|Music by Shermie... Shermie
and the Music Masters... Shermie and Friends... Shermie and the Fat Boys... Shermie
Shermie Wiehe was a reminiscing mood
the other day, looking back over the years he has made music on Kwaj since 1972. "I was hired as a telemetry technician fresh out of Missouri Institute of
Technology," says Shermie. He laughs when he tells the story.
"I was right off the farm. I borrowed my dad's suit-the shoulder hung out to
here." He shows six inches over his own shoulders. "Jerry Brewer,
the recruiter, took a look at my dirty fingernails and callused hands, and must have
figured I needed a job."
The youngest worker hired for the range up to that time. Shermie was assigned to the
Ennylabegan telemetry site, work for
Bill Patton. He already had years of music
lesson and performances behind him. As an elementary school student, he played piano
and organ in a Kansas City church. When he was 14, his dad signed slips so that
Shermie could play drums in bars. "In those days I got A's in drums and C's in
piano at the state music contest held at Kansas University," Shermie said.
He studied classical and popular piano for eight years with a woman who had performed with
a Liberace. He practiced an hour a day, every day, because the alternative was a
cottonwood switch and two hours of practice the following day. He played piano for
the Kansas State House of Representatives when was 16, and toured the state with a talent
group. At Ennylabegan, it wasn't long before he found a way to make music at his new
In those days, a boat went over twice a week so the men from Carlos could shop on Kwaj.
Shermie went along, but he didn't shop - he played piano at the Yokwe Yuk Club.
The men could stay overnight on Kwaj and take the chopper back in the morning.
So after awhile, Shermie started playing gigs on Kwaj on boat days.
A couple of years later, he transferred to Kwaj and worked on optics at the RADOT and
SUPER RADOT sites. By day, he worked at Legan, Gagan, Eniwetak, Gellinam,
Carlos, Roi-Namur, or Kwaj, but at night he was playing music.
At the same time, he was taking a home-study course in piano tuning and repair. By
1975, he was the island piano tuner as well as a favorite music man. He formed a
couple of American groups and then his first Marshallese group, "Shermie and the
Music Masters," which soon became "Shermie and Friends."
"The guys in the band were like brothers to me," said Shermie. "We
still call each other brothers. I bought all their instruments for them. Each time
we played, I saved some of their money to invest in equipment. We were all about 20
to 25 years old. We played together until I left Kwaj in 1978 and moved to Kansas
City with my family."
On a band trip to Pohnpei, Shermie met and fell in love with a beautiful Pohnpeian girl,
Matea. They were married in December 1977 and he adopted her three young children.
That was the family he moved to Kansas City.
He worked as a field service engineer in Kansas City until August 1980, when he was
recruited to return to Kwaj as the lead in computer maintenance. The family has been
on island since then except for a few months in 1991. Shermie moved up to
supervisor of computer maintenance, then field service specialist for ALTAIR.
But always there was music to be made. He taught his children piano and formed a
family band. Every Sunday, they practiced for two hours. Before long, they
were booked to play for island functions.
"We played for generals from Washington, DC, the president of the Marshall Islands,
Cabinet members, lots of VIPs," Shermie remembers.
All the Wiehe children grew up on Kwaj and are Kwajalein High School graduates. Andreas, the oldest, is a diesel mechanic at the power plant. Catherine has had a
year of law school at Tulane University. Sonson is a journeyman electrician for J.A. Jones
and played bass in the band for me," said Shermie. Raymond graduated this year
and plans to join the Air Force this summer.
Shermie joined up with Hawaiian musicians, Elika Kaiwi, Kalani Kaiminaauano, Lamar Hina,
and vocalist Mel Sanchez to form Shermie and the Fat Boys, with Sonson on bass.
On Ebeye, Shermie fixed TV's for Fountain Inok in his store and worked for Joba Kabua
playing music in his theater before Saturday night movies. He played for Ebeye
dances. When a TV station came to Ebeye, Shermie helped keep it in repair. In
his spare time, he worked in the TV repair shop at Kwaj and taught 23 piano students.
Now Shermie has another group - Ed Hamblin on bass, David Zaheri on lead guitar, and Mel
Sanchez as singer. It will change soon, because Ed is about to pack out. But
that won't mean the end of making music for Shermie. "I'm flexible," he
says. "I've been on Kwaj more than 21 years out of the last 25, and most of the
that time, I've been playing music. I play my music around the musicians that I
After all these years in the islands, what's his favorite kind of music? "I
still love country. I was raised on it," says Shermie with a smile, "Cows milk better to country music."