Quonset Point Naval Air Station

Rhode Island

Dr. Hamilton S. Cloud, who was honored in 2003 as one of the pioneering bandsmen of the Great Lakes Experience, traveled from his Birmingham, Alabama home to Atlanta to enlist when he heard the Navy was recruiting African-American musicians. Upon hearing that Cloud played E-flat clarinet and having none on hand, his recruiter said they would have to find one to borrow: “We went to several musical instrument stores to borrow one,” he said. “The recruiter then asked if I could read music. When I said yes, he looked in his files and pulled out several military band selections and asked if I would hum the music for him. Having played in a marching band for four years in high school and four years in elementary school, I could have easily hummed from memory any selection that he presented.” So impressed with him was the interviewer that the two of them drove back to Birmingham to find more musicians who’d been trained by Cloud’s teacher, the legendary Fess Whatley. Several more Birmingham musicians subsequently joined the Navy as musicians.
     When Cloud’s band left for Quonset Point, it was the first band to graduate training at Great Lakes. He recalls other bandsmen at Quonset Point as being from Birmingham, Tuskegee Institute, St. Louis, New York, and Philadelphia.

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“Dr. Hamilton S. Cloud.” in A Little Known Legacy: The Great Lakes Experience: A Salute to African-American Navy Bandsmen at the Great Lakes Naval Base 1942-45 [Chicago, IL] [Feb. 2003]. Collection of Carl Foster. 

–Alex Albright
May 2021