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Tribute to Tony Lytle, the Trombone Player
Recently I have written about my travels in various parts of the world. Morocco stands out in importance because I lived there for the last two years of high school. It was a terrific time in my life. I was old enough to know about a lot of things but young enough to have few responsibilities.
Of course I was not alone in having these unique experiences. All of the kids in school were on the same journey. One was a fellow named Tony, Tony Lytle. His background had several similarities to mine. His father, like mine, was a civilian working for the Air Force. He had lived in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia when he was in elementary school; I travelled through Dhahran, Saudi Arabia on my way to Morocco and both of our fathers worked at Nouasseur Air Force Base in 1959-61.
Tony recently sent me a couple of photographs which I will share with you. The camel was likely his ride to school.
When I knew Tony he was much older.
He was focused on music. He played a terrific Trombone. At one time he even encouraged me to get involved. He thought I would be a good base player. Why, I am not certain — he just probably needed a base player. It didn’t go anywhere.
At Nouasseur Air Force Base there was an Airman, Smitty, who had a band. It was a hot band and Tony played in it. This was unusual because Tony was a high school kid and the band was all servicemen and Tony was white which the band was not. This was before the civil rights movement changed the country.
We all admired and liked Tony and we were impressed with his talent.
Unfortunately, Smitty got transferred to Torrejón Air Force Base in Spain and the band ceased to perform. We all felt we lost something.
One day the word came down that Smitty was going to be back in town (Casablanca actually) and the band was getting together for a blow-out party. It was to be held in a beach area hotel, if I remember. Wherever it was, it was close to where I lived — within walking distance. Tony was going to play and Smitty said he could have his friends there.
Hot damn that was the ticket: a blow-out party!
The most exciting party I had been to prior to this was the time a group of us gathered at someone’s house, ( it might have been Tony’s house) when the parents were away and got into the beer. Somehow we garnered a case of beer and decided to party. In the livingroom was a decorative Beer Stein, about three feet tall. It was used as an umbrella stand. We discarded the umbrella and poured about twelve cans of beer into it when we noticed on top of the foam several cigarette butts and a band-aid. Gag. We drank it anyway. That, by the way, is not easy to do out of a three-foot container. As you tip it slightly you are greeted with a beer tsunami that floods over your face and down your shirt. Just as we were starting to get the hang of it the parents came home unexpectedly early and we had to scatter.
Anyway, that was the best party up to now. A blow-out party with Smitty’s band portended to be much better.!
Now Smitty was not popular with the parental set. My dad flat-out did not like him. I don’t know that my dad ever met him or heard him play or what, but dad had heard things and he flat-out did not like Smitty. So I did not mention a thing about Smitty when I went out that night.
Since I lived in Casablanca I went down to the party be myself. The others who lived on the base caught a bus into town.
When I got there the place was move’n and jump’n. And Tony was playing his horn. Great sounds. And, there was an open bar! That was new to me. And Smitty’s blond Scandinavian girlfriend was there. That was new to me. We guys sort of had our tongues hanging out.
So we partied and we danced and we drank, and we drank. We drank til the party shut down, sometime around 3AM if I recall. At that time one of the other guys, Bob Hunter, came up to me and asked if he could stay the night with me — he had missed the last bus home.
“Sure”, I said ” You’ll have to sleep on the floor.” and we lurched up the hill toward my house.
When we got to the house I proceeded to give him a tour. I was especially proud of our garden which could be better seen when I clicked on the floodlights next to my parents bedroom, twice. Eventually the tour was complete. The party was over and we collapsed into sleep.
Morning next I thought I should let my parents know we had a guest. I went into the kitchen where my mother was preparing bacon and eggs.
“Mom, we have a guest for breakfast. He is asleep in my room”.
“We know“, she replied. “Dad is not very pleased with you.”
“I didn’t think he would be”, I said.
I went into the other room and said, “Good morning, Dad.”
He replied, “I’m not very pleased with you”. And that was all that was said.
To this day I fondly remember that party and Tony and the whole milieu. Tony went on to have a career representing performing artists and later was involved in film and television distribution. He lives in England with his family. I do not know if he still plays the horn, but I will always remember him for it. Thank you, Tony.
More to come
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