NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Video of a military band's acoustic cover of Adele's hit song "Rolling in the Deep" has made the group a viral hit with more than 1 million views online in less than a month.
The band Sidewinder, all members of the 571st Air Force Band, Air National Guard Band of the Central States based in St. Louis, belted out the soulful tune for a group of airmen while traveling in the Middle East performing for troops.
Staff Sgt. Angie Johnson, who lives in Nashville when she's not performing, said by email that the group members were traveling to another country and had packed up all their electronic gear. But they left out their acoustic equipment so they could perform for the airmen working a late-night shift when the video was taken.
"We are constantly traveling and hauling gear from here to there," Johnson said. "We can do up to four shows a day. We'll play anywhere they'll have us, even if it's in the dining facility. We are very versatile in regards to being a portable unit."
She said it was the first time the band had played "Rolling in the Deep" during an acoustic set. The video shows the group in tan T-shirts and camouflage pants in a pallet yard while strumming guitars, playing a fiddle and banging out the rhythm on a drum. Even without a microphone, Johnson's powerful voice is a pretty close impression of the British singer Adele.
Johnson said she loves to perform all types of music, including classical, show tunes, pop, blues and rock.
"But my dad raised me on country music and it has a very special place in my heart," she said.
After the video was posted online earlier this month (http://bit.ly/nHvMZf), the band was swamped with requests to perform the song again. Johnson even got an invitation to audition for "The Voice" by host Carson Daly via Twitter.
"We could have never imagined getting the stateside exposure that we have received," band commander and conductor Capt. John R. Arata, who also plays the piano and the fiddle, wrote in an email.
It is high praise for a hard-working Air National Guard band tasked with building up morale for troops overseas. The band is currently performing as the Air Forces Central Command band and has been playing shows at bases in Afghanistan and around southeast Asia.
"Since we've been here, we have done numerous performances ranging from large concerts to smaller appearances in the places where troops work," Arata said. "We go to forward locations where breaks from the fight are few and far between. It's not unusual for troops to tell us, 'Tonight was the most fun I've had on this deployment,' or 'Thank you; I really needed that.'"
Johnson also points out that being National Guard troops, the band members come from a variety of backgrounds. Their bass player, Tech. Sgt. John Cavanaugh, is a full-time university campus police officer, but others, like Arata, are music teachers, she said.
The daughter of a retired chief master sergeant, Johnson joined the Air Force as an intelligence analyst but was drawn into performing national anthems at various military ceremonies. She performed during a yearlong tour as a part of Tops in Blue, the Air Force's premier expeditionary entertainment troupe, and has traveled to just about every Air Force base in the world.
When she decided to leave the active duty force and move to Nashville, she still wanted to be involved in the military, so she joined the Air National Guard band that is part of the 131st Bomb Wing, Missouri National Guard.
Johnson's husband, Bobby Johnson, said he started getting phone calls and messages from friends and family who said they'd seen the video online or heard about it in news stories.
"I was definitely surprised at how quickly the video has grown, but I always knew she was extremely talented," Johnson said.
But band members say while they appreciate the attention, the real talent is all the deployed men and women.
"We hope that everyone who sees the video will realize that the Air Force and the National Guard have 'rock stars' in every career field: pilots, medics, mechanics, etc.," Arata said. "We also hope our music has renewed a sense of patriotism and support for the men and women who serve in harm's way."
Johnson said she is proud of her band's mission and the mission of the troops they are supporting.
"Them being here, fighting for our right to play music is the only reason we are allowed to do what we do," Johnson said. "And the fact that music is such a universal language allows us to strengthen partnerships with our host nations."
Facebook page for Sidewinder: http://www.facebook.com/pages/SIDEWINDER-Air-National-Guard-Band-of-the-Central-States-Rock-Band/227968950578975
Video of Sidewinder performance of Adele's "Rolling in the Deep": http://www.youtube.com/theangiejmusic