Subscribe

Do you still play saxophone, and did you play any other instruments?

Nah, I don’t play the sax anymore. Besides the saxophone, I used to play oboe. I played violin when I was younger, when I was coming up going to school.

You owned a nightclub in Frankfurt called Earl’s Saxophone. Tell us about it.

The jazz club was like a meeting point. Everyone came from all over, K-town, Ramstein, Darmstadt, everywhere. It was just up the street from the [former U.S. military] hospital, near the new U.S. consulate. If you ask any old-timer, they’ll know it. The soldiers came, too, and we never had any real big problem.

What was it like playing in an Army band? Any unusual stories?

The band was nice. You were moving all the time, though. But you got a chance to see things. During my enlistment, I was once assigned to the 49th Army Band in Italy. We went all over Italy. At one place, we set up to play and all of a sudden we heard the crowd chanting: “Ho Chi Minh. Ho Chi Minh.” So the police got around us. The only way we got out of there was by playing the Italian anthem.

What do you do at the USO lounge?

I’m here to help the troops. If they have any type of problem whatsoever … we’ll break it down and get them squared away. We try to help them along if they get sad or excited.

What do people need to know when they come to the airport? What are some common mistakes?

A lot of soldiers come without their leave form. … If you don’t have a leave form, you won’t fly. A lot of them don’t know that. One other thing: A lot of times, the young troops who are going on ordinary leave forget to bring enough cash.

How have the soldiers changed?

They look younger. Responsibility-wise, they are more laid-back. But they are also more prone to question authority.

Have you noticed a difference in them since the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq started?

It’s a little tense. Some of them are very tense, because they don’t know if they have to go back downrange. Some of them have been downrange, and then they have to turn back around and go again. And that’s sort of disturbing to them, you can tell.

Why have you stayed here so long?

I like to be around people, like when I had the club. When I work here, I’m around people, and I can always try to help them do something. That’s what I like. … And the job keeps me in contact with soldiers.

Earl Black

Age: 69

Title: Served 20 years in the military as a saxophone player in Army band. (Day job: In his 25th year at the United Service Organizations office in Terminal 1 of the Frankfurt Airport).

Europe readers: Know someone whose accomplishments, talents, job, hobby, volunteer work, awards or good deeds qualify them for 15 minutes of fame? How about someone whose claim to glory is a bit out of the ordinary — even, dare we say, oddball? Send the person’s name and contact information to: news@estripes.osd.mil.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up