– By Andrea Gaines
When the Blue Ridge Leader caught up with White House Band leader Dave Detwiler, he was waiting in line for a ‘cup-a-joe at an area coffee shop. Who knew that someone with such a high-profile musical life could be found doing something so darn normal.
We wanted to talk to Detwiler about his band’s recent performance at the Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Leesburg (Dec. 3) and other local venues, including Franklin Park and Blues Alley in Washington, D.C. But, of course, what we really wanted was a little gossip. What was what it was like to play at at the White House. Com’on … give us at peak.
Detwiler is obviously quite familiar with press interviews. For, while we came away laughing, we were even more intrigued than before. “When we played at the White House, said Detwiler, “we were not politicians. Our job was to entertain the people.” That came with some responsibility, Detwiler explained … to keep certain things private, and stay within certain security protocols. Even now the band – while sharing some White House stories during their many live shows in our area – keeps things strictly professional – if not thoroughly entertaining.
Detwiler served in the U.S. Army Band from 1973 to 2000. As a musician, he has had a 27-year relationship with the White House, including the Administrations of Presidents Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush 41, Bush 43 and Clinton.
Presidents Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, he says, were known for their love of music – Reagan from his time in Hollywood and the memories he shared with First Lady Nancy Reagan, and Bill Clinton in connection for his own love of jazz, and, most notably, the saxophone.
As Detwiler recounts, President Reagan asked the band to play a certain song when he and England’s Queen Elizabeth took to the dance floor during a Christmas time performance. What song? I asked. Well, said Detwiler, I’d rather not say …
There’s also a story about the time the band set the classic Christmas tune “God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman” to a Latin tempo. President Clinton reportedly got a real kick out of it. Or the time they changed things up a bit, adding a guitar solo to The Little Drummer Boy, making it sound more like a Led Zeppelin tune than a Christmas story.
And, then, well, you can imagine what kind of food – and drink – gets served at White House functions. Let’s just say that the band and others working in the background to make White House events a success are sometimes invited to sit down for a bite after the guests have left. And, let’s just say that this might have included a little after- event egg nog.
Dave Detwiler and his band are known for their generosity. One recent benefit raised $14,000 to help rebuild a Houston, Texas art center damaged during recent hurricanes.
You can see them perform at lots of local and regional venues. For more information, go to davedetwiler.wordpress.com, or the band’s Facebook page.