AFN Midnight In Europe – 1960s

Armed Forces NetworkIn the early 1960’s I used to go to bed and listen to my grandfathers old valve radio through a set of very large headphones.

After realising that the signal on 208 meters (Radio Luxembourg) drifted off station on medium wave on a regular basis, I roamed the airwaves and found AFN ( American Forces Network ) which had a much stronger signal.

The music was completely different, and I found myself enjoying the sounds of jazz for the very first time. I eventually discovered that if I stayed awake until 11pm, an announcer with an American accent would say:

“It’s midnight in Europe, central European time,” and it was followed by a piece of hauntingly beautiful music that conjured up amazing scenes in my mind. That tune has stayed with me for over 50 years, and a few years ago so  I decided to find it.

I contacted AFN without success, and I went on to conducted an extensive hunt via the internet. I made contact with numerous other individuals from all over the world, some of which had also been hunting for the name of the tune for years. They could all remember the music, but not one of them could name of the tune.

About 18 months later I eventually discovered that a musician named Benny Bailey had recorded for AFN during the 60’s. It transpired that he had recorded an album called Midnight in Europe in Germany, which seemed more than a coincidence.

After finding the website of a company based in the Netherlands that had the very rare album for sale, it gave me an opportunity to listen to a very brief clip from one track. It wasn’t the tune I was looking for, but it had a sound that matched the overall orchestral image in my mind, from the 60’s. I decide that it was most likely the same musicians, and decided to purchased the LP, even though it was quite expensive.

Track 1 on the album is Aurora written by Frank Comstock with Benny Bailey on trumpet [muted] with piano, bass, and an extensive strings section. The liner notes from the LP cover confirmed that it was the theme music to the widely popular radio show called Midnight in Europe on AFN.

It was quite amazing to hear this beautiful music again after 50 years, and also find that Benny Bailey’s entire album is absolutely beautiful.

The discovery of that album eventually led to Les Brown and his Band of Renown as having played the theme music used by AFN on their Midnight in Europe program. (It’s also the only other recording of the tune that I have ever found).

That introduction to jazz in the 60’s changed my life and led to my love of jazz in general. It also led to my playing of jazz trumpet, and meeting some wonderful people in all areas of the arts.

I was able to recreate Midnight in Europe using an old news broadcast, edits of the hosts voice, original AFN clips from the early 60’s, and of course the original theme music, the notes of which had remained in my head for all those years.

To listen to the recreation, click here to go to YouTube and hear the recording.


Editor’s Note: If you have any information regarding SGT Bill Crawford who hosted the AFN show, either during his military career or his retirement life, please email Lee Constable.

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9 Comments
  1. Hi Lee, thank you so much for your story. When we lived in Germany for the second time, we lived in Florstadt and later Bad Nauheim. I was a senior in high school and AFN was my radio “connection” to back home. I sometimes tuned in late at night and when I listened to your recreation it sounded very familiar.

    The recording you put together is fantastic and I know this recording will take anyone who listens to it down memory lane.

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    • Hi Vann

      Sorry about my delay in replying to your message. And thank you for your very kind comment about my recreation of AFN’s Midnight in Europe. I had a huge amount of enjoyment while recreating the broadcast, and I’m so pleased that it has taken you down memory lane. Life in the 60’s was so different to these days, and in many ways a whole lot better to my mind.

      Regards

      Lee

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  2. i was a jazz DJ on AFN Europe in the mid 1960’s, and knew Bill Crawford well. After he finished his Army service, he became a civilian employee of AFN, and was station manager of AFN Nurnburg, where I worked. Bill and I both loved jazz, and he encouraged me to produce a weekly show on the history of the music form and new works called The American Music Hall: This Music Called Jazz, which aired on Wednesday nights from 1965 through 1966. I still have many of the tapes pf those shows, produced from the enormous music libraries of AFN. He retired in the early 1980’s , I believe, but our Facebook group for AFN Europe staffers might yield an answer to where he is today. Thank for putting this fine recreation together…it was the first great program I heard on AFN when I arrived in 1964.

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    • Hi Jackson
      I wonder if you can direct me to the Facebook location you mention. I was an AFN Frankfurt staffer myself 1966-68 and would like an info from that era.
      Thanks
      Bob

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  3. Hello Jackson

    Thank you so much for your amazingly interesting post regarding my recreation of AFN’s Midnight in Europe, on Military Brat Life, and the details regarding Mr Crawford.

    I had almost given up hoping that someone would be able to supply any details about Sgt Crawford. If it turns out that he is still with us, I would love have the chance of connecting with him somehow, as the program he hosted was so formative to the development of my musical tastes, and he had such a beautiful romantic style when he hosted the broadcasts.

    Many thanks for making contact.

    Regards

    Lee

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  4. Thank u for sharing this. I was an Air Force brat and we were stationed in France when DeGaulle ran us out in the early 60’s. Wish I had been able to listen to this all the time . It has some great music !
    The voice of the first female singer sounds familiar but can’t place it nor the song title. Would you share that info ? Thank you for bringing back some memories !

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  5. Thank you Cathy for your appreciation of my unique recording. Full details of program are as listed below.

    Regards

    Lee

    Radio AFN – 1960’s – Midnight in Europe

    AFN station tone & News by Sgt’ Lloyd Eyre

    Intro Theme “ Aurora “ Written by Frank Comstock
    Played by Les Brown & his Band of Reknown

    1 Don’t Go To Strangers – Etta Jones
    2 New York 4am – Sauter / Finegan
    This is midnight in Europe .
    3 Who Needs Forever – Astrud Gilberto – 1966
    4 Laura – Clifford Brown
    This is the quiet time ……….
    5 Night and Day – Carol Sloane
    6 What’s New – Frank Sinatra
    Welcome to the world of love ………
    7 Dreamsville – Henry Mancini
    8 Smoke Get’s in Your Eyes – Clifford Brown
    This is AFN Munich .
    9 Nancy Wilson – Here’s That Rainy Day

    AFN tone .

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  6. Hi Lee, I found your playlist! #8: Dreamsville! Has to be it! I thought I recalled something about dreams in the title.

    I really enjoyed your story; as I mentioned, Midnight in Europe gave me a connection with ‘back home’ nearly my 8-month deployment in France. The show also introduced me to Jazz, and I began collecting albums that I bought at the BX both at Etain AB and the Army post at Verdun. Coltraine, Ellington, Basie, Brubeck – and even Ray Conif and his singers. I must’ve had a record player and I definitely shipped those LPs home, most of which i recorded on cassettes. I no longer have the LPs, but I still have some of the cassettes.

    Amazing how music brings back so many memories. I wish I could reconnect with some of my mates from ‘over there’ and share your compilation with them. The Berlin callup is a largely forgotten U.S. military intervention; except to the 250K + Air National Guard and Air Force Reservists who were called up and sent to Europe. It also enabled me to feel empathy with Vietnam veterans (many High School and college classmates) in my age group who were poorly recognized for their service until more recent times.

    Thanks again Lee, (and by the way, that’s my middle name)

    Eric Lee Doner

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  7. Thanks Eric.

    The Henry Mancini piece Dreamsville is a huge favorite of mine also.

    Have you tried leaving posts on website for ex military forces in Europe, you never know who might turn up in replies. You could also try searching Facebook for specific names.

    Regards

    Lee

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