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Tops In Blue
Tops in blue
Tops in Blue performing at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas
Years active 1953 (1953)–present

Tops In Blue is a touring performance ensemble made up of active duty members of the United States Air Force formed in 1953.[1] For the past 57 years, Tops In Blue has traveled to more than 20 countries to perform more than 120 times each year for airmen and families around the world.[2] They perform in front of more than 250,000 military personnel and their families, presenting an average of 120 performances at 100 locations worldwide throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, Central America and the Pacific.[3]


The ensemble is composed of 35 vocalists, dancers, musicians and technicians[4] and is considered the Air Force's expeditionary entertainment unit.[5] Performers are expected to be in top physical condition because they are their own roadies. Performers unload 80,000 pounds (36,000 kg) of equipment which uses a stage and truss which are built to fit on six pallets or one truck trailer.[6] They spend four hours setting up the stage prior to a show.[7][8] Their primary purpose is to perform for military personnel and their families throughout the world.[1] They have appeared on national television with Ed Sullivan, Bob Hope, Alabama, Barbara Mandrell, Boyz II Men, Lee Greenwood,[1] and Lea Michele.[4]

Tops In Blue is produced by the Entertainment Branch of the Programs Directorate, Headquarters Air Force Services Agency. The program is funded in part by appropriated funds and supplemented with nonappropriated funds that are generated by Air Force people[3] as well as sponsorship by Coca-Cola.[9] They have produced five movies and two albums.[6]

The unit is self-contained with its members consisting of four flights: personnel, logistics, operations, and technical.[10]


Candidates for Tops In Blue submit a video performance to Headquarters Air Force Services Agency.[11] If selected for audition, they are flown from all over the world to Lackland AFB for a ten day talent show and multilevel competition[7] judged by former Tops In Blue members.[12] The performers are picked in six categories: male vocalist, female vocalist, instrumentalist, musical variety, dance, and non-musical variety including comedians, magicians, and dramatists.[11] Each year is a new group and past members are not guaranteed to return. Those selected attend a 45 day training period at Lackland AFB.[6]



Major Al Reilly

Air Force Major Al Reilly created the Air Force Worldwide Talent Contest in 1953, and Tops In Blue began as a tour showcasing the best members of the contest[13] performing at 230 locations in 235 days.[14] Initially, the contest was judged in 14 categories ranging from comedy, drama, pop, jazz, hillbilly, vocal and instrumental.[11] It was judged by celebrities like Barry White, Les Brown, Richard Roundtree, and Esther Williams.[11] In 1954, Ed Sullivan invited Tops In Blue to perform at Mitchel Air Field, NY on his show "Toast of the Town" where Airman Second Class Jerry Van Dyke led the show as Master of Ceremonies.[13] In 1964, the Tops In Blue left the stage to record in a movie studio to produce films and records for distribution throughout the Air Force.[13] However, in 1971 Tops in Blue gained Air Force support to return to the stage on their return to live tours in 1972.[13]

Notable events

In 1981 they performed the halftime show at the Garden State Bowl.[1] In 1985, an expanded production of Tops In Blue performed with help from over 1,400 volunteers from Mather AFB at the halftime show of url= Force’s Tops in Blue to give free performance for community|date=October 19, 2010}}</ref> They performed the National Anthem in 2005 for Game 6 of the [[NBA Finals[1] and in 2009 at the Coca-Cola 600.[15] They presented a map-shaped American flag during performances of the National Anthem by Josh Groban at Game 1 of the 2002 World Series and Carrie Underwood at the 2006 Major League Baseball All-Star Game, At the pregame show at url= in Blue to perform at Super Bowl|date=January 31, 2011}}</ref>

See also


 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the United States Air Force.

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 "Air Force performance group, 'Tops in Blue,' staging free show in Monterey Feb. 8". January 27, 2011. 
  2. Erin Tindell (January 31, 2011). "Tops In Blue to perform at Super Bowl XLV". Air Force Personnel, Services and Manpower Public Affairs. Retrieved February 7, 2011. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Tops In Blue". October 17, 2005. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Air Force's Tops In Blue to perform at Super Bowl pre-game". January 31, 2011. 
  5. "Tops in Blue to Perform at Super Bowl". February 1, 2011. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 "About us". Tops In Blue. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 A1C Jette Warnick. "Tops in Blue: It’s not just singing, dancing we do". 
  8. "Tops In Blue". January 28, 2011. 
  9. "Tops In Blue - March 4th". 
  10. Johnson, Gabe (June 6, 2008). [Link PDF "Tops in Blue member makes Tucson show a memorable homecoming"]. Desert Lightning News. pp. 1, 10, 11. Link PDF. Retrieved February 13, 2011. 
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 "Worldwide Talent Contest". 
  12. SrA Catharine Schmidt (March 26, 2004). "Air Force Tops in Blue Selections". Air Force News Service. 
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 "More than 50 years of world class entertainment". Retrieved February 7, 2011. 
  14. Lorin T. Smith (January 27, 2011). "Tops in Blue An entertainment showcase". Northwest Guardian. Retrieved February 13, 2011. 
  15. "Lap-by-Lap: Charlotte". NASCAR. May 26, 2009. Retrieved February 13, 2011. 

External links

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