Missouri Air Guard band gets back to 'normalcy' after Sidewinder media blitz

  • Published
  • By Bill Phelan
  • Special to the 131st
After gaining international fame via a YouTube video, Sidewinder, the rock element of the St. Louis-based Missouri Air National Guard's 571st Air Force Band, has been making the rounds of national daytime television.

In the wake of the band's 45-day deployment to Southwest Asia, Sidewinder has made appearances on ABC's "Entertainment Tonight," Warner Brother's "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" and on the Fox News Network's "Fox and Friends."

Sidewinder became an overnight sensation after a video of the band performing "Rolling in the Deep," by Adele went viral and was viewed more than a million times in just 11 days. The video's popularity lead to a flurry of media attention and invitations to perform from several television shows.

After appearing on "Entertainment Tonight" on Aug. 18th while still in Southwest Asia, band members performed "Rolling in the Deep" as well as a stirring rendition of "Forget You," by Cee Lo Green during their Sept. 13 appearance on "Ellen" and their Sept. 23 appearance on "Fox and Friends."

"I thought the band gave high quality, professional presentations that are representative of the Air National Guard," said Capt. John Arata, of Eureka, commanding officer of the 571st and a Sidewinder band member.

Vocalist Staff Sgt. Angie Johnson, of St. Ann, said the YouTube video of "Rolling in the Deep" was part of an impromptu "thank you performance" for Troops loading the band's equipment in Qatar.

"We were getting ready to go to another country to entertain deployed Troops so we load all of our gear on pallets for the cargo plane," Johnson told "Fox and Friends" Co-host Brian Kilmeade. "We felt that the guys loading our gear needed a little morale booster so we gave them a little show. Eleven days later the video had a million hits and we're like 'what's going on?'"

"The popularity of the video didn't really hit us until we got home," added Staff Sgt. Toby Callaway, of Chesterfield. "While we were deployed we were pretty much focused on our mission."

One of these who saw the video was Carson Daly, producer of the hit NBC show, "The Voice." Via Twitter, Daly invited Johnson to audition for the show.

"It's funny because (band leader) Tech. Sgt. Kevin Maret brought the song to us just two weeks before we deployed," Johnson explained.

The band's video version of "Rolling in the Deep" has since been nominated for an MTV Music Award in the Best Fan Cover category. Fans can cast their vote for the video at, http://www.omusicawards.com/vote/best-fan-cover .

Arata noted that the popularity of Sidewinder is a public relations bonanza for the Air National Guard and the military as a whole.

"Sidewinder's popularity shows that the military can be a rewarding part time career," he said. "While everyone watches Sgt. Johnson try to be on "The Voice" and pursue her dreams of a recording contract, she is also serving her country part time. The Guard allows you to pursue a civilian career that you love and still serve the country you love. Sidewinder has exposed that fact to the whole country."

As if to drive home that point, Kilmeade had this exchange with the band on "Fox and Friends."

"You make the Air (National) Guard seem like so much fun," he said.

"It is," band members replied in unison, "it is."

Sidewinder is part of the 35-member 571st Air Force Band, the Air National Guard Band of the Central States. The full band played together over the weekend for the first time since April.

"We're all professional musicians so I don't think it will take us long to get back into the groove," said Callaway.

The 571st Air Force Band, also known as The Air National Guard Band of the Central States, is headquartered at the 131st Bomb Wing, Lambert-St. Louis International Airport and is one of 11 regional Air National Guard bands in the country.