Thursday, November 10, 2005


"Little Maxie" Bailey, Drive Soldiers Drive.

On July 27, 1953, the Korean War finally ended, essentially in a truce. Here are the memories of one Australian soldier, serving during the last days of the war.

"To a man, we all believed we were destined to die that night, and we were hell bent on taking the enemy with us. A strange thing happened at that time. Despite the danger of the moment, it seemed to occur to all of us at once, that we might die with a man and not know his name. We all made sure that we learnt each unknown man's name."

This was less than a week before the cease-fire.

In the same month, in Nashville, an R&B singer forgotten by history released a song that on the surface sounded like a stomping recruitment anthem--drumming up men into service for a bloody war that had long fallen into stalemate, and was weeks away from ending:

"President Ike is a mighty man
He called for the whites and the browns and tans
Come on boys and follow me
We're gonna end this war in Ole Koree"

But for me, there's no mistaking the imp in Bailey's voice, as he goes on about how "Uncle Sam is your financial backer", and delirously assuring his prospective GIs that Ike can still somehow magically win the war, and so fast, that there won't be any gas rationing. The chorus, exhorting its prospective soldiers to drive on, is also sending them on to their deaths.

"Little Maxie" Bailey is pretty much an unknown--after releasing two singles for Nashville's Excello Records in '53, he vanishes completely. "Drive Soldiers Drive" was issued in July (c/w "My Baby's Blues") as Excello 2016 and was a minor R&B hit that year. You can find it on The Excello Story Vol. 1, which unfortunately appears to be going out of print.

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