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A Baritone from Company 261

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DK - Company 261

1970 Company 261

As a boy David Krapes, (AKA “DK”) grew up in the rich white collar neighborhood of Villa Park which was  surrounded by the Blue Collar hoods of old Orange and Santa Ana. DK’s night life was hanging with the jocks during the week by being involved with Track & Field, and Football during his High school years. Then on weekends DK would hang with his homeboys, banging heads with rival gangs from Santa Ana, Tustin and the surfer dudes from Newport Beach and Costa Mesa. While this was one side of his life, the other side was tendering a passion by singing lead in a local Pop Band.  DK at 16 & 17 made stage appearances in Orange County on the night club circuit in the late 60′s.

This was the Era of the Hippies and the Vietnam Campaign, when muscle cars like ‘57 Chevy’s, Nomads, Super Sports, Roadrunners and Low Riders ruled the streets of Orange County. Life was full throttle and parties were every where. The evening started with cruising and ended up at Denny’s, Pepa’s Pizza Parlor, or Safeway parking lots on a Friday or Saturday night. Everybody back then loved to drink and party pretty hard. But one thing everyone did together was hang with their favorite pop band, go listen to good music, and dance at Pinnwinnies Night Club, Pier 11 or the Kona Hawaii on weekends.  On the television we had 9th Street West or Soul Train grooving. The West Coast Sound invaded the radio station airwaves of the 60′s and 70′s. There wasn’t a person who didn’t listen to Chicago, Tower of Power, The Four Tops, Stevie Wonder, Earth Wind & Fire and Blood Sweat & Tears. This was the day of live Bands and playing on stage was the thing to do.  To DK it was about owning that stage singing R&B, Funk and Soul. Even with the diversities of being drafted and going to war it never deterred the young DK from what he wanted in life. DK always believed that he could always get through obstacles that stood in his way and nothing could hold him back from his future of being a R&B Soul singer.

 On June 13, 1970, still 17 years old and one day after graduating from High School, DK found himself on a bus heading to the Naval Training Center in San Diego, CA for a 3 month term in boot camp. DK remembers thinking to himself, “What did I get myself into now?” He could have left the country and moved to Canada or let the government draft him in the lottery and then go to war without having a say in his own life. But no, DK made his own decision and volunteered for the NAVY.  Weeks later DK found himself training and marching alongside hundreds of guys from all four corners of the United States. Everyone was training for a War that nobody wanted. Everybody was nervous and worried about what was to come next. One of the things DK did to get over his nervousness was to sing when he was by himself. One day one of his shipmates heard him and asked if he could  sing to the rest of the guys that night. Funny thing, but in the last few weeks before this,  DK got into several fist altercations and was still steaming from that experience. But because he loved to sing, he liked the fact that someone actually cared enough to ask him to sing, so he said, “Sure, why not!” Man, he forgotten that the barracks held about 100 to 150 guys in his Company. When he finished singing, requests came from everyone there in the barracks that evening, even from the guys he got in those fights with, which brought tears to his eyes.  DK remembers thinking to himself how sad it was that all these guys had nothing to grab on to but a song to remind them of someone they missed, their family, friends or home. The one fact that really stood out for DK that everybody there in boot camp were all there together. So if one song can made a difference in some of these guys’ lives and make them feel at ease while being away from home, then DK was all about that!

 DK said there was a big country boy from Alabama who was laying on his bed (rack) right next DK. Right after he finished singing the first song this guy asked DK in very low sincere voice, “Hey David (DK) do you know the song “The Green, Green Grass of Home?”. DK thought for a second, looked right back at that big country boy whose eyes had just teared up and said “No man, I’m really sorry. But, I do know a song by Glen Campbell called “By The Time I Get To Phoenix”. I can sing that.” He said, “Now that would be pretty cool.” The next thing you know, the idea of DK singing to our troops on base went ramped. From that day forward DK was being asked by all the Commanding Officers on base to go to their camp barracks and sing to the troops. They asked, and it wasn’t an order… It ended up that DK wound up singing at different barracks every night until his boot camp training ended. Not long after the word got around the base about what DK was doing for the troops, the press showed up and did an article on DK about sharing his singing voice with the troops, and you know what? It went worldwide in the Navy’s “Anchors Away” newspaper.

Right after the interview the Chief Editor for Anchors Away took DK to see the US Navy Choir Director. When DK got there the Director asked him if he would  like to sing on a “Bob Hope Special” that was coming to the Naval base at the end of the summer. Of course DK said yes. DK knew that this was a dream and a chance of life time to sing on a Bob Hope Special, how exciting was that! A song that the Director wanted DK to learn for the troops was “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” a song made popular by the ‘Hollies’ back in the day. From that point on, DK was treated with special privileges from the Commanding Officers to go and  practice with the Choir Director. DK still has the Music lead sheets of that song to this day. If you really look at it, DK found a way to blend music with military life and he was doing it his way. Just like he did it in High school. Two months later DK finished boot camp and got his orders to ship out overseas. In the blink of an eye, DK was on a ship on his way to the DMZ in Vietnam. He never got that chance to sing for the troops on the Bob Hope Special, but what a gift it was just to do it his way. But the way DK thinks, he thought that’s OK, because what he got was the undivided attention of the troops’ appreciation in boot camp, a place nobody wanted to be in the first place. Besides, he felt he was giving back as an Artist and that’s what counts. It wasn’t about the Bob Hope Special. It was about the troops and the special gift that DK was able to share with them at that time in his life.  DK knew then like he knows now, that sooner or later, one day, he would end up where he belongs, and that’s on stage singing …

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