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.