Cliff Keslar's Story

North Platte Telegraph Newspaper Photo

Cliff Keslar was 19 and just starting college at McCook Community College when he signed on as a drummer with Dalton Fuller and the Nebraska Playboys to go to Southeast Asia to entertain the troops.  This almost wasn't a reality.  Cliff had to drop out of college to go on this trip.  Once, he dropped his classes, his student deferments were no longer valid and moved straight to the top of the line for the draft.  Cliff imediately wrote a letter to the local draft board pleading his case to allow him to travel and entertain the troops.  He eventually recieved a letter denying his request and was told to report to Denver, CO for his physical.  Cliff informed Dalton of his denial and told him, he wouldn't be able to travel with the band. 

A couple weeks before the denial, the band had been performing at the Czech Festival in Wilbur, NE.  While waiting their turn backstage they ran into the Governor of Nebraska, Norbert Tiemann.  They struck up a conversation to pass the time and told him about their recent contract with the USO to entertain troops in Southeast Asia.  He thanked them for their commitment and didn't talk after that.

When Cliff told Dalton that he wouldn't be able to go, Dalton suggested the first thing that came to mind, "Well let's call the Governor!"

Cliff told him, "You don't just call the Governor!"

Dalton said, "Well he has a phone, does he not?"  So Cliff and Dalton got a hold of the Governor and to their dismay he informed him that he had no jurisdiction over the  draft board, but he would try and pull some strings for him.  

While the Governor was working on pulling some strings, Cliff had to set up a meeting with the draft board in North Platte, Nebraska to change their minds.  Cliff pleaded with them saying, "Let me go entertrain the troops first. When I get back, if you still want me, I am all yours.  I will go fight, but please let me play for the troops."  The board was not really buying it and it was looking more and more bleak as the meeting dragged on.  In the middle of the meeting the President of the board's secretary came into the room and informed him that he had a call waiting for him.  The President excused himself and went to answer the phone.  Cliff turned to Dalton and told him, "They aren't going to let me go, you guys are going to have to go without me."

After a short time passed, the President came back in and sat down at the table.  He addressed Cliff and said, "Well sir, you must really want to go entertain these troops don't you?" 

Cliff thought to himself, "Yes! You are finally getting it!" 

The President looked around and spoke to the entirety of the board.  He said, "Ladies and gentlemen, that was the Governor on the phone.  As we are all aware, he has no jursidiction on our proceedings or our rulings.  However, he would take it as a great personal favor if we allowed this young gentleman to take part in the USO tour.  I don't know about the rest of you, but I would sure hate to let down our Governor."  The rest of the board quickly agreed and informed Cliff that he would be allowed to travel.

After a tough fight, he was allowed to hold out on the draft long enough to fulfill his role in the USO tour.  From Oct 13th, through November of 1969 they traveled across Vietnam, Thailand, and parts of Cambodia.  This is his story.