On October 14, 1947, flying the X-1 at Mach 1.07 at an altitude of 45,000 feet, test pilot Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier in the skies above what is now Edwards Air Force Base, near Lancaster, California. Yeager would later say, “The real barrier wasn’t in the sky, but in our knowledge and experience.”
Just two months later, a less famous experiment was to bring a new level of understanding to human flight, advancing not only the study of aeronautics, but proving the miraculous resilience of the human body, and, at the same time, displaying an important lesson in leadership.
Captain John Paul Stapp, a medical doctor and member of the Army Air Force Aero Med Lab, was studying the effects of high altitude flight–critical to the future of aviation. Could men actually survive for any length of time in extremely high altitudes? The “bends”—which is basically decompression sickness, arising from dissolved gases coming out of solution into bubbles inside the body—was a frequent underwater diving hazard, and a condition brought on while flying in an unpressurised aircraft at high altitudes. Stapp’s experiments on this phenomena led to the discovery that if a pilot breathed pure oxygen for thirty minutes prior to takeoff, the extremely painful symptoms could be avoided—symptoms otherwise temporarily relieved by “bending,” or finding a more comfortable physical position.
“I’m going to be the test subject.”—Dr. John Stapp
The bigger story for me is about Stapp himself. During the studies, he would offer himself as a willing human guinea pig for experiments. In the scientific quest to solve more problems regarding flight and its effect on humans, Stapp was eventually assigned to the Deceleration Project in March 1947. He arrived in California in April 1947 with the specific objective of studying G forces and the survivability of pilots, both during and after a mid-flight cockpit ejection.
A 2000-foot-long track, built out of welded tubes with a sled atop called the “Gee Whiz,” was already constructed at Edwards AFB—then called Muroc—to test rockets in WWII. The track was designed to withstand 100 G of force, but it had a meager 50% safety factor. In December 1947, after eight months and 35 test runs with 185-pound crash-test-dummy named Oscar Eightball, Capt. Stapp felt his team had gained enough experience to attempt a manned run. The willing leader said of the test subject Oscar, “We’re not going to use these. You can throw this away. I’m going to be the test subject.”
When Stapp began his research in 1947, the aerospace conventional wisdom was that an 18 G force against the human body would be fatal. His tests challenged that notion and, as a result, the studies helped establish a standard strength requirement for aircraft seats at 32 G. Also, his studies helped establish requirements that led to the 3-point system of seat belts in automobiles.
Stapp was born in Brazil to a family of American missionaries. The experiences on the mission field may have helped establish the leadership principles that were prevalent during his career, which I summarize here: Lead by example through personal sacrifice.
Stapp’s leadership example is a great lesson for all who desire to step out in front of the pack. I would follow Stapp anywhere, but I probably wouldn’t want to take a ride in “Gee Whiz” for all the money in the world!
I use the Nashville Number System every day. It makes things simple for me when I’m trying to keep a song structure to one page, but more importantly to remain nimble when needing a quick key change.
I find this system helpful but limited at times, especially when a chord chart can more easily display a greater amount of definition to a complex piece. Plus, when numbers go out of the key for certain song passages (flat 6, flat 7 chords and more), it can be challenging for some to do the quick “which chord is that?” dance in the middle of a song.
For the most part, this system will be a great friend to any musician who needs a quick reference to a song’s basic roadmap.
Remember, this system won’t make you a better guitar player and won’t be able to improve your tone! It will, however, help you get your act together before band rehearsal.
John Bohlinger is a great guitar player in Nashville and a contributor to Premier Guitar Magazine, both as a writer and frequent host for Premier Guitar’s popular artist Rig Rundown video series on YouTube. The following is from an article published in 2010.
The Nashville Number System Demystified
I did a session a little while ago with a guest keyboard player who had painstakingly transcribed every note he planned on playing. He was über-prepared but regrettably misguided, because once the singer decided he wanted to try the song up a half step, this guy was screwed. When I handed him a number chart, he looked like he was going to sob, pee his pants, and then hide. The poor [guy] was an egghead who knew a lot about music but never took the time to learn the down-and-dirty stuff that working musicians use every day: the Nashville Number System.
Literally, everybody working a decent gig in Nashville reads number charts—including every good engineer and drummer, even though they’re not playing notes, per se. It’s a brilliant system that allows players to change keys to accommodate any moody singer immediately. They can be written quickly and sight-read easily after a bit of practice. Much like chord charts, they don’t give you the melody, but you can write out simple signature parts in numbers. For those who haven’t yet learned the Nashville Number System, I present to you the keys to the kingdom.
Everybody writes charts a bit differently. Mine tend to be sloppy, but they all have the same basic format. In short, a line is usually four to eight measures. Each number denotes the scale degree of your key signature. All standard symbols for music apply.
FIGURE 1. An example of an eight-bar progression written with the Nashville Number System
In Figure 1, the upper right-hand corner (the circled “G” that looks a lot like a “6”) tells us that we’re playing a waltz (that is, in ¾ time) in the key of G. That means G is our 1. Measure one is a G. Measure two is a straight G for the first two beats, then a G with a B (3) in the bass on the last note of the measure, leading us into the C (4) chord for measure three. Play a straight C (4) for the first two beats, then play the G (1) over B (3) as a passing chord to A (2) minor for the fourth measure. Play a D (5) Major 7th for measure 5, then a straight D for the first beat of measure six. Play two beats on a D (5) with an F# (7) in the bass for the rest of measure six, then resolve back to our G, strumming three quarters for the 7th measure and hit a single whole note strum for the eighth measure. Then follow those repeat signs and do it again.
If your singer wants to modulate to A, the A is now your 1, D is your new 4, etc. It’s amazing how much information you can convey with just a few numbers and symbols. Figure 2 shows a list of a few symbols that you will eventually see in Nashville Number System Charts. Next time you’re recording or learning a song, write a number chart. Eventually, you’ll be able to read them without thinking so you can get down to just playing.
FIGURE 2. Common Nashville Number System symbols.
I was surfing the web on this lazy Sunday afternoon and wondered how an old acquaintance from my California days, Roby Duke, was doing.
In the years since 1979, when we first met at a Calvary Chapel event (not sure where or when), Roby would become a well known Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) artist. He would even go beyond the walls of the church in the decades following by adding his distinctive voice to Hollywood mega-hit movies like “Titanic” and “Pirates of the Caribbean.”
I guess he saw something special in me, a wet-behind-the-ears 18 or 19-year-old (he would have been a mere 22 at the time). Maybe it was my guitar playing or singing, or maybe my budding songwriting chops. He would introduce me to some of his friends, and we spent several hours in his tiny apartment in Orange County—sharing our newest songs, and singing and jamming on our acoustics.
Since I’d come to know the Lord in 1975, after attending several Saturday night concerts at Calvary Chapel, Costa Mesa, I was beyond flattered when, a few years later, Roby would show interest in my talent. I can’t remember exactly how we met, but I was well aware of his immense talent ever since he showed up on the Calvary scene from Mississippi. He was one of those guys who, soon after arriving in L.A., was invited to play on the Calvary Chapel circuit, all over southern California—his bluesy vocal smoothness was jaw-droppingly awesome. He would become well known in CCM circles across America, and highly respected after his first record, Not the Same, was released in 1980. His music defied the typical Christian sound that was being churned out at the time—his music continued to buck the trends throughout his career.
Roby would speak with me in his molasses-like, slow-and-sweet southern drawl, reminiscent of my own Tennessee roots, running deep on both sides of my family. His demeanor and laid-back style made me feel at home. (My childhood—though being raised in the suburban sprawl of the L.A. bedroom community of Orange County—was smothered in southern accents and southern-style food; our dinner table was frequently filled with southern delights when mom and grandma crafted huge feasts for my extended family, especially during the holidays).
I remember going out to dinner once with Roby and his friends Harry Browning and Laury Boone. I couldn’t get over that I was sharing the table with the sister of Debbie Boone, who’s song “You Light Up My Life” shot up the pop charts a few years earlier. I felt special, honored and overwhelmed at the time. In only a year I would relocate to Columbus, Ohio, to begin a life as a full-time musician on the road.
As I came upon the news today that Roby passed away from a sudden heart attack on the day after Christmas in 2007, I was shocked and saddened. We never got together again after I moved away. I wish I could call him, or write to convey my appreciation somehow; I’m so sorry that it’s too late now.
He was a big guy back in 1979, but in more recent photos he seemed to have lost several pounds. Now that I’m coming into my mid-fifties, it’s not unusual for guys like me, with extra weight around the middle, to discover they have heart problems. My own bout with high blood pressure has encouraged me to make several life-style changes. I don’t know what led to Roby’s heart attack at 51, but I don’t want to go early—too many cool things are going on in life for me these days!
I’m grateful to Roby and others who spent time with me and encouraged me to do what I’ve continued to do even today. Life is so incredibly full of serendipitous moments—many of which we pass right on by. What would my life have been like if I had not met Roby Duke? I guess I’ll never know.
Here’s a video of the final performance that Roby did at Calvary Chapel of Thousand Oaks, California, two days before his death. As you can see, Roby was one incredibly gifted white boy with the soul of a Delta blues singer!
|Jamie and Doug Chappelle at Thelma Baptist, Wetumpka, Alabama|
My hope was restored in “small town church” this past weekend.
Brenda and I were invited by an old friend, whom we’d met many years ago in Mobile, Alabama, while newly-married and brand-new parents to Josh and Betsy. Since those formative years, my friend Doug Chappelle went his way and we went ours, following the calling God had on both of our families. Doug went on to become a senior pastor and I continued on my path as a worship leader and song writer.
Fast-forward to the beginning of this year, 2014.
I received a call from Doug to come to his rural church on the outskirts of Montgomery, Alabama. He asked me to encourage his praise team with a Saturday workshop, and to lead his congregation in worship on Sunday.
When driving up to the church property, you are immediately greeted by a traditional white steeple that rises high above the red-brick facade, characteristic of so many churches in the rural South. The property is lovingly maintained, and the rows of pews that fill the sanctuary make their way to a fairly traditional stage, with a piano on the left, but with the modern exception of a small band setup on the right. The pulpit has been replaced by a comfortable bar stool-type chair and a high-top table to hold Doug’s notes while he preaches.
As I made my way through the teaching notes I put together for the Saturday workshop, the team members, including several from the student worship band, leaned forward in their seats, engaged and anxious to learn. They were excited to raise their level of musicianship, making an effort to better serve their congregation as leaders in worship. The team also has a choir of about 40, and Bill, their music director, brings much enthusiasm and heart to his leadership.
In the service, I was blown away by the two-minute-warning countdown video that included a segment with a rundown of the week’s announcements, led by a very talented young lady who could easily make the cut on a local news team here in Nashville. In the middle of the service, they showed a video testimony of a couple who had recently given their lives to Christ. The video spot was well-produced and edited, with the flair of any CBN 700 Club piece.
When I came back to the microphone to lead the second half of worship, I told the congregation that they were the coolest small town church in America. The sanctuary erupted in applause.
The care with which they treated us, their generous offering and the outpouring of interest in my CDs and book made me blush, to be honest.
Most churches with a steeple out front and a cemetery out back are holding on for dear life; the startup churches that have exciting, explosive one-liner-names are taking the young people away, one family at a time. It’s sad, really.
There is room for all kinds of churches in all kinds of settings. But with a pastor like Doug Chappelle, and a strong ministry team surrounding him—with a heart for people, a foundation on the Word, and the leading of the Holy Spirit—small town churches can still be an effective beacon in the community.
I’m convinced: where there is life, people will flock to the hope and encouragement that flows from a Christ-centered place of worship. I saw it there in abundance at Thelma Baptist Church, in Wetumpka, Alabama, this past weekend.
Brian Easterday is wearing a t-shirt from the first ever semester of Worship Foundry. Over ten years later, the book of the same name is out, and I’m looking forward to starting another worship academy for students someday soon. This, my friends, is what I’m passionate about, along with serving the church and helping believers connect with God through worship.
Please check out the video promo below and get yourself a copy of the Worship Foundry book, on sale now.
Click here to purchase the book: Worship Foundry
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