Bill Ellis © 2014                                                                     

   From the bunkers of Vietnam - an original rock musical experience!
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The music of Skytrooper is powerful and evocative,  ranging from haunting ballads to pulsating rock and roll.

(also known as Impressions of a Skytrooper)
is a musical performance featuring 12 songs that reflect some of the common experiences of combat soldiers serving in the Vietnam War (the "Rock and Roll" war), but many of the experiences reflected in the music can be attributed to a combat soldier of any war. All of the songs were written by Bill Ellis, many while he was serving in Vietnam as an infantryman (a “grunt”) with the 1st Air Cavalry Division during 1968-69.

About the show:
The Skytrooper stage resembles a bunker of the Vietnam era, complete with sandbags, artillery boxes, camo netting and stage props. Bill Ellis introduces the show as helicopters are heard overhead and the first song begins. He then weaves his personal stories throughout the music numbers, accompanied by a 5-member band. Special guest performance by Lisa Ellis. Lighting, sound effects, a slide show presentation and theatrical drama enhance the performance, helping to create a realistic scene and the feeling for the audience that they are not just observers, but participants in the performance.

About the composer:
In 1968 Bill Ellis was performing in a Bay Area rock band on the verge of its first release with Liberty Records when he received his draft notice. Putting aside his guitar, he answered the call to serve his country.
Following boot camp and advanced infantry training, Ellis was sent to Vietnam and assigned to Alpha Company 1/5 Air Cavalry as a grunt. Grunts were transported throughout Vietnam by helicopter and were sometimes known as “skytroopers.”

Four months into his tour, it was discovered that Ellis wrote and sang music, and he was given a new assignment. Trading his M-16 rifle for a Gibson J-45 guitar, Sgt. Ellis would catch helicopters, chinooks, planes and other vehicles to reach firebases and other far-off venues. These were the areas that were too dangerous for civilian entertainers to travel.  Often referred to as the 1st Cav troubadour, Ellis would sit on the bunkers and perform his own compositions for fellow troopers, providing comfort and boosting morale.

In 1969 four of Bill’s songs were recorded and an EP record was produced under the title Impressions of a Skytrooper. A copy was given to each trooper in the Cav when they left Vietnam to return home. (Many of the original 30,000 records can be found for sale on E-bay, Amazon and other websites.)

Upon returning from Vietnam, Bill made a career out of performing and writing music. At a 1984 1st Cav reunion, he recognized the morose looks on the faces of many of the Vietnam veterans who attended. Their stares harkened him back to the bunkers where he performed for battle-weary soldiers coming in for rest. During the reunion, Bill was inspired to write a concept album portraying the journey of a soldier serving during a time of war. He understands the emotions and memories his compositions bring to military troops, families and supporters, and he poured himself into the project. The music is based on many of the experiences of the Vietnam soldier: from receiving the draft notice, to saying goodbye to loved ones, losing a buddy during battle, to returning home and living with the effects of war. The concept album turned into a rock musical that spans from the 1960s through 9/11, and delivers a message of hope. The musical is titled Beyond the Wall.

While continuing to develop Beyond the Wall, Bill is bringing to the stage a glimpse of his own experiences in Vietnam. The Skytrooper stage is set to resemble a typical bunker, and the band members support the scenario by providing stylized licks and backup vocals. Video slides and footage, sound effects and lighting, complete the scene. Both enlightening and entertaining, Skytrooper is a unique production that promises to be a memorable experience.

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