rehearsed another show with Janie’s group because when we finished out tour of duty with the USO, and Janie’s group was ready to begin her tour (She had taken group after group to the Orient and all over the world) we were going to join them at Expo 70 in Japan for ten days of performing (both groups together) on a floating stage. This is all told in my journal of the trip so I won’t go into it here in detail. We first went to Korea in February and it was bitter cold, but a great experience, then to Okinawa, briefly the Philippines, Taiwan and Japan, and at the end of our tour to the Expo 70.