Music History

Let’s give credit to three unsung pioneers of music.

[This was my weekly column for and was adapted from the much more in-depth Ongoing History of New Music program/podcast on the subject. Check out Unsung Heroes of Music on any plaftform. – AC]

Chances are you’ve never heard the name Vasili Arkhipov, but he could be the reason you’re alive. Back during the Cuban Missile Crisis, he stopped his commander from accidentally firing nukes on the US when things heated up. It’s possible that he prevented the entire planet from plunging into a nuclear war. Talk about an unsung hero.

I’ve always had a soft spot for people like this: those who made tremendous contributions to the world but have never received the appropriate credit. That includes the history of music.

1. Maj. Jack Mullin

Mullen was a major in the U.S. Army Signal Corps during World War II. At the end of hostilities in Europe, he stumbled upon a couple of strange Nazi machines. They were reel-to-reel tape decks using magnetic tape that the Nazis had deployed in radio broadcasts to confuse the Allies about Hilter’s actual whereabouts. How could he deliver different hours-long speeches simultaneously in Berlin, Munich, and Hamburg? And how were those Nazi orchestras able to play through the night nonstop? The answer was everything was on tape.

Because the war invalidated all patents held by the Axis powers, Mullin was able to take the machines he found back to the U.S. in a couple of duffel bags and after getting out of the army, he started demonstrating the new state-of-the-art high-fidelity technology for potential investors.

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Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38458 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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