I’ve been singing all my life. I used to be the music director at a local Church of Christ. They didn’t have any instruments, so we sang acapella. In fact, that’s how I got into barbershop and ultimately became Uncle Sam. A guy I worked with was in a Schenectady barbershop quartet, and he got after me to join this new gospel group that had just started. This was the late 80’s, I think. I got in with that group, and eventually we joined with several other people and formed the Uncle Sam Chorus, which I'm now directing.
One time, I was performing on Guam. While I was there, I met some people who wanted me to come over to Saipan to do a television show. So I flew over there. The producer met me in the morning, and he took me to three schools in one day: an elementary school, a middle school, and a high school. All of that before I had to do the television show that night.
The elementary kids… they were astonished. They didn’t know what to make of me. They didn’t help me sing or anything, they just kind of stared at me. Then I went to the middle school in the afternoon. It was on the beach. I had a flip-chart I was using to teach, but it was so windy that I couldn’t use it. I had to just wing it. And, of course, I was the only one dumb enough to stand in the hot sun all dressed up while the kids sat in the shade. Then I went to the high school, and the kids there… they were typical high schoolers. They didn’t do anything. They just sat there and looked at me like I was from another planet.
I went from there to the television show, and it went late. I was going to change afterward before getting on the plane, but the emcee told me there's no time. We have to catch that plane. If we don’t, we’re stuck here overnight because it’s the last plane leaving.
So here I am in costume, and I board the aircraft with everyone staring at me. Then, of course, I had to walk through the whole Guam airport in costume. Everyone was like, “Oh! Hi Uncle Sam! Hi Uncle Sam!” That was probably one of the strangest days I've had in all my years doing this.
This is my 25th year playing Uncle Sam. My wife was very supportive of me. My kids have been very supportive of me. I thoroughly enjoy it. Of course, I try to teach. I have a presentation about American history; but honestly it’s been more about having fun and meeting people. It’s just been such a blast.