Musical Resumé
Robert Howard Kroepel
Copyright © 1997
Lakeside Studios
New Durham, New Hampshire 03855-2107

Melrose, Massachusetts

    Birthdate: 2/3/1943
    Mother, Father, Sister—all play piano.
    Third Grade: Age 9: My first musical instrument: Trombone.
    Fourth Grade: Age 10: I notice that trombone players in a band play notes they don’t understand (harmony), but trumpet players play notes everyone understands (melody). Girls hang around trumpet players but not trombone players. I switch to trumpet, I play notes everyone understands and some girls start hanging around me.

Easton, Pennsylvania

    Seventh Grade: Age 13. I play trumpet in the Easton High School Marching Band: Director: Harry Ivan Drendle. We drill constantly. We learn to march as a military-style unit. We have colorful uniforms. We march everywhere including up and down Northhampton Street—our Main Street, around Town Square, and, of course, at football games and pep rallies. We are good. We are held in high esteem by our community. I learn how marching bands could be. I am the youngest member. I sit next to the bass drum in the stands. I develop a love for the camaraderie, pageantry and music of marching bands. I earn a JV letter in music.
    My Sister plays Glenn Miller big band music on her record player, and at her parties she and her friends sing songs that I now recognize as singalongs—“Heart of My Heart,” etc. I am five years younger, but I am privileged to sit and listen to my Sister and her friends having fun with music. 

Kirkwood, Missouri

    I take trumpet lessons from Dick Dunn at Mel Bay’s Music Store, on Jefferson Avenue. Mel himself sells me trumpet music, mouthpieces, and valve oil, and treats me as an adult. I do not know then that he is the Mel Bay of guitar music lesson book fame, and owner of The Mel Bay Publ/ishing Company, one of the world's largest publishers of music instruction books. I do not know that he is a musician’s musician and one of the most sought-after guitarists and banjoists in the St. Louis area. I play in the junior high school band. We do not march. We do a Spring Concert, and that’s all.
    Eighth Grade: Age 14: My Father buys my Mother a Hammond M3 organ for a Christmas present. Seven free lessons come as part of the deal. I am fascinated by the organ and spend time trying my luck with it. I get the seven free lessons. From Lloyd Bartlett, who later becomes a good friend, and proves to be a musician’s musician, on call for big band and show stuff in the St. Louis area, working with show business greats such Frank Sinatra. I learn to play popular music on the organ, including many different accompaniment rhythm patterns for different styles of music including waltzes, fox trots, swing, and Latin music including beguines, rhumbas, sambas, tangoes (Spanish and Argentine), and paso doblés. I am exposed to swing, jazz, and Broadway show music. I learn to play four-to-the-bar swing style walking bass lines on the 12-note Hammond M3 pedalboard. I get my first fake books (featuring the melody notes, chord symbols and lyrics, if any, for popular songs)—the original brown Volume One and the original green Volume Two—a thousand songs each. I am fascinated by all these wonderful songs and I learn most of them. My Mother and Father have neighborhood parties, and I play music for them. At these parties, Bud Gross, who is a former professional singer, is able to sing most songs in the fake books in the original keys, so I accompany him, and we have singalongs, and lots of fun.
    I develop a fascination for church organs and classical organ music. Our neighbor is Bob Heckman, who is  a masterful classical organist, and is the organist at our church. He treats everyone as an adult, including me, and I spend time with him talking about music, listening to him and helping him by turning pages when he practices and at his concerts. I am privileged to be able to practice a four-manual fifty-four rank Wicks pipe organ in our church. The walls of the church are concrete and brick and impart a marvelous natural reverberation that sounds terrific in slow pieces but gums up fast stuff. He teaches me to play classical music on the Wicks organ, but I am better playing popular music on the M3. He also teaches me music theory and how to analyze and write four-part harmony. I analyze and compose hymns.
    I find myself composing music, popular and classical. One song, “The Merrymeeting Waltz,” is written for Ralph and Mary Richardson, who own a marina and real estate agency at Merrymeeting Lake, New Durham, New Hampshire, where we spend our summers, and who are benevolent authority figures for us summer kids, and is performed by Paul’s Melodiers—violin, clarinet and drums—at a Merrymeeting Lake Association Dance in a summer's night whose date I cannot remember. I will nevere forget the thrill of hearing someone play one of my songs in public.
    My Sister buys me for one of my birthdays a recording of Leonard McClain—“Melody Mac”—playing theatre organ. On his arrangement of “Knightsbridge March” I hear him play field drums and trumpet fanfares as well as other orchestral sounds, I am fascinated by the fact that one man could control so much musical sound and I am hooked on learning to play theatre organs and theatre organ style.

High School

    I play in the high school marching band, but although we do some marching we play only at home football games and never march in community parades. Band members are not held in high esteem by fellow students or by the community. This is not the way marching bands should be. Our director, Burton Isaac, loves string orchestra music. He tells us “It is just as easy to play the right notes as it is to play the wrong notes.” We don’t understand what he is saying since sometimes we have a lot of trouble playing the right notes and a lot less trouble playing the wrong notes. I don’t remember having uniforms but am bored by the marching band scene at Kirkwood High School. We do, however, play for graduations, where “Pomp and Circumstance” becomes a musical stimulus for many nostalgic memories of friends moving on to other phases of their lives and from whom we do not hear much but whom we miss because they were a part of our youth.
    I become impressed with the emotional power of music.
    At our school Bill Bay, son of Mel Bay, has a reputation of being a terrific trumpet player, in the style of great classical trumpeters such as Rafael Mendez, but he plays in Burton Isaac’s String Orchestra and those of us in Marching Band never get to hear him.
    I get an invitation to play trumpet in the Howard Matthews Big Band, run by Howard Matthews, a student at rival Webster Groves (Missouri) High School. Bill Bay plays in this band, so I finally get to hear him. I learn that there are “stock arrangements” of popular music that include the original arrangements of Glenn Miller’s “String and Pearls,” “Moonlight Serenade,” and “In The Mood,” among others.
    I decide to form a big band, buy stock arrangements, and have rehearsals that are fun but lead nowhere. I learn what life is like for a bandleader. I make calls constantly, cajoling people into giving the big band a try and arranging rides.
    I can play by ear as well as read music. One day I get a request from fellow high school students to try out for their dance band, The Pioneers, named after our high school nickname. Their original trumpet player cannot play by ear. I show up with my stock arrangements, just in case. The band is not focused. I suggest trying the stock arrangements, and the band clicks. We go on to our first paid “gig” at the AmVets Hall in nearby Valley Park: $10.00 per man. We play other gigs including high school stuff. We are competing with rock and roll, but during that time period our music was the choice of most highschoolers. I become part of a jazz-oriented group of students which includes one of the sought-after professional local guitarists, John Rieble. Swing music is our “thing.”
    Marching band becomes intolerable, so I quit.
    I later form my own band, Music Inc. I learn that you cannot use the term Inc. unless you really are incorporated, so I change the name to the King’s Men Five. I do not know there is another nationally known group called The Kingsmen. I am honored to be invited to provide big band music for our Senior Class Prom. Sherry Moody, who later turns professional, sings several numbers, including my composition, “Our Graduation Day.”
    One of my band members is David Sanborn—a tenor sax player, who later goes on to play alto sax with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, James Taylor, Carly Simon, and then becomes the David Sanborn. I see him on TV on the David Letterman Show, and playing for the 1997 NBA All-Star Game.
    Another band member is Peter Link, who goes on to New York City to take the male lead in the touring company of “Hair,” an actor’s role in the TV soap opera “As The World Turns,” has a hit show on Broadway called Salvation, has several touring companies doing Salvation, forms Westrax Recording Studios, and who keeps me updated on the triumphs of David Sanborn.
    One night, at Parkmoor, our local hamburger joint, now a used car lot (Parkmoor is “Roomkrap” spelled backwards), I hear Ralph Bryant, a fellow trumpet player and friend who later plays trumpet in symphonic orchestras throughout the world, discussing psychology and the mind with Philo Willetts, a non-musical friend who later becomes the only doctor I ever knew who has never been sued for malpractice. For some reason or other, “psychology” and “mind” stick with me. 

Washington University, St. Louis

    At Washington University of St. Louis I am a chemical engineering major although math/algebra/geometry were not strong high school subjects. My Father was a chemical engineer, so, not having a direction, I am a Chem E major.
    I join the Sigma Chi Fraternity. Mike Peters, son of Charlotte Peters (of the previously mentioned Charlotte Peters Show, for whom Stand Kann was the Musical Director), is a Sigma Chi Fraternity Pledge Brother and goes on to become a Pulitzer Prize—winning political cartoonist for the Dayton Daily News and the Creator of the Mother Goose and Grimm syndicated cartoon strip. Fred Cotsworth does not tell us he has a stepfather, so one evening, as I am walking through Fred’s family’s house, on the way to the pool, for a fraternity rush party, a chair swings around and I get to meet Marlin Perkins, of Zoo Parade and Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, and who is the Director of the St. Louis Zoo.  I later try to sell insurance for Mutual of Omaha, for whom Marlin Perkins is a well-known and well-liked spokesman, and am the only salesman with a legitimate Marlin Perkins story—the other salesmen simply line up to have their picture taken with him in thirty second bits at the Mutal of Oaha Annual Convention and make up their Marlin Perkins stories to impress their customers, but I am not successful selling insurance and go back to music. At the fraternity, we experience death on a personal level when Bill Koch, our Consul (President) is killed when a car pulls out in front of his and he has no chance to stop.
    I become a musical pest, playing the George Steck grand piano in the living room whenever I can. But I do not have a strong socio-political personality and therefore am not invited to collaborate with the Chiefs in fraternity musical activities but am, of course, invited to be an Indian. There are strange non-musical ideas that could be changed, but nobody listens to me, I decide not to waste my time on what I perceive is not going anywhere, because the Chiefs will not listen to an Indian, and drop out. None of these musical ventures goes anywhere.
    Hell Week—the week before Initiation is so physically demanding I decide that college football has to be a lot easier, so I try out for football. I am a tight end, but later switch to quarterback. I learn to lead a team. I am aware of the down and distance, I remember the scouting reports, I improvise when I need to and thus follow Coach Puddington’s advice to “Play football!” and adapt when game plans don’t work out. I get to meet and work out with members of the St. Louis Cardinals NFL Football team. Charley Johnson is one of the NFL’s top quarterbacks, a grad student in Chemical Engineering at Washington University, who teaches me to throw like a pro—three steps before the receiver makes his cut, spot passes low and away, so a defender cannot defend against spot passes. Charley can throw the ball seventy-five yards. That surprises me. I can throw the ball seventy-five yards. What I learn might help Washington University. Charley is glad to have me around. We are throwing passes to All-Pro receivers Sonny Randle, Taz Anderson, and Jackie Smith, to Texas A&M Heiseman Trophy winner John David Crow, and we are defended against by All-Pro defensive greats such as linebacker Bill Koman, safety Larry Wilson and LSU Heisman Trophy Runner-Up Jerry Stovall. Charley would have had a seriously sore arm throwing the ball to all those receivers if I had not been around. I am treated as an adult by the pros. They tell me their jokes, and give me football tips. I am fired up, but when I return to college no one listens, no one learns to run patterns like the pro receivers, so I become a back-up quarterback.
    From football I learn that I can think under pressure. The coach gives me freedom to call my own plays, and I learn to lead men into athletic battle.
    During a summer footbal camp, my roommate is Harold Player (his real name—Harold player who is a football player!), a handsome and fit bodybuilder who is the fastest runner on the Battling Bears and a male model for the Washington University Art School. (Ever notice that art students never ask other art students "What's new?" because they most often ask "Who's nude?" instead?) After several weeks of being roommates as well as teammates, I ask Harold, who is black, if he had ever experienced racism. He says, "It's like this—suppose you are white and I am black, ... ." I ask, "What do you mean SUPPOSE?" He realizes that he had forgotten that I AM white and he IS black, and we both have a serious and long belly-laugh, mine being one of the best I have ever had.
    I join the University Men’s Glee Club: Director: Peter D. Tkach. And then the University Chorus: Director: Orland Johnson. I thoroughly enjoy the magnificence of choral groups. Handel’s “Messiah” is a high point.
    I take a high-level music appreciation course. My knowledge of music and of four-part harmony takes me beyond what the course offers, and I am invited to become a music major. I cannot play the piano like others, and although conducting chorus might have been an option, I do not see myself as good enough to play the piano to accompany any chorus I might be conducting. Discretion may have been the better part of valour.
    But I take Music 101, 102, 201, 202, Counterpoint. I want to study the forms of classical music including symphonic sonata, minuet, and rondo forms, so I could compose in those forms in symphonic style, but the instructor has orgasms talking about contemporary music in which composers call for percussionist to throw cymbals over their shoulders. I realize that once a cymbal leaves a percussionist’s hands he no longer has control of the resulting sound, which, as uncontrolled sound is noise, and which does not meet my definition of music as controlled sound. I drop out, ending my music theory studies at Washington University.
    I take classical organ lessons at Graham Chapel from University Organist Howard Kelsey on the Möller organ.
    I decide chemical engineering is not for me, and, wanting to know why I cannot seem to get other people to do exactly what I want them to do when, where and how I want them to do it, I decide to major in Psychology. I find Sigmund Freud and psychoanalysis fascinating. I never learn that Freud’s is not the only theory of psychology. I hear Ralph Bryant’s words about “psychology” and “mind” ringing in my head.
    As part of a Pledge Class Walk-Out I am honored by being “captured” (kidnapped) by the Pledges. Their support, as Actives (as New Initiates), becomes important later.
    I am given an opportunity to conduct Sigma Chi’s chorus in the IFC (Inter-Fraternity Council) Sing, a musical competition for fraternity and sorority choral groups. I get this position by default, because Dick Crawford, a Pledge Son, and a Music Major, is involved with the IFC and is not able to conduct our entry, as he had in the past. For some reason or other, I compose “By The Greenwood Tree,” a sad but passionate song about a man who spends time singing to Marianne, his wife/lover, whose body is buried by The Greenwood Tree. I have no clue if there is such a species as a “greenwood tree,” but the phrase works in the song. The choral arrangement highlights the tenor and bass voices in our group. But it is an original composition, and some of my fraternity brothers want me to use “Dear Land of Home,” based upon the tone poem from “Finlandia” by Jean Sibelius, also known as the Christian Hymn, “Be Still My Soul.” The recent New Initiates support me. I am told by our Consul that the decision is mine, but that it is important, because we had not won a major trophy in six years. I find the combination of melody and lyrics more compelling, more beautiful, in “By the Greenwood Tree,” than the melody and words in “Dear Land of Home,” which, I conclude, suffers from hoky lyrics and does not highlight our tenor and bass voices, as does my composition. A New Initiate, Tim Miller, a Good Man, has been with us from the first rehearsals, consistently sings off-key. I am pressured to remove him from the chorus. I refuse.
    Tryouts. Graham Chapel. Risking all, we sing my song for tryouts. Tim Miller sings on pitch. My Fraternity Brothers are pleasantly stunned when one of the judges, Ron Jenkins, a fellow music student, gives us high marks and what turns out to be sincere praise for “By the Greenwood Tree.” ["By The GreenwoodTree": http://www.bobkwebsite.com/bythegreenwoodtree.mp3]
    I am now leading men into musical battle.
    The word gets around the fraternity quickly, and I get sincere support for rehearsals during the following week. Brothers who are not part of the chorus drive back to school in the evenings to hear us rehearse.
    Finals.
    Mom and Dad are there.
    Pressure.
    But I am in my element.
    Win or lose, I am happy.
    We march in.
    We sing.
    Tim Miller sings on pitch along with everyone else.
    We win.
    First Place, Men’s Division.
    Pandemonium among the Brothers.
    I march to the stateThe IFC Sing First Place Men's Division Trophy on behalf of Sigma Chi. One of the Final Judges (who did not know of my composition) made it clear that the beauty of our tenors and basses caused her to judge us First Place, and that remark surely was encouraged by “By The Greenwood Tree.”
    I float back to the Fraternity House for the celebration. The evening is blur. I am on a natural high. I am a celebrity among my Brothers and around campus. I am quoted in the school newspaper. I am honored by music students and by professors.
    I am honored when the Pro Consul (Vice-President) says something to the equivalent of “For years Bob tried to help us, guide us in musical activities, and we didn’t listen, but when we gave him the responsibility he helped us win our first first place trophy in six years!”
    I have used my skills and one of my own compositions to help win a trophy. I am happy. I am proud.
    Music and football teach me to think for myself, to risk my own judgement and stand by my decisions.
    While in college I am fascinated by theatre organs and popular music. I hang around music stores for a chance to play Conn theatre organs. Salesman Henri Dekeersgieter asks if I want a gig. There’s a Chinese restaurant, the Kwan Yin Village, in Sunset Hills, Missouri, with a Seeburg organ (made by the jukebox people) and no one to play it. I audition for Frank Lim, the owner, and, with no competition, I get the job. Thursday, Fridays and Saturdays. Football and playing at night in an organ bar do not get confused, and the coaches never find out, so I luck out. Later I find that Bud and Clitis Gross, from my old neighborhood, become good friends with Frank and Nellie Lim.
    I get to meet Stan Kann, a Jew who is an organist at a Methodist church (Stan and the churchpeople were broadminded, and the churchpeople must have had a serious sense of humor about about Stan being a Jew playing Christian music in a Methodist Church), who plays in the mornings on The Charlotte Peters Show, a local TV variety and talk show, hosted by local celebrity Charlotte Peters, who plays the four-manual Wurlitzer theatre organ in the Fox Theatre in St. Louis, between shows, and who plays a Wurlitzer theatre organ at Ruggieri’s Restaurant on Dago Hill (the Italians themselves called it Dago Hill, so I understand “Dago” is not necessarily a bad term, unless you are mad at Italians and intend to use it as an ethical slur) and runs back and forth from Ruggieri’s to the Fox Theatre to cover the evening shows. Stan is the world’s only vacuum cleaner collector—he has many of original Hoovers among others. One night, after our respective music gigs, Stan shows me his vacuum cleaner collection. The On/Off switches on the Hoovers don't work, and Stan is frustrated with that fact and show it with his nervous fidgetting. Stan then shows me a vacuum cleaner from the US Civil War period. It has a wooden handle which is to be used by one person to pump the bellows to generate the vacuum suction, and a hose with a triangular-shaped nozzle for another person to use for vacuuming rugs, etc. Stan pumps the handle, and I walk around vacumming the rug, which was clean, anyways, so I could not determine if or not the vacuum was actually working. Then the wooden handle breaks. Stan is again frustrated, and figets nervously. Shortly after all that, Stan goes on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, as the world's only vacuum cleaner collector, with several of his Hoovers and the two-man Civil War period vacuum, and the switches on the Hoovers break, Stan nervously fidgets, Johnny grins and makes funny comments, and the audience laughs, and, when Johnny is vacuuming the rug near his desk and Stan is pumping the wooden handle, the handle breaks, Stan nervously fidgets, Johnny grins and makes funny comments, and the audience laughs, and, by appearing to be a nervous screw-up, Stan is a success as a comic. Hadn't I already seen all of this at Stan's home? Was what happened when Stan appeared to me to be genuinely trying to demonstrate his vacuums the A-Ha Moment! that inspired him to start a career in comedy? Was he practicing his rountine on me? (I never asked him and therefore never found out.) Stan goes on the numerous appearances on TV talks shows including the Merv Griffin Show, where, as a comic, he demonstrates fascinating stuff like vacuum cleaners and cooking techniques but is so nervous he appears to get things naturally screwed up. Maybe not. Stan always had a good sense of humor, so, ...

The Real World

    After college I am making more money than a graduate engineer. I am tired from studying, and choose music instead of psychology or law.
    I play in the organ bars as a soloist. Stan Kann comes to hear me play. We become friends. I follow him around his daily routines with the Charlotte Peters Show, The Fox theatre, Ruggieri’s, the Fox and Ruggieri’s again. Stan shows me his collection of vacuum cleaners including the original Hoover and a Civil War hand-pumped vacuum. The handle on the Civil War vacuum breaks as Stan is demonstrating it, just as it does on the TV shows later on. And some of the other stuff doesn’t work any better at Stan’s house than it does on TV, either. I’ve often wondered if Stan was practicing.
    I become friends with many of the top organists in the St. Louis area including John Ferguson, who plays at Stan Musial and Biggie’s Restaurant, Dick Balsano, who plays at the Sheraton Jefferson Hotel, and who offers me a gig playing cocktail hours until he shows up to play from nine to one, Bob Ellison, who becomes a good friend and who gives excellent advice on how to survive as a solo organist, Ralph Winn, whose one-man band show is augmented by his ability to play every brass and wind instrument plus vibes and his sense of comic entertainment, and by Norm Kramer, who is the organist for the St. Louis Blues NHL Hockey Team, who sets the trend for hockey organists, and who gets his picture on the front cover of Sports Illustrated and an article that hails him as the seventh man on the ice, and support for the idea that whenever the Blues play at home his music inspires at least one additional goal.
    I become a musical hero when a college friend, Mary Schoenbeck, hires me to play piano for her wedding reception. The wedding is to be held in Graham Chapel, at Washington University. The Chapel is decorated with beautiful white flowers. The ceremony is to start at 7:00 PM. The organist is to be Howard Kelsey, my former teacher. At 7:20 Mary’s father walks down the aisle saying, “The organist is not here. Is there anyone here who can play the organ?” I look around. No one moves. It’s up to me. I know the organ—the Möller. I quickly go to the office. I meet with Mary’s father and the lady who is the vocal soloist. I sketch the chord progressions for her songs. In my love for music I had memorized some of the traditional wedding songs and therefore am somewhat prepared for an emergency such as this. I go out, improvise classical organ music, for a processional I play from memory Wagner’s Bridal Chorus from “Lohengren,” get through the accompaniment for the vocalist, and for a recessional I play from memory the traditional Mendelsohn “Wedding March” from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Then I go on to the reception. Mr. Schoenbeck gives me the check he would have given Howard Kelsey. I am, of course, treated as a hero at the reception. I am worried that Howard is ill or injured, or worse. But, as it turns out, he had been to a picnic, had come home, showered, and taken a nap and simply overslept, for the first time in his long career. He told me he was glad I was there to cover for him, and to earn the money. All’s well that ends well.
    Imagine a wedding without music! Again, I am seeing the power and majesty of music.
    I take more lessons from Lloyd Bartlett until I get the impression that since Lloyd does not follow rock and roll that I will have to teach myself what’s going on with the latest in popular music. Lloyd, a private pilot, gets married to Lois, also a private pilot, in an airliner chartered to circle over the St. Louis Gateway Arch. When they get to their honeymoon destination of San Francisco, they find the local newspaper gives them three front page columns while the Pope only gets two columns covering his US visit.
    As solo gigs become scarce I take a job in the Social Service Department of St. Louis State Hospital, where I work five days a week. I have a key to let myself out at night so I can go home. At the same time I form a group with a “spotlight singer” (a singer who can hold an audience’s attention), Bill Seago, and we get a gig where I play six nights a week. We get a guest appearance on The Charlotte Peters Show. Between playing music and working at State Hospital I do not know if I am moonlighting or daylighting. Later I decide that I am daylighting.
    I play in the Starlighters rock and roll band, one of the top rock bands in St. Louis. Rock Legend Wilson Pickett recorded with The Starlighters prior to my joining them. One night we go to a black nightclub, The Club Imperial, where, if I remember correctly, we hear Ike Turner’s band. And I am told to listen to the loose “feel” of black music, which, I later find out, comes from dragging the backbeats in 4/4 metre on the second and fourth beats (musical tech-talk). This loose feel of playing music off the backbeats gives music an 'open', airy, highly danceable spontaneous quality, especially for slow dancing gyrations, in contrast to playing on the beat, which gives the music a stiff, march-like formal regularity. (Pro Football Hall-of-Fame Cleveland Browns running back Jim Brown, in his biography, Out Of Bounds, humorously and teasingly described how he admired the athletic talents and accomplishments of Fellow Pro Football Hall-of-Fame Member Paul Hornung, Heismen Trophy winner from Notre Dame, running back and place kicker for the Green Bay Packers, who won the first two Superbowls, but he, Jim Brown, noted that Hornung tended to dance on top of the beat, with a typical white stiffness, instead of off the beat.) The Starlighters, comprised of white guys, can play that black loose feel.  Our lead guitarist, Dennis Linde, leaves and goes on to write songs such as “Burnin’ Love,” which is a big hit for Elvis Presley and earns Denny over sixty thousand dollars. One afternoon Carl Perkins, composer of “Blue Suede Shoes,” joins us onstage at a jam session. We have a lot of fun.
    And I learn rock and roll.
    By default, meaning no other pianist or organist being available, I get a gig at The Brave Bull in downtown St. Louis, where I play the organ for Gene Lynn (Leon Campbell), a spotlight singer with great stage presence, an excellent nightclub entertainer, who happens to be black, and who is sometimes billed as "Frank Sinatra in Color", and McClinton Raifford, a drummer who has an excellent sense of rhythm and tempo, who could keep me from racing away with the tempo, who played excellent drum solos, and who also happened to be black. I kick bass lines with my feet on the organ pedals. I learn from Gene and McClinton what is a "groove" in music, the steady and rhythmic blend of the melody of a song with the harmonies and rhythms played by everyone in a musical group.
    I later refine my ability to play in a groove with Johnny Rose, and excellent drummer, with a good sense of rhythm, who happens to be white. From working with drummers McClinton Raifford, Johnny Rose, Kenny Rice, Brooks "Tooter" Martin, Red Kimmel, John Reno, and Billy Gayles who can hold me back as well as drummers who cannot, I learn that there is no truth to the stereotype that only black musicians "have rhythm", a stereotype featured as a joke in the "All In The Family" (Archie Bunker) sitcom. Musicians, like most everyone else, are individuals with individual talents and specialties.
    As time goes on I am in and out of bands, most of the time having my own groups, and playing solo when group gigs falter.
    One of my drummers is Billy Gayles, long time childhood friend of Ike Turner, who was Ike’s lead singer before Tina, and who wrote and sang “Tore Up,” the first international hit for the Turner band. Sometimes Billy and I would have a laugh when we sit in a local pizza parlour and someone plays “Tore Up” on the jukebox. I take Billy into previously segregated nightclubs with no problems whatsoever. Billy keeps to himself, away from white women, and people begin to realize that it is not a matter of “knowing his place” but that he is being cool and not making people uncomfortable. At the Club Marlborough, where at one end of the building there is a pool table, the customers line up at break time and drag Billy off the bandstand to play pool with them. Billy is a hit with everyone. I go on Saturday afternoons to a black club North St. Louis, where Billy plays for a jam session. I park my car at the front door. Someone meets me, lets me in, and then parks my car. I am well-received as Billy Gayles’ boss man. And we have fun playing jazz. When I leave I am escorted to my car. No one wants anything to happen to me. There is a lot of racial tension in the area, and no one wants to see anyone do anything dumb to me. I get phone calls from black musicians who tell me the word among black musicians is that I am “cool,” and they ask me to put their names and phone numbers into my “book” of musicians in case I ever needed more sidemen. I am honored by these phone calls.
    The racial tension produces strange happenings. I hire a talented black drummer to play in a club in Gaslight Square. The club is owned by a white man who also owns the club next door, where the drummer’s father plays drums for a well-known black Dixieland band. Drumming is big in this family, for my drummer’s older brother is one of the better-known jazz drummers of his time. My drummer plays the first couple of sets without incident, but then gets into a racially heated argument with the owner, accusing him of exploiting blacks but overlooks the fact that the owner was also providing employment for not only his father but also the other blacks in the Dixieland band. The drummer packs up his equipment and leaves. The trumpet player and I get paid, but we lose the gig. The drummer’s father apologizes for his son. I am not angry, only puzzled at how crazy and senseless racial attitudes can be.
    I learn that inre music, musicians 
    Aquarius is a rock band I name after my birth sign. We work steadily. We are hot. We play the hottest spots in the County and set cash flow records. We are strong enough to be considered for being a warm-up band to get audiences ready for national touring bands at Kiel Auditorium and the St. Louis Arena. But one individual thinks he knows more about music and the music business than I do, and the band breaks up. The drummer, Tom Knowles, goes on to play for John Cougar Melencamp.
    I begin teaching. I write music instruction books. I find out Mel Bay is THE  Mel Bay of the Mel Bay Publishing Company when he invites me to show a book to his son, Bill, who is now running the family publishing business. He assigns me book projects, I offer several book proposals, and my books are published and sold all over the world.
    My published books include:     From time to time I eat lunch in a cafeteria in Kirkwood not far from Mel Bay’s store. On occasion I see Mel, and he never fails to pick up my check. We sit and talk about music stuff. He shares impressions and offers good advice. He tells me that at one time he traveled to St. Louis on a manure wagon to take lessons. He is a good conversationalist, and I am honored by his friendship.
    Kathy Telle, one of my students, is a marvelous classical organist, who wants to learn to play popular music, and who goes on to play professionally at the Kwan Yin Village—where I played my first gig.
    Jim Labit is a mechanical engineer who plays in a GB or General Business band. He comes to me for lessons, and we become good friends, doing a lot of boating on the Mississippi.
    Jerry Brasch owns Brasch Manufacturing and loves theatre organ music. He has a large Allen electronic theatre organ in a specially designed room. He comes to me for lessons on accompaniment rhythm patterns for popular music, and we become good friends. Jerry is a graduate of Washington University with a degree in engineering. At one time, as a student, he was the University Organist. Whenever I go to St. Louis Jerry and Rosalee make available their home. On our honeymoon, 1996, Janice and I spent almost two weeks with Jerry and Rosalee.
    I meet Jimmy Smith, the jazz organist, and a musical hero of mine. We are backstage on one of his breaks at a gig in St. Louis. He rants about whites oppressing blacks and a race war that is coming between blacks and whites until I remind him that blacks are only ten percent of the total US population and that because of their skin color and certain distiguishable facial features many if not most black people would have a tough time going under cover and camouflaging themselves if ever whites and other ethnic groups get ticked off enough to pick up guns and start shooting blacks. Jimmy does not know that I am held in high regard by black musicians in the St. Louis area. But he recognizes that I am talking with him man-to-man in a factual way, that I am a fan of his, and that, therefore, I am definitely not a racist, and he calms down, and we talk musician’s talk. I want to keep in touch with him. He gives my his address, but when I write my letters come back “Address Unknown.” I see him at the St. Louis Playboy Club, but he refuses to talk to me. So much for some musical heroes. And so far there has not been a race war between whites and blacks.
    I continue to play.
    In 1982 I am invited by the Peterson Musical Instrument Company, of Worth, Illinois, manufacturers of strobe tuners for guitar players, to be their Factory Artist and demonstrate their Peterson Bottom Line™ Pedalbass at the NAMM Show in Atlanta. A fun time. And an honor.
    In 1983, my Mother dies.
    In 1984, my Father dies.
    One or two weeks after my Father's death, a friend who installed my septic system introduces me to Janice Draper, who later, in 1996, becomes Mrs. K.
    I meet George Bush in August, 1989, while playing at the White Barn Inn, Kennebunkport, Maine. President Bush likes my piano work, says so, and honors me with a Presidential tie clip, which has the Seal of the President of the United States on the front and Mr. Bush’s signature stamped on the back. I wear it in his honor. And I meet him on several other occasions. And I get an Official White house Photograph showing Mr. Bush handing me a tie clip. Unfortunately, all you see of Mr. Bush is his back. I hope to get him to autograph it with something like “To Whom It May Concern: Yes, this really is my back. And I really did get to meet Bob Kroepel. G. Bush.”
    I teach general Music at the Woodland Heights Elementary School in Laconia, NH, where Janice, teaches. I learn to love kids. Some of them bring me tapes with obscene words on them for personal listening, not for use in class. I am amazed that such tapes are readily available. I teach them “street music”—music that they hear on the radio and in their tapes and cd’s. I play rock and roll and rhythm and blues for them. “The Linus and Lucy Theme” from “Peanuts” (The “Charley Brown” Song, or just plain “Charley Brown!”) is a big hit. I implement “Song Reports,” in which the kids who can read research a recording of a song of their choice, tell us about the arrangement in terms of an Introduction (Rhythmic—no themes like melodies—or Thematic—using notes like melodies), the Basic Beat Subdivision (“ev-en” eighth notes or “boun-cy” triplet eighth notes), what Instruments are being played, what the Words mean, and the Ending (Complete Ending or Fade-Out). I do not screen their tapes. The kids are at first shy, but when the brave ones have fun giving their Song Reports the others get excited and interested in having their chance in the spotlight. They practice their Song Reports in their regular classes. One angel of a third grader tells me that her parents are both part-time DJ’s, and that her Dad is helping her, and he has suggested a song called “Funky Cold Medina.” She does a good job on her Song Report. She gets the Introduction, Basic Beat Subdivision, Instruments, and the Ending, but she has trouble understanding the words. I thought her father would have helped her with the words. She gets to the end of her Song Report and we punch “Play” on the tape machine. The words tell a story about a guy who goes to a bar, meets a girl, fills her with a drink called “Funky Cold Medina,” takes her up to his apartment, and when he gets her clothes off he finds out that she’s a man, and ... I can’t punch “Stop” fast enough. I thank her and try not to make a big deal of the words. She is puzzled because we do not play all of her song, but is pleased when I give her a good grade, because, after all, she did get everything else right. I am worried that I am being set up. I talk with the Principal, and we decide to wait to see if anyone decides to make a Big Deal about it. No one does. I screen all tapes from then on. I later hear the entire tape and am amazed that the girl’s father suggested it to her, for I am sure she would have had trouble understanding words such as “I don’t want to make a plan with a man.” But, on the whole, the kids are great. I teach them many songs from what I spontaneously call “The American Musical Heritage”—songs like “Yankee Doodle,” “Shenandoah,” “Dixie,” “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” and all the Armed Services Songs—“The Caisson’s Song,” “Anchors Aweigh,” “The Marines’ Hymn,” “The Air Force Song”/“The Wild Blue Yonder,” and “Semper Paradis” (“Always Ready”—The Coast Guard Song) as well as songs they might like to sing to their own children, as my Mother sang to me, songs like “Mary Had A Little Lamb”  and “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” They like the street music. They can relate to the songs they can hear on the radio and on their tapes. Many of them thank me for not making them learn what they themselves spontaneously call “Baby Music.” I learn how important  music can be to young people, as it was for me when I was young. I see and hear a lot of talent. In class many students volunteer to sing rock and roll songs using a microphone, with me accompanying them on piano and pedalbass. Imagine young people standing in front of their peers singing rock and roll songs! I teach them disco-style dance steps, including the basic step and the “ropework”—the moves guys and girls make together as they dance. I suggest a Talent Show, and the Principal approves. This is a show for the kids. The adults are only to provide a framework, and the kids are to do what they want to show off their talents. We hold auditions. We have more than enough for two shows but have to settle for only enough for one show. Two guys show up with another guy and two girls who turn out to be dancers. I have no idea what they intend to do. They grab two microphones. They are going to do “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” and I am to play the piano and pedalbass for them, just like I did in class. They bounce across the stage as dual Elvis impersonators with dancers behind them. All their own idea. They are the closing act for the Show. The Show takes on a special meaning for the kids throughout the school. Kids volunteer to be stage hands, stage managers, personnel managers. A guy and a girl ask to be Co-Masters of Ceremonies. Why not? The art teacher helps other kids who are not in the Show to make a banner for us. There are no sport teams for this elementary school therefore no athletic heroes, so the Show becomes a Really Big Deal. Our Kids! Our Talent! A point of pride. The in-school shows goes along fine. I am out front playing the piano for some of the acts. The first graders do “Mary Had A Little Lamb” with one girl singing and the other following her dressed in a lamb costume. The upper classmen treat them as equals, proud to have them in the Show. The banner gets ripped when one act carelessly flings themselves onstage. Oh, well. This is, after all, only a grade school, and, like many weddings, even the best plans often make end up as funny videos on a TV show. But Lindsay Jordan, our Stage Manager, takes the initiative between acts, so when the curtain opens I am amazed that the banner has been fixed. Before the evening Show, our Personnel Manager comes to me with a list she has made of the participants, their phone numbers, their parents’ names, etc. She has made this list on her own. She tells me that several people have not arrived and asks permission to call them from the office. Or course! I am impressed with her natural leadership in preparing herself for her job without my direction. I am impressed with the native intelligence, adaptability, responsibility, and leadership young people can exhibit when given a chance. Everyone arrives on time. And the Show goes well for the parents and siblings. The evening Show is a great success. The upper classmen tell me that after they graduate from Woodland Heights they plan to come back as advisors for future Shows. We have a Cast Party. We watch a video of the Show—first graders, upper graders, and adults, all equals. We have refreshments. I give them Certificates they can hang on their walls. Then the performers grab the gymnastic equipment, become Kids once again, and start venting energy all over the stage and the gym. And I have to become an Adult and supervise everyone. The regular music teacher, who specializes in Baby Music, sees the Show, compliments me on my effort, tells me she thinks I must have spent a lot of time doing it, then tells me she hopes that no one asks her to do a Show next year, because she won’t do it. I am stunned by what she says. There is no Show the next year. But several other teachers realize the importance of a Show, the kids ask to do a Show, and, without the participation of the regular music teacher, they do a Show. Only now those kids who would like their chance to stand in front of an audience and sing a song or play an instrument accompanied by a competent piano player now may not have that chance if the only available piano player is the regular teacher and she refuses to participate. Without a competent piano player only those non-musical acts such as comedy and magic acts and musical acts who can provide their own background tapes will have a chance to perform. Nevertheless, somehow, the Show lives on.
    I play music for Jean and Roosevelt Langley, at the Langley House Inn, Intervale, New Hampshire. The Langleys and the Kroepels become lifelong friends. They have the same wedding date as ours albeit theirs is a 14 years earlier. We give them a key to our home and request that they visit often. Roosevelt is a gourmet chef. I get to the gig early, and, by mutual consent, I chase him around the kitchen without getting in his way as he prepares for the evening food service, and we chat about Life, Love, Labor, and Leisure. Jean joins us as Hostess. After the food service, Roosevelt and I hang out together, talking about Life, Love, Labor, Leisure, and, as we eat our evening meal—the same gourmet food served to patrons, we watch Bill Belichick and Tom Brady and the New England Patriots win their first Divisional Title since 1985 and go on to the Superbowl. The Inn is 65 miles from home, so when I am tired or the weather is bad, by their insistence, I stay at the Inn. Roosevelt is competent to handle construction, electrical and plumbing problems at the Inn, doing most of the renovations himself. He is also good fixing mechanical problems with cars and trucks. He is a marginal musician. I tell people that between the two of us, we can do anything: I can do music, and he can do everything else! (That's a paraphrase of a Samuel Clemens/Mark Twain joke.) Roosevelt loves to fix problems, and is extremely energetic though laid-back. When Jeanne and Roosevelt come visit us at our house, Roosevelt either notices problems to be fixed or colludes with Janice to work on problems she has listed. Roosevelt happens to be black. Roosevelt is rugged and handsome. When we go shopping for stuff needed for repairs, or for food, I notice that women of all ages, races, shapes, sizes, and marital status ogle him. They do not ogle me. I pretend to get mad. I point out to the women that they have ogled him and not me. I ask them how they would like it if they went somewhere with a ladyfriend and the guys ogled the ladyfriend and not them. They admit that they would not like that. I suggest that they ought to give me at least a courtesy ogle. The ladies get the joke, and give me a courtesy ogle. Janice and Jean witness some of these ogles/courtesy ogles and marvel at my inherent goofiness.
    I see increasing enforcement of DWI/OUI laws threaten lounge customers and dry up the lounge business for musicians as well as for lounge owners. Perhaps this is for the good if it keeps people from getting drunk and killing themselves or/and other people. But it means that gigs for a working musician become harder to find.
    But I play as much as I can.
    I continue to compose, and to write music instruction books.
    I am forming my own publishing company, Lakeside Studios.
    In the works are the following books:     I plan to publish tapes and CD’s of MIDI Music, instrumental music performed by my Apple Macintosh computer as well as live recordings.