A Marine Corps band first played “Hail to the Chief” for Andrew Jackson as he walked off on his way to Ohio. It earned three cheers from his adoring crowd. After President John Tyler adopted it for his 1841-1845 term in office, the tradition stuck and American Presidents have been associated with the song ever since.
But before that, they tried to choose a personal theme song. Thanks, John Tyler.
George Washington almost had “Hail, Columbia” as his theme, with lyrics like “Let Washington’s great name ring through the world to loud applause.” And Jefferson tried to get “Jefferson and Liberty” as his theme song, with lyrics like “But join with heart and soul and voice, for Jefferson and Liberty!”
In the January-February 2017 issue of Smithsonian Magazine, Abigail Tucker detailed the history of the song and how it came to be played for the President of the United States. In the early days of our nation, the general population wasn’t too fond of the British. So when a theatrical version of the 1810 poem “Lady of the Lake” premiered in Philadelphia, it really caught on.
The show was an epic historical story about the life of an anti-British elite who is destined for greatness but whose life is tragically cut short by a power hungry villain. The stage show was a musical production that American audience immediately fell in love with and soon the whole country was raving about the show and its songs. So it was basically the “Hamilton” of the 1800s.
After the War of 1812, anti-British sentiment was still riding high and even though “Lady of the Lake” was about an anti-British Scotsman it hardly mattered to Americans. He was an awesome character and that was enough. The lyrics were changed a number of times, however. Poetic olive trees eventually replaced Scottish pines and the hero of the song stopped murdering British people.
Eventually, people completely forgot the official lyrics of the song.
Today the Defense Department mandates that “Hail to the Chief” only be played by the Marine Corps band in B-flat major and only for a sitting President in a “stately context” and at Presidential funerals.
It’s a well-known fact that the King of Rock n’ Roll enjoyed practicing karate. What might not be so well-known is that he was pretty good at it, too. After starting his training while in the Army in Europe in 1958, Elvis Presley studied martial arts until his death in 1977 — when he was a seventh-degree black belt.
This talent came in handy one night when rocker Alice Cooper pulled a gun on him.
Elvis earned his black belt after a rigorous six-week-long training regimen and test. Though his fighting style wasn’t “pretty,” the King still passed the test. Elvis would even eventually start his own dojo, the Tennessee Karate Institute, and write books about how he trained for real-life dangers — including meditations on how to prepare for attackers with real guns.
He was so serious about the art that he was ready to be promoted beyond the level of his trainer much faster than anyone could’ve anticipated. He was as bold in the studio as he was in real life: Presley once even got out of his limo at an intersection in Madison, Wisconsin, to stop a fight at a gas station. The then-42-year-old walked up to the fight, told the two men, “I’ll take you two on,” and assumed a karate stance. The two men stopped fighting.
“Is everything settled now?” he said.
Despite not being considered “pretty” when he first earned his black belt, Elvis’ karate improved greatly over the next 15 years. Wayne Carman, who trained with Elvis under their master, Kang Rhee, said this about Presley’s karate:
“His technique was crisp and powerful and his movements were graceful.”
It was a good thing, too. One night in Las Vegas, Elvis was in the penthouse of a hotel when a young Alice Cooper (along with Liza Minelli and Linda Lovelace) came into his room. He wasn’t just looking for an audience with the King. After they were all frisked by Elvis’ security, Elvis took Cooper into the kitchen and took out a .32 snub-nose revolver. He told the kid to put it to his head.
Cooper recounted the story to the UK’s Mirror:
“I had this gun in my hand and was expecting one of his security to come in any second, see me holding a weapon, and shoot me dead… A little voice in my left ear was telling me, ‘Go on, this is history, kill him, you’ll always be the guy who killed Elvis.’ In my other ear was another voice saying, ‘You can’t kill him, it’s Elvis Presley – wound him instead, you’ll only get a few years!’.
That’s when Elvis did a flying kick at the gun, knocking it out of Cooper’s hand. He then tripped Cooper and pinned him to the ground by his neck.
Alice in Chains was a widely-successful Grunge band in the 1990s. Alongside Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden, they helped define an entire generation of musicians. While songs like Would? and Man in the Box are their most well-known, Rooster is the most beloved within the military community.
Jerry Cantrell Jr., the guitarist, co-vocalist, and songwriter, was the son of a Vietnam War veteran, Jerry Cantrell Sr. The younger Cantrell watched his father deploy twice and never talk about what happened in Vietnam. He watched as his father struggled with PTSD throughout his childhood until, eventually, it destroyed his family.
So, he wrote a song dedicated to his father and his experience in Vietnam.
The name, Rooster, is a play on three meanings: It was a childhood nickname of his father’s. ‘Rooster’ was also a nickname for M60 machine gunners because the muzzle flash looked like a rooster’s tail. It’s also a play on how the Vietnamese saw 101st Airborne Division soldiers who wore the Screaming Eagle on their sleeves. It’s said that because bald eagles aren’t native to Vietnam, the locals referred to 101st soldiers as “chicken men” or “roosters.” All three meanings perfectly describe Jerry Cantrell Sr.
The lyrics run deep with symbolism calling back to Vietnam. Cantrell Jr. was only able to piece together little things from what he heard his father occasionally say.
“Walking tall machine gun man.
They spit on me in my homeland.
Gloria sent me pictures of my boy.
Got my pills ‘gainst mosquito death,
My buddy’s breathing his dying breath.
Oh, God, please won’t you help me make it through.”
In a 1992 interview with Guitar for the Practicing Musician, he was asked if his father ever heard the song. He did, but only once live. Cantrell Jr recalled,
Yeah. He’s heard this song. He’s only seen us play once, and I played this song for him when we were in this club opening for Iggy Pop. I’ll never forget it. He was standing in the back and he heard all the words and stuff. Of course, I was never in Vietnam and he won’t talk about it, but when I wrote this, it felt right… like these were things he might have felt or thought. And I remember when we played it he was back by the soundboard and I could see him. He was back there with his big gray Stetson and his cowboy boots — he’s a total Oklahoma man — and at the end, he took his hat off and just held it in the air. And he was crying the whole time. This song means a lot to me. A lot.
He was injured while serving as an Infantry Officer during Vietnam, and after months of surgeries and recovery, he extended his commitment to teach counterinsurgency tactics before finally separating.
Deep down, Smallwood is a soulful artist. An actor, writer, singer, and musician, he has made a career for himself in theater and on-screen, but it’s his writing and his music that really makes him stand out.
We Are The Mighty sat down with him to talk about his relationship with music.
“I can hear some music and know the setting behind it, and it just goes straight to my part that feels.”
He couldn’t speak when he woke up in the hospital in Vietnam, but rest assured, his voice healed and transformed into something rich and soothing.
Check out his video, not only for the Battle Mix that makes him think of his time in service, but for a performance with his acoustic guitar that will leave you wanting more:
Whether it’s the barracks on base, a berthing area aboard the ship, or a plywood building at a remote outpost in unfriendly lands, living in close quarters with folks you don’t know all that well is a big part of military life. But there are ways to expedite the process of getting acquainted by picking up on the clues your fellow service members are putting out all around you – like their taste in music, for instance.
So sneak a peek at their smartphones and see what they’re jamming on Spotify, Pandora, Beats, iTunes, or whatever. If you see any of these 7 artists (or the associated genres) here’s what your room-, bunk-, squad-, or shipmates are telling you:
1. The Black Keys
“I’m a new school take on an old school vibe, which is to say I’m at once low maintenance and high gloss. I’m an achiever but not in that obnoxious kiss-ass way that would give me a reputation among the others in the command. I like sports, but I’m not a bro. I’m in a stable relationship with a person back home and plan on getting married, but not until the time is right for both of us. I have two years of college under my belt and will work on finishing the rest in my spare time before my enlistment is up. After that I’ll get out and pretend like none of this every happened. Oh . . . and I’m smarter than you, but I’ll never say it.”
“You’ve probably already picked up on my intensity through my body language and the tone of my voice, although I haven’t said very much to you. I was one of the cool kids in the early high school years but got sick of those people — the meathead jocks and their vain girlfriends — so I pretty much spent the rest of the time with my best friend reading Dave Eggers entire body of work and making chalk doodles on sidewalks after dark using a flashlight. I had one boyfriend who broke up with me right after he stole my virginity. I got drunk after that and started to get a tattoo of his name to try and mess with his head or something, but I chickened out because it hurt so bad, so all I have is a small black dot near the top of my left bun. I knew nothing about the military when I joined but did it because it’s exactly what my parents thought I would never do. Now that I’m here I hate it. And — don’t take this personally — I’m pretty sure I hate you.”
“I got these tattoos before I joined and want to get a few more regardless of what the rules are. (They keep changing anyway.) I had planned on going to college, but before I got accepted anywhere I got busted for spray-painting graffiti on the side of one of the overpasses in my hometown. My dad lawyer’d up, and my record was wiped clean, but he gave me one option at that point: Join the military. So here I am. Funny thing is I don’t mind it; in fact, I’m actually enjoying it. I told the dudes back home that I was only staying for one enlistment, if that even, but truth is I’ll probably wind up being a lifer. I’m a good friend who knows how to hook a buddy up. I also know about paying assholes back, so don’t be one.”
4. Luke Bryan
“It won’t surprise you based on my build and the intensity of my workouts that I was the quarterback of my high school football team. I went to junior college an hour from my hometown in Texas, but had one too many blowouts with the coach and got thrown off the team. After that I started to party and stopped going to class. I flunked out and didn’t want to go back home, so I joined the military. I come off as a super-friendly, semi-religious guy but really I’m a massive backstabber, especially if things aren’t going my way. I’m very competitive and hate to lose at anything, including making rank ahead of my peers. I talk about trucks all the time but my main ride is a Yaris the insurance money bought after I crashed my F-150 a few years back. I can line dance, which makes me a good wingman in certain bars. I’ll listen to your problems with an earnest expression, but really I don’t care, and if you need me for a crisis I’ll probably have a conflict that’ll prevent me from helping in any meaningful way. Sorry. (Not really.)”
5. Maroon 5
“I was student council vice president and a member of the National Honor Society and had oodles of promise but I kind of gagged on it and couldn’t deal with the weight of my family’s expectations, so after working as a sales associate at Target for a few months I joined the military. The recruiter told me about the great education programs and how I could get into officer training pretty easily based on my profile, but it turns out that was all bullshit, of course, and I’m stuck with this lame MOS that I kinda feel is beneath me but will do a good job with anyway. The command will tempt me with advanced schooling and other incentives based on my cheery disposition and positive outlook, but I’ll get out after my first term and give college another try using my GI Bill benefit. Oh, and I listen to Maroon 5 because I really don’t like music all that much.”
6. Ed Sheeran
“I joined the military after a traumatic breakup with my fiance because I needed massively new surroundings in my life (and I thought the move would also be a nice “you can’t hurt me” signal to my ex) but halfway through boot camp I had massive regrets, and I freaked to the point they pulled me out and sent me to the doc who told me that I was fine and that stress was a natural part of life and that I needed to stay hydrated. After that I heard whispers from the others that I was a drama queen, which is a total lie cause I hate drama and have posted a bunch of memes on Facebook about that fact. I’ve been in three relationships since I got to this command seven months ago, and all of them ended kinda ugly, mostly because they didn’t respect me for my mind and the fact that I listen to song lyrics and get what they mean. And I need a hug.”
“I joined up after high school first thing because my dad and uncle had both served and they said the military was a great place to get started in life. Made sense to me. Otherwise I would have wound up doing a lot of nothing and that always leads to bad things. I have a thuggish exterior like I’m all don’t-give-a-shit but deep-down inside I cry a little bit when they yell at me for what the First Sergeant calls ‘screwing the pooch’ or whatever. (I don’t really cry.) Plus, I’m trying my best, yo. If it’s so easy why don’t you do it? (That’s just me thinking that, not saying that out loud or nothing.) But, like I said before, this military thing makes sense to me. It’s all good. I’m down with it.”
There’s no doubt that if there were any American to have truly “lived the dream,” it was Elvis Presley. He was born into poverty and rose to stardom. His songs were omnipresent, his films were everywhere, and, on his 21st birthday, he became eligible for the draft.
On Mar. 24th, 1958, the day his fans would call “Black Monday,” Elvis Presley was sworn into the U.S. Army. He had all the power and money in the world and he became a regular ol’ Private, just like everyone else. He even gave up his beloved hair.
The Pentagon was well aware of his star power and offered him a role in the Special Service. Basically, he would have been free to continue his music career, receive special treatments, and, essentially, just wear a uniform as a formality. The Navy offered to create an “Elvis Presley company” and the Air Force wanted him to just tour recruiting centers.
But that’s not how The King rolled. Even though thousands of fans wrote to the Army asking for his release, he thought it would have been “unfair” if he got out in any way other than completing his two-year commitment. He became a cavalry scout and left for Friedberg, West Germany.
That’s the most beautiful thing about The King of Rock and Roll’s service. He trained just as hard as everyone else. He qualified as an expert with his rifle. He took up karate classes to pass the time, which later became a life long hobby. He even donated his Army pay to charities while using his rock-star money on the men in his unit.
Presley made it very clear he was there to be a soldier first. Towards the end of his career, they offered him a role in the film, G.I. Blues. It was essentially a musical comedy, starring Elvis, that told the story of his joining the Army. Paramount came all the way out to Friedberg with hopes that they’d get some “on location” shots of Presley, but he wouldn’t be discharged for another few months. So, his stunt double took his place for all the scenes that were shot in Germany.
Sgt. Presley made a lifelong friend in fellow soldier, Charlie Hodge. Hodge had been a small-time musician before his service (nowhere near the levels of fame of Elvis enjoyed in his prime). When Elvis left the service in 1960, Hodges came with him. Hodges was one of the few friends Presley could count on and became a key member of the Memphis Mafia and the TCB until Elvis’ passing in 1977.
No one seems to know who wrote the lyrics to the hymn, but they have shifted slightly over time to reflect the evolution of the Corps. In 1942, the final changes were made to reflect the addition of aviation to the Marine Corps mission. The first verse’s fourth line, “On the land as on the sea” became “In the air, on land, and sea.”
3. It specifically mentions battles from the 1800s
The opening line “From the Halls of Montezuma” refers to the capture of Mexico City and the Castle of Chapultepec in 1847 during the Mexican-American War.
4. The American flag was first flown in an overseas victory at Tripoli
“To the Shores of Tripoli” pays homage to the First Barbary War, when U.S Marines helped capture the Tripolitan city of Derna in modern day Libya in 1805. It was the first time Old Glory was raised in victory on foreign soil.
5. It’ll tell you everything you need to know about the Marines
The lyrics aptly reflect the spirit of the Corps, mentioning the “fight for right and freedom,” the importance of honor, and even a bit of branch rivalry: “If the Army and the Navy ever look on Heaven’s scenes; they will find the streets are guarded by United States Marines.”
On September 22nd, thousands of fans poured into Lance Corporal Torrey Gray Field at Twentynine Palms, California for the final stop on USAA’s months-long BaseFEST tour. The all-day festivals brought together the military community at the country’s largest bases and offered free food, fun, and some great, live music — featuring larger-than-life bands, like The Offspring.
But veterans got in on the entertaining, too. Marines, troops, and their families were warmed up by Twentynine Palms’ own Matt Monaco, better known by his stage name, Modest Monaco.
Not a bad side-hustle if I do say so myself.
Monaco comes from a Marine family. His grandfather served for over 33 years in the Marine Corps and fought in three separate wars.
“Honor, courage, and commitment. That is who he was. Seeing that in him inspired me to want to be like him,” says Monaco.
And, in 1997, he did just that. “I’ve only seen my grandpa cry twice in his life. Once was at his 50th wedding anniversary and once was at my graduation for the Marines.”
As a Marine, he spent his days serving our country — his nights, however, were reserved for working on drift cars at his own shop. This side gig opened the door for him to become a DJ. Once he put it out there that he wanted to learn to produce electronic music, DJs would bring their cars to him and he’d pick their brains. Two years and a complete album later, he’s on stage at BaseFEST.
Modest Monaco is no stranger to Twentynine Palms. It was, after all, where he trained. But instead of embracing the suck, as Marines tend to do, he instead kicked ass on stage.
The night also featured Nombe, Carlton Zeus, Haha Tonka, and The Offspring. Sadly, the Southern California festival concluded this year’s BaseFEST tour. But if you missed it this year, don’t sweat it — BaseFEST was a resounding success, so fans can probably expect bigger and better things to come next summer!
To hear former Marine Corps Sergeant Matt Monaco, aka Modest Monaco, share his experiences in his own words, check out the video below.
The USS Missouri has a long and storied history. She earned numerous battle stars for her service in three American wars. She was the site where Japan signed its formal surrender, ending World War II. The last battleship produced by the United States, she was decommissioned in 1955 and reactivated in 1984 to support the Gulf War. She even made appearances in the 1992 movie Under Siege and in 2012’s Battleship.
Its most infamous moment came in 1989, when Cher sang “If I Could Turn Back Time” in front of the ship’s crew wearing a one-piece bathing suit and stockings that didn’t leave much to the imagination.
Almost no one but the director (and, presumably, Cher) was happy with the video. According to the book “I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution,” MTV pretty much banned the video outright because of the visibility of Cher’s butt cheeks. The network later rolled that back and would play it only after 9pm – though MTV still pushed the envelope as “Safe Harbor” programming for broadcasters in the U.S. began at 10pm.
See how safe the harbor is in the music video below.
The outfit, of course, completely surprised the U.S. Navy, who had given their blessing for the shoot. Once he saw the singer’s costume on the set of the video, the Navy’s entertainment liaison for the Missouri asked the director to choose something else for Cher to wear. The director, of course, declined.
After all the flak the Navy took for the video, it decreed that never again would musicians be allowed to film music videos on ships of the U.S. Navy. In an attempt to placate the Navy, Cher later filmed parts of the song in a less-revealing outfit and without the crew present, but the new video was too little, too late.
For Cher, the song completely revived her 20-plus year long career. It was her second consecutive number one hit on the Billboard charts and was a certified gold record.
As a prior butter bar, I want you to know that I have no regrets about my career choice.
Sure, when I signed up for the military, I thought I was going to get to do a little less paperwork and a little more single handedly saving the entire world from terrorism for all time with my bravery, but hey, we all have our roles to play. Mine was to ensure my people were able to conduct mission ops — and deep down, I know that’s important, too.
I was very calculated about which branch I would serve in (Air Force, duh — I’m not a masochist) and how I would earn my commission (on the beaches of Southern California, like a BAMF). We trained on Fridays, and I was super into it (ROTC nerd to an extreme level) so I also attended optional Saturday morning training, which meant I missed out on the collegiate Thirsty Thursday, Friday night parties, and Saturday night shenanigans (because I was tired from all that training, bro).
So it really wasn’t until active duty that I realized how much lieutenants could party.
When we were at intel school at Goodfellow AFB, Texas, we set up a “pub crawl” where everyone served signature drinks from their dorm rooms — everything from a shot of Jeremiah Weed to a game of flip cup to Vodka mixed with Airborne tablets (“to help our immune systems.”)
My first Gin and Tonic was consumed in the SCIF while cramming for the Navy test (does one really need to be sober to learn about boats? I mean ships…).
In Korea, the pilots partied so hard I started carrying a sharpie with me so I could make a tic-mark on my palm to track my drinks. Most nights left me waking up with a bar code across my palm.
But beyond the drinking, the butter bars in the office are more likely to liven up the office with pranks and jokes — and let’s not forget who keeps the snack bar full.
Butter bars have it great. They have enough training under their belts to feel confident about testing themselves but not enough experience for any serious responsibility. It’s a carefree time. The good ones acknowledge their shortcomings and learn quickly. The crappy ones… well, you can read some of their stories in the comments on this post (and add your own — it’s hilarious!).
The point is, butter bars are precious. They’re bright eyed and ready for a good time. They don’t know that the sh*t is about to get real. Look out for them. Show them the way.
3. They’re the future brass
Four-stars have to start somewhere, right? Their experiences as CGOs will have an effect on their leadership style down the road, so help them out. Teach them the mission. Remind them of what’s important. Show them the value of mutual respect.
They’ll remember it later and we’ll all be better for it.
And for all you 0-1s out there, work hard before you play hard. You might be at the bottom of the officer ranks now, but you’ve still got men and women who rely on you.
On his fantastic new album A Sailor’s Guide to Earth, Sturgill Simpson uses life at sea to inspire songs about separation from family and a longing for home. Simpson himself grew up in Kentucky and claims he joined the Navy on a whim when driving past a recruiting station.
After three years which included service in Japan and Southeast Asia, he left the service. “I wasn’t very good at taking orders,” he told Garden and Gun in 2014.
After he came home and started a music career, it turned out he wasn’t very good at taking orders from Nashville, either. Simpson wasn’t cut out for the kind of trucks-and-beer pop country that’s dominated the charts over the last decade and made his name on independently-released albums. He had a breakthrough with 2014’s Metamodern Sounds in Country Music, produced by Dave Cobb (who’s made a name for himself producing fellow Nashville rebels Chris Stapleton and Jason Isbell).
Atlantic Records signed Simpson and gave him total freedom to make Sailor’s Guide, which he produced himself. What he made is a compact album (39 minutes, just like the old days!) that combines ’70s Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson with Stax Records-style horns, Al Green keyboard grooves and a Elvis in Memphis vibe.
On the track “Sea Stories,” he talks about joining the Navy:
Basically it’s just like papaw says:
“Keep your mouth shut and you’ll be fine”
Just another enlisted egg
In the bowl for Uncle Sam’s beater
When you get to Dam Neck
Hear a voice in your head
Saying, “my life’s no longer mine”
He also includes a cover of Nirvana’s “In Bloom,” where he adds a new lyric. After the line “You don’t know what it means” (where there’s a howling guitar squall on the original version), Simpson sings “to love someone,” a line he says he imagined was there for years after he first heard the Nirvana version. Fans of the BeeGees (and the innumerable soul covers of the song) will appreciate the “To Love Someone” reference.
There’s zero Autotune on the vocals, so this kind of gritty, soulful music may sound a bit weird to fans of Little Big Town or Florida-Georgia Line. None of the songs sound like truck commercials, so you’re probably not going to hear this music on commercial country radio. If Chris Stapleton got your attention last year, though, Simpson’s album is a logical next step into the world of traditional country.
The album’s for sale in all the digital music stores, CDs are really cheap at Amazon and you can stream it on Spotify or Apple Music before you buy. Check out the first two videos from the album below.
Sturgill’s daring cover of Nirvana’s “In Bloom”The album’s first single is “Brace for Impact (Live a Little)”
Did the prime minister or the grunge icon say these things?
On the surface, the two have nothing in common. The Washington-born front man for Nirvana led the group to rock stardom. Eventually becoming known as “the flagship band” of Generation X, and Cobain as “the spokesman of a generation.”
On the other hand, Sir Winston Churchill served as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and led Britain to victory over Nazi Germany during World War II. Both Cobain and Churchill were student of literature — Cobain a poet and Churchill a writer. Churchill was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1953 for his overall, lifetime body of work.
Besides their different walks of life, the two seem to have a similar outlook. We gathered some of their most famous quotes to make this quiz. Can you guess who said what?
In this episode of the Mandatory Fun podcast, Blake speaks with The Marine Rapper a.k.a. TMR about how he went from wrapping tacos to rapping music lyrics.
“I joined the military because I was working at Taco Bell and ironically as a [taco] wrapper,” TMR recalls. “I wanted more, so I became the manager. I [wanted to go] the same route as the [Taco Bell] founder did and become a Marine.”
If you’ve ever surfed the internet looking for military rap songs, chances are you’ve come across the unique sound of “The Marine Rapper.”
Known for sporting a red mohawk and wearing an American flag bandana, TMR served 10 years in the Marine Corps as a Combat Correspondent where he earned a Combat Action Ribbon and two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals during his service.
After successful tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, TMR left the Marine Corps in February 2014. After entering back into civilian life, TMR began focusing on music as a profession and for cathartic expression.
The Marine Rapper ‘s Action Figure is a bouncy, hyper, fast-paced journey that chronicles the making of his identity. Each song is accompanied by a music video that will be released weekly on YouTube starting Sept. 29.
TMR’s Action Figure will be available for purchase on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, Tidal and everywhere where digital music is sold Sept. 29. In addition, a limited run of signed physical copies and merchandise will be exclusively available on TMR’s website: themarinerapper.com
Check out The Marine Rapper‘s video below for a taste of what you can expect when his record drops Sept. 29 for yourself.