By Senior Airman Jonathan Bass, 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
/ Published January 04, 2017
RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany --
A brightness shines in their eyes as a dull roar rises from the silhouettes in front; six clicks signal to the shadows, they respond in jubilant rapture as a musical explosion courses across the darkness.
For a Team Ramstein member, his wingmanship extends far beyond the reaches of the work center and into the realm of rock-and-roll.
During a concert at the Red Barn in Kaiserslautern, Warrant Officer Jonathan Reed’s guitar squeals, and a grin comes across his face. He steps up to the microphone and his rich, warm voice soothes the savage beasts in the cramped crowd. He begins singing, “I can see it in your eyes, you’re down and out.”
Reed, a 603rd Air and Space Operations Center, 19th Battlefield Coordination Detachment airspace management officer in charge, uses his love of music to open doors to citizens of Germany with the help of his band, Roll ‘N’ Rock.
“I joined up about a year ago now,” said Reed, a Waller, Texas, native. “We’ve really taken off … We’ve had a lot more paying gigs outside of the area.”
Roll ‘N’ Rock is made up of Americans and Germans. The seven-piece band blends southern rock, blues, and country western to produce a wall of sound designed to do more than just get people’s toes tapping.
“Anytime we play near a big American base we get a mix of Americans and Germans in the crowd,” said Reed. “Once the party gets going then nobody cares, everyone’s dancing, everyone’s having fun, and nobody really cares if you’re German or American, or whatever, and they’re just having a good time at the show.”
The band uses heavy bass grooves and complex vocal lines to paint a musical picture to the primarily German audience.
“I didn’t know any Germans owned cowboy boots and hats,” said Reed. “We’ve played several shows where you would have thought you were in a dance hall in Texas.”
Syncing up in a musical trance, Reed and his bandmates move in rhythm with the congregation gathered below the stage. The band closes a song to thunderous applause. Before the crowd can catch their breath, the music starts back up again, playing one of the band’s, and the usual crowd favorite, “Take Me Home Country Roads,” written by Bill Danoff, Taffy Nivert, and John Denver.
Roll ‘N’ Rock began playing around 2013, and now tours the country, creating and building community bonds through music.
“(The band) shows the best of both worlds,” said Reed. “It shows how Americans and Germans can get up on a stage together, and do a lot of work, and practice and rehearsals to have a shared goal … As we go forth and play mostly American music both with some Germans, we do an old Johnny Cash song, ‘Folsom Prison Blues,’ but at the end, it’s the same chords and the same kind of melody, (but) we tack on a German song right into one of the most American songs you get. From Johnny Cash straight into a very traditional Bavarian song.”
Reed’s love of music is obvious when he’s on stage. His face and body match the tone of the song, from a grimace during an intense solo to a tender glance during a ballad.
“I didn’t start playing guitar until college,” said Reed. “And then I played a lot of guitar, eight or nine hours a day, every day. I’ve always had a love for music, from country to rock to the blues. Growing up in Texas, country music is never far away.”
His bandmates know and share Reed’s appreciation for their art, said Charles Fastiggi, Roll ‘N’ Rock band member.
“I started with music when I was about two or three years old,” said Fastiggi. “I started playing violin when I was about ten. I was brought up classically trained. I didn’t really know how to play other styles until I started playing with others.”
This love of music helps Reed, and by extension, Roll ‘N’ Rock, push forward the mission of generating and employing air power by putting a face to the Air Force, said Reed.
“Once people know who we are, we’re no longer this shadowy figure,” said Reed. “We’re not just airplanes in the sky, or boots on the ground; we’re people. We have hearts, we learn and grow just like everyone else.”
Roll ‘N’ Rock’s star is quickly rising, at the International Country Music Awards held at the Pullman City theme park in Bavaria, Roll ‘N’ Rock took 2nd place in the Country Rock category.
“We were really surprised by the result,” said Fastiggi. “We went just to play and have fun, but to take second is really awesome and we love that we got to share that with a bunch of people.”
The crowd screams for an encore as the band takes a bow. All smiles and sweat, Roll ‘N’ Rock obliges, playing just one more song.