Part 4: My Kingsmen journey

by Jeff Davis, DCW staff and member of the Anaheim

This article was originally pubished in the August 11, 2006 edition of Drum Corps World (Volume 35, Number 10.

It’s the Monday before Kamp and emotions are high. Everyone is stoked! I’ve scheduled myself in Riverside so I can be at the opening of Kamp on Wednesday and I’ll be staying Thursday and Friday nights.

Now for a medical update. After three months of therapy, two cortisone injections and one surgery, it all may come down to what they call “manual manipulation” and yes, it is as unpleasant as it sounds.

I will be seeing my surgeon today to get his opinion. Basically, they knock you out, take your arm and move it where it won’t go while you’re awake. I am really hoping and praying to avoid that scenario. I’ll keep you updated.
RATS! I need some prayers here folks. Even my surgeon thinks it best to do the procedure. I was quite depressed to learn this. It does get worse. therapy MUST begin the day of the procedure and continue for five consecutive days. Can it get any worse? YES!

My insurance won’t pay for the therapy. So now I’m trying to squeeze it into my schedule.

He wanted to do it right away. I’m thinking the end of July. Think I need a little Kingsmen Kamp to get me out of my depression.

Kamp Kingsmen — day one

Welcome to Cal Baptist University. After “checking in” and dinner, we met in the theatre to have some introductions, hear the goals and objectives, learn the “dot system,” and watch a DVD compilation on the history of the Kingsmen.

It is such a rich history that to try and put it into words would pretty much take the rest of this article. So, I’m not going to do it.

After the meeting, we were assigned our “dot books,” which was actually a piece of laminated paper with your field locations in relation to yard lines and hash marks. I am mellophone #12, I also found out that Rene (marched Regiment 78-79) is French horn #12, so we are basically marching the same show. Kind of cool I thought.

We only got to do about 45 minutes of horn work late in the day. It was also exceedingly loud in the music room. I heard the video guys later saying we kept blowing out the mics. COOL!

At 10:30PM, it came to a screeching halt and I drove home, arriving at 12:05AM. So, technically, it’s day two now.

Kamp Kingsmen — day two

Started off with some marching basics and then it was time to learn drill. I have to admit to some apprehension, not having learned drill in this fashion. Interestingly enough, even if you have some people missing, as long as you hit your mark, you’re good to go.

The brass line learned the first nine sets in about 90 minutes. After we ran it a few times, it was time for lunch, then some sectional work. We were also measured for our official “cadet” uniforms.

After dinner, we did visual with the drum line and guard. Can I say guard? I don’t want to offend any of the young ladies in the “guard.” Guess I should find out. Hold on. I’ve just been advised, by a guard member, NOT to refer to them as “auxiliary.” To do so could result in death.   So, there you have it!

Learned the formation for our performance on Saturday. I think it will work out pretty well. Did more sectional work and then got our Dinkles and Dickies and were good to go.

Oh, just did a pedometer check — 12,856. I believe that calculates out to five miles. No wonder I’m tired. I think it’s time to take a shower and hit the pillow. Day three is just around the corner.

Kamp Kingsmen — day three

By the way, the facility we’re staying at is AWESOME!

I digress. After breakfast, it was time to learn how to get on and off the field for our performance Saturday. I guess that’s kind of important. Hopefully we get more people in for the weekend and REALLY blow people away come Saturday night.

Didn’t get much sleep. Could be the excitement, could be my roommate. Worked more visual today and tried tuning the horns. You have to appreciate the efforts of Kenny Norman (Kilties, etc.). The dude is trying to tune horns from different manufacturers, different eras and sometimes different keys. That’s a challenge.

But he’s a legend and is the MacGyver of horns. He can turn a contra bass into a B-52 bomber!

The pedometer topped out at 14,800! Dang, was hoping to get to 15,000. Maybe tomorrow.

I also want to recognize Dr. Greg Woll. He works with the brass line and is a great teacher. He makes learning fun and practical. His personality is such that, I believe, we want to do our best for him. I believe our success as a brass line is a direct reflection of his ability to get us to do more than even we think we can.

We finished the day with “performance uniform” run-throughs. Speaking of which, when we picked up our performance shirt, each had a tag that said, “Today you will accept not only the shirt, but the challenge of the Kingsmen Alumni Corps experience! Whatever path you have traveled it is an honor to come together on this step of our journey. Spectemur Agendo (let us be judged by our actions).” WOW!

Now, folks, the honor guard is AWESOME. You’ll just have to take my word on it. However, pay close attention to the saber yielding “young man.” His name is John Park and he’ll be protecting the POW and MIA flags, so don’t cross him.

In addition, Tom Day of Bugles Across America was also part of the Honor Guard. I didn’t know that Tom was actually a co-founder and the first marching instructor for the Kingsmen.

So, I had to buy black socks because the pair I brought, though black, also had this cool Chinese dragon thing on them and it was red. I know you wouldn’t have been able to see it, but it just didn’t feel right.

Standing in the Target checkout line, you get an education. For example, Nicole and Brittany are pregnant, Oprah has kicked Steadman out for the last time and he’s heartbroken. Of course, we can’t forget the numerous “alien” sightings. WOW! I didn’t know any of this!
I live such a sheltered life. I thank God DCW keeps me up to date on the drum corps happenings.

Kamp Kingsmen — day four

Only worked half a day on sets and music, so we could be plenty rested for tonight’s performance. Guess the pedometer won’t be seeing 15,000, it’s sitting at 5,142 right now!

Anyway, after marching block we ran the opener a few times just to make sure no one forgot where they were supposed to be. It certainly has been fun and hard work. It will be interesting to read what people will be saying on Drum Corps Planet after our show tonight.

The wife left me a message that the tickets didn’t arrive yesterday. That’s not good and thus far I haven’t heard about today (Saturday). I know we have some extras, so if I have to buy three more. I will.

My kids have never seen me perform and I don’t want them to miss this. I’ve been having flashes of a future vision. We’re at the Rose Bowl and it’s the first push in Folk Song Suite when the horns snap up to the press box, the crowd goes ballistic! It’s been a recurring vision for the past couple of days.

So, it’s 2:00PM and our next event is at 4:30 and that’s dinner (I’m liking this camp!), but I am also anxious. I want to get out there and perform. It’s only been 26 years, 10 months and six days since my last corps performance. Problem is, it’s going to go by so fast, I’ll probably miss the whole experience.

5:05PM. Well, the tickets didn’t arrive. Hooked up with Keith Wilbur and secured three for the wife and kiddies (thanks, Keith). Left early for the stadium so I could leave them at the will-call window.

So, I’m standing there in the corps parking lot with a few other members and all of a sudden the kids come running up to me. My youngest goes, “We saw some people practicing and thought it might be you, but they were young.” Nice! Just twist the knife in my back why don’t ya. I know she didn’t mean it that way, it was kind of cute.

After some warm-up exercises, it was time to head toward the starting gate. I haven’t marched to a starting gate in a L O N G time. It seemed to take forever just due to the anticipation.

After aging out in 1979, I never thought I’d find myself marching into a stadium to perform at a drum corps contest again, but if you have to, there’s no better way than to make it a historic occasion, such as the return to the field of the Anaheim Kingsmen. Knowing how it felt for me, I’m sure the true Kingsmen alum had to be exceedingly hyped.

The return of the Kingsmen

Saturday, June 24, 2006. There are only so many historic moments that you have the opportunity to either participate in or witness. For those of us marching into the stadium, the significance of the event was completely understood.

The crowd, which had been kept in suspense about our appearance, gave us a terrific standing ovation as we entered the stadium, after the choral, after Folk Song Suite, after George and certainly halfway through Johnnie (which pretty much brought the house down), they rose and stayed there until we were done. The Kingsmen are indeed BACK!

The true drum corps fans stayed to be part of history. Perhaps not really knowing what to expect, they knew the legend that is the Kingsmen and that is all they needed to know.

I would have loved to have just stood there a few moments longer to soak it all in. To all that witnessed it and to those that heard about it, this is just the beginning.

A big “shout out” to “The Voice of Southern California Drum Corps,” Ryan H. Turner, who did an excellent job providing the audience with a narrative of the corps’ history and plans for the future.

After the circle-up, it was time to try and find the family. I didn’t carry the cell phone, so that was going to be problematic.

As I made my way across the front of the stands, everyone kept saying how great we were and how much they enjoyed the show. What can you say, but “thank you?”

With no sighting of the kiddies, I made a quick stop at the Kingsmen souvie table. Even they were hearing stories about how great we were. Some were actually crying. One gentlemen came back a second time to get more merchandise.

Since I was in the souvie area already, I stopped by the Impulse booth in the hope that I’d run into the “ultimate” drum corps family, the Baba’s. I say that because mom and dad work the souvie stand, have three kids marching Impulse and one in Vanguard. WOW! What can you say?

Even after the historic return to the field of the Kingsmen, it’s always good to see Marta Baba and get a big hug. I should have known they’ve been following my Kingsmen adventures in Drum Corps World (a shameless plug there).

After finally locating the car, I called the wife to see what was going on. She was 10 minutes ahead of me (which translates into about 50 miles, she’s a Danica Patrick fan). I asked what she thought, (as if) she thought we were great.

Being “ old school,” I asked, “but were we loud?” I knew we were loud inside, but when you’re in formation, for me anyway, you just don’t know. She answered in the affirmative and pretty much made my day.

As I close this, I want to thank all the people who have poured so much into getting the Kingsmen back on the field — Gary Kean, Keith Wilbur, Joe Rybus and the other people too numerous to recall.
I do want to mention Mike Duffy, who wrote the music for the Kingsmen from ’71-’73. His humor and enthusiasm were certainly appreciated, and he seemed completely blown away by the whole project.

The camp was great, we accomplished all our objectives, it was well-organized, the fervor was high. What more could you ask for?

I also want to thank them for allowing me to play a miniscule part in their dream. If you are a Kingsmen alum and have been taking a wait and see approach, that’s fine, just don’t let this opportunity pass you by. You’ll be sorry. This IS for real.

Lastly, it may be a while for my next installment. While we do have a few more performances, most of what we’ve got going is rehearsals for the ultimate performance in 2007 at DCI in the famous Rose Bowl and drum corps’ first championship on the West Coast since 1970s, I think.