Friday Five: U.S. Marines

Juli Thanki | November 9th, 2012

On November 10, 1775, the Continental Marines were founded at Tun Tavern in Philadelphia; that organization would later become the United States Marine Corps. Over the past 237 years, many have worn the Eagle, Globe and Anchor; here are a few who also happened to be involved in country music.

5. Jamey Johnson

Johnson spent eight years in the Marine Corps Reserves. Guess his long hair and beard now are making up for all those years of sporting a high and tight.

4. The Everly Brothers

Both Phil and Don Everly enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserves in 1961. Here they are in their dress blues on The Ed Sullivan Show, playing their hit “Crying in the Rain.”


3. Bob Ferguson

Ferguson, who wrote “Wings of a Dove,” “Carroll County Accident,” and produced several hit records, was a Drill Instructor at one point in his Marine Corps Reserve career.

2. Ray Price

Price served for three years during World War II. From Don Cusic’s The Cowboy in Country Music: After basic, Ray was assigned to a naval base in Norman, Oklahoma, where he was in training to become a machinist mate. But on the obstacle course, Ray had an accident. “I fell about 25 feet and landed on my back,” he remembers. “I spent about a year in the naval hospital in Oklahoma but they never could find out what was wrong.” Due to his injury, Price stayed in the U.S. during the war while his division went overseas. Only three made it back.

1. George Jones

Jones briefly writes about his military service in his autobiography, I Lived to Tell It All. He spent three years in the Marine Corps during the early 1950s; while stationed in California, he’d make a few extra bucks on the side with his Saturday night singing gigs.

  1. bob
    November 9, 2012 at 9:18 am

    The Everly Brothers are still one of my all-time favorites.

    Rebecca Stinsky, a marine from Allentown, PA, co-wrote a great new song last year with Jay Clementi called “Hell on My Heart”. The song by Suzy Bogguss is part of a 6 song EP called “Faces of Freedom”. It was part of a project to help veterans transition to civilian life. Writers such as Jay, Radney Foster and Darden Smith got together to write songs with veterans at a music camp held just outside of Vail, Colorado. The songs are said to be based on true experiences of veterans.

  2. Arlene
    November 9, 2012 at 12:44 pm

    Upon his death in 1993, Emmylou Harris wrote the song “Bang The Drum Slowly” as a tribute to her father, a career Marine Corps pilot who survived 10 months as a prisoner of war during the Korean conflict, and later served as a helocopter pilot for every President from Eisenhower to Carter.

  3. Jon
    November 9, 2012 at 3:18 pm

    Come on, now – Bobby Osborne served as a Marine in Korea, where he saw heavy action, was seriously wounded and received the Purple Heart. He ought to be #1 on the list.

    • Juli Thanki
      November 9, 2012 at 5:30 pm

      My bad; didn’t know.

  4. luckyoldsun
    November 9, 2012 at 3:50 pm

    That trumps George Jones being stationed in California in the early ’50s and making money on the side with his Saturday night singing gigs?

    I thought the picks seemed rather lame, given the subject matter. I’m sure when we’re talking U.S. Marines, there are plenty more heroic stories to tell than a guy injuring himself while attempting to do the obstacle course in Norman Oklahoma, and you certainly found one.

  5. Barry Mazor
    November 9, 2012 at 4:46 pm

    Of course, Jon believes Bobby Osborne should be number one on every list.

  6. Leeann Ward
    November 9, 2012 at 5:33 pm

    And, of course, there’s always a nice way of pointing something out rather than the jerky method that some choose to employ.

  7. Rick
    November 9, 2012 at 8:02 pm

    Jamey Johnson mentions his stint as a Marine at Twentynine Palms in the lyrics of his song “Old Maple Guitar” off his indie debut album “They Call Me Country”. Apparently, unlike George Jones, Jamey played and sang primarily to entertain his fellow soldiers which makes sense when you are stuck out in the middle of the southern California desert!

  8. Jon
    November 9, 2012 at 10:38 pm

    Well, I hope you don’t think I was being jerky, LeeAnn, because I don’t think I was. And as far as the substance of my point, I think I’m right. It’s an important enough part of Bobby’s story to turn up even in places like the bio entry on him on – an entry that, by the way, encompasses over 60 years in the country music business, including nearly a half-century as a member of the Grand Ole Opry, which puts him in a pretty small circle of people “involved in” country music. And he wasn’t in the Reserves, he was on the front lines, and he wasn’t just on the front lines, he nearly lost his life. If you’re going to go to the trouble of making up a list of country music Marines vets, he’s the place to start.

  9. Paul W Dennis
    November 11, 2012 at 8:26 am

    Country gospel singer Wendy Bagwell also saw combat action in WW2

  10. luckyoldsun
    November 11, 2012 at 8:52 pm

    Seemed a bit surprising that a woman “saw combat action”–as a U.S. Marine!?–during WWII.

    So I did a bit of searching and saw that Wendy is, in fact, a man!–and is apparently still with us!

    Learn something new every day.

  11. J.R. Journey
    November 12, 2012 at 12:00 pm

    Wendy Bagwell died in 1996. I remember that because my grandma was a big fan of his – she played me a lot of his comedy monologues – and she made a pretty big deal out of his death at the time. I actually didn’t know that Wendy was a singer any more than I knew he was a Marine. He was a very entertaining and charming man. His story about the “old yeller cat” and the seeing eye dogs still makes me smile. Thanks for bringing back a nice memory.

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