Director: Don Boeckling
Musical Introductions: George Fullmer
The Trail Birds came into being coincident with the formation of Branch 35. Charter member Emmett Fitzpatrick was working with a tune at the piano when George Gillespie approached and said, "May I help?" "Do you play the piano?" Fitz asked. "A little" responded George with his charactenstic self effacing modesty. Thus the Trail Birds were formed and also began a long and fruitful association.
Fitz had copyrighted more than two hundred songs. He possessed an ample supply of artistic temperament. The practice of introducing the speaker with a parody, which Fitz composed, began in 1974.
Among those compositions of Fitz's which are best known are "Mission Trail," "Every Day is Christmas," and 'If I Had My Life To Live Over"
George Gillespie played the piano from the start in 1971 until 1999. George could probably play a thousand songs from memory. He could transpose a piece from one key to another, and could modulate a piece in midcourse. He has been known to sing, but according to George, the Trail Birds would say, "Just play, George"
When Fitz could no longer write parodies, his wife Marge took over, time marches on, and George Fullmer has been writing the parodies since 1987. Over the years, the Trail Birds have entertained also at senior centers and retirement homes, and have even conducted a memorial service.
Warren Baie and Leland Means alternated leadership of the Trail Birds for at least a dozen years, with interim help from Tom Holm, Dennis Cairne, Lee Beebe and Doug Douglass, the latter also filling in at the piano along with Richard Fimmel.
Both the late George Gillespie, with 28 years as the Branch 36 Trail Bird pianist, and George Fulimer, with 14 years as parody writer, have been awarded Lifetime SIR status for their SIR Trail Bird contributions.
The year 2001 saw a significant boost in Trail Bird activity under the leadership of Ted Hatrak. He'd like us to rise to the musical versatility of his one-time Fred Waring associates; consequently, the Trail Birds have tripled practice sessions and have introduced some harmonizing and some novelty numbers. Ted's computer expertise has helped him to produce printed music sheets and accompaniment tapes, which permit additional practice at home.
From the beginning it was the intention that our brand of singing was strictly for fun. We do not audition, just sing. Anyone who has ever sung around a campfire or in a fraternity house will be at home with the Trail Birds. We still have that atitude, but the increasing audience recognition of late has boosted our musical egos and inclination to showmanship.