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Tooting his own horn: NCO sets sights for the 'Tops'

Master Sgt. Clayton "Buddy" Johnson, 314th Communications Squadron base equipment control officer, practices his music in his office. Sergeant Johnson has been practicing an hour before and after work to hone his chops for the Tops In Blue performance group.
Photo by Tech. Sgt. Arlo Taylor

Master Sgt. Clayton "Buddy" Johnson, 314th Communications Squadron base equipment control officer, practices his music in his office. Sergeant Johnson has been practicing an hour before and after work to hone his chops for the Tops In Blue performance group. Photo by Tech. Sgt. Arlo Taylor

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE -- A Little Rock NCO will be tooting his own horn in 2007 with the Tops In Blue, the Air Force's Premier Entertainment ensemble.

Master Sgt. Clayton "Buddy" Johnson, a 314th Communications Squadron base equipment control officer, was chosen as a trombonist with the ensemble.

Since being selected for the team, Sergeant Johnson has been honing his chops by practicing in his office an hour before and after work. But being selected to the team is the pinnacle, so far, of 30 years of musical performance for the Maynardsville, Tenn., native.

Sergeant Johnson holds a bachelor's degree in Musical Performance on trombone from Carson-Newman University in Jefferson City, Tenn., and has performed as a trombonist and guitarist in community bands and theater companies.

"I have always enjoyed playing, whether it be in private or in front of an audience," Sergeant Johnson said. "But I must admit there is a special thrill about an appreciative crowd that is very addictive."

Even though his love of music never wavered, it was his wife's idea for him to try out for the Tops in Blue team in 2005.

"I have always enjoyed performing music, but never tried out for one reason or another until 2005," he said. "My wife pointed out that it was ridiculous for someone so involved in music and performance to have never tried auditioning for (the Tops in Blue), so I sent in my (audition) tape."

Though he wasn't picked for that year's team, he doubled his efforts, and with the support of his family, he will ready for the 2007 season.

"I must admit there is some sadness of being away from my wife and daughter for so long. I'll be on the road and miss my daughter's high school graduation, her first trip off to college and her 18th birthday for starters," said Sergeant Johnson. "It's very demanding emotionally, (but) my family understands and appreciates what this means to me and has supported me throughout the application and audition process and now through preparing to leave for the tour."

Sergeant Johnson leaves in January for rigorous rehearsals for the 2007 edition of the Tops in Blue said he's proud to be part of the team.

"It's nice...actually it's beyond nice. It's amazing to be picked as one of the 35 chosen to be part of the team," he said. "We get to use our talents that (our co-workers) don't usually see to lift up the rest of the Air Force."
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