John Coltrane, US Navy Enlistment Photo. 1945

John Coltrane, US Navy enlistment photo. 1945.

Coltrane, born in 1926, is 18 years old in the photo. From the Tumblr of Jazz at Lincoln Center

In 1945 John Coltrane, at the age of 18, entered the Navy as a “volunteer apprentice seaman” and a year later made his first recording with a Navy band called the “Melody Masters.”

The Melody Masters, a segregated band stationed in Oahu, HI were not officially allowed to play with black musicians. An Excerpt from the book “Coltrane: The Story of Sound” By Ben Ratliff states that Coltrane appeared as a guest of The Melody Masters by evading the knowledge of their superior officers. The band made private recordings together, eventually pressing four copies of a 78 RPM record.

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