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Bob Lind, Published August 10 2010

Lind: Musician’s life isn’t easy

They are big fans of the big bands. So it was a treat for Ronnie and Dorothy Krueger, McClusky, N.D., to hear the famed Glenn Miller band when it appeared at the Fargo Theatre last year. They had front-row seats, too.

And they received a bonus when the woman sitting in the seat next to Ronnie’s turned out to be the wife of the band’s director, trombonist Larry O’Brien.

Ronnie, seeing a Neighbors item about Miller, sent in information he learned from her about the band.

If nothing else, he learned that being a member of a touring band can be grueling.

Rarely at home

The band has had several directors since Miller disappeared while flying over the English Channel during World War II and was never found. O’Brien is the latest.

The band, based in Lake Mary, Fla., travels all over the United States and in other countries, too.

O’Brien and his wife, Judy, live in South Bend, Ind. Judy tours with the band about 85 percent of the time. When she does, the O’Briens don’t ride the band’s bus; Larry drives their car.

The band performs seven days a week 48 weeks a year, taking only a month off. Judy says she doesn’t remember or try to keep track of where they were yesterday or where they’ll be tomorrow.

With that schedule, Larry and Judy are home in Indiana together for only about one month each year. Ronnie asked how they could hold a marriage together that way. Well, for what it’s worth, Judy said, only two of the 19 members of the band are married.

Larry, 72 when the Kruegers heard the band last year, is the oldest member of the outfit; the others range in age from 28 to 60.

The outfit’s bus is unmarked to show it carries the Miller band. All the band members are given assigned seats. And if they get “In the Mood” to visit the bathroom, tough; the bus doesn’t have one.

They sleep in motels in the towns in which they appear.

Some of the band members are paid to help set up and tear down equipment where they perform.

Each musician has a 5-inch-thick book of music. But with their night-after-night performances, they don’t really need it; they rarely need to even practice.

One other thing: Each member is allowed just one suitcase, regardless of how long the band is on the road.

But at least they don’t have to pay to get it on the bus.

If you have an item of interest for this column, mail it to Neighbors, The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107; fax it to 241-5487; or e-mail blind@forumcomm.com