Part 3: My Kingsmen Journey, part 33 1/3

by Jeff Davis, DCW staff and member of the Anah

This article originally appeared in the June 28, 2006 edition of Drum Corps World (Volume 36, Number 8.

I start this after having witnessed the “Classic Countdown” in Valencia, CA. There were about 100 to 150 people, mostly high school-age. I actually thought there would be less. So, what do you think the odds are that I would go into this theatre and there would be someone that marched Phantom Regiment? 100-1, 1,000-1?

Now, assume there is. What are the chances that we marched the same years? 5,000 – 1, 100,000 – 1? What do you think the odds are that I would actually end up sitting next to them? A million to one, you say?

Dude, that one is easy to figure out 100-150 to 1, DUH! Alright then, how about this. The odds that there is someone who marched Regiment with me. I sit next to them AND sit behind someone who marched with my younger brothers in the General Butler Vagabonds? You can’t even calculate those odds!

But that is exactly what happened. Is drum corps great or what? Kathy Pondinas (Regiment) and Bill Lutz (Vagabonds). Obviously, I tried to recruit them, and everyone else, into joining the Kingsmen Alumni Corps. We’ll see.

As a regular visitor to, I try to get the “pulse of the people.” How do they REALLY feel about this project?

I can say without hesitation, the excitement is continuing to grow. Seeing the new drums brought it home for many — “This really IS going to happen!” If there are any concerns about the legitimacy of this project, it is only by those who have not been to a rehearsal.

There is no way you could attend a practice, see all the people and not believe we are for real.

The May rehearsal gave us the opportunity to work as an ensemble. I do have to say, the drum line is really cooking. They sound just great. The 50/50 raffle was again won by a French horn player. Seems they have some “inside information” that the rest of the corps isn’t privy to. Either that or they have pictures that someone doesn’t want published.

We are going to start “kicking it up a notch” in August. Instead of one Sunday, we’re going to one weekend per month. By the way, I hope you all saw the picture of our contra section on the DCI Web site.

In my last installment, we included a section titled “What is a Kingsmen?” Now we are going to explore why people are doing this. You already know my “why.” I thought it might be interesting to read what some long-time, short-time and no-time Kingsmen have to say about their motivation for taking on this project.

Disclaimer — the views expressed in this article are those of the individual who wrote them and do not represent the views of DCW, this writer, or the Kingsmen organization. So, without further ado, I’d like to introduce Darryl Smith who marched Kingsmen in 1971 and currently resides in Utah.

“Personally, my reasons are many. Memories that come to me when I sleep. All of them good. My chance to wear Blue again just thrills me to no end. But most important to me, I think, is not just getting to do it, but getting the chance to do it with people who were so dear to me back in the day. I’m one lucky S.O.B.”

Kelly Gaitens-Miley –
1976 (Regiment 1977-1978), currently residing in Tennessee

“My time with the Kingsmen has always been special to me because that’s where I fell in love with drum corps. I went on to have great experiences with other drum corps, but I have always regretted that I was never able to do a field show with the Kingsmen. To have that chance now, after all of these years, is incredible.”

Ken Nease

“It’s the memories, the pride of accomplishment, the sights and sounds that only drum corps members can know. It’s the friendships, the closer family, the ties that bind me to people and places. How else could the smell of a bus going by me on the freeway evoke fond memories?

“It’s the kids and staff who come up to me at school and ask me if I was really in the Kingsmen. It’s the kids and staff at school that ask me when they will get to see the Kingsmen perform. It’s because I remember the look on my mom’s and dad’s faces when they talked about their son and daughter in the Kingsmen and their Kingsmen “family.” It’s because of the smile on my face and the tear in my eye as I write this. That’s the why for me.”

Dave Devlin, 1977-1978

“I am doing this because I never marched under the lights at DCI and this is my once-in-a- lifetime chance to do it — and to do it with the brothers and sisters I marched with as well as my drum corps heroes who marched before me!

“As I write this, the tears are streaming once again. I can’t wait ’til camp! Thanks to Joe Rybus, Gary Kean and all the others who were together in that room on that day that had the vision to do this. God bless them and God bless the Kingsmen!”

Vicky Olson

“Wow! What a question. It’s in our heart. Like Kelly, I got my drum corps start with the Kingsmen, then moved on because the Kingsmen weren’t fielding a corps that year. I was known as Vickie Kingsmen in BD because there were several Vickie’s in the corps. Many of the guard members wanted me to teach them everything I knew about Kingsmen snap and I continued teaching it after aging out.

“There was no other corps like the Kingsmen. The class is undeniable and I can’t wait to show that again. My husband just doesn’t get it, but this is something that as soon as I was told about it, I knew there was no way I wouldn’t be a part of it. All the pain and bruises are worth it! To celebrate all the years of the Kingsmen and what made us what we are; the discipline it taught us has stayed with us throughout our lives. That is why we are doing this.”

Rene Keres – Regiment, 1978-1979

“I’m doing it to hold a French horn again. I used to have dreams about being able to play again. Some of my best times involved playing that stupid thing and hanging with the other girls that did the same.

“It’s being out on the grass and getting bad suntan lines. It’s waiting in a long line to eat something that somebody had the love to make for me. It is marching in parades and hanging around in the parking lot before the show. It’s that final run-through when no one can see the drum major because it is finally too dark.

I’m digging this whole thing and drive an hour and 15 minutes one way every Tuesday night to hang out with a bunch of guys I’ve never met before last November. If it weren’t for serendipity, I’d have missed this whole adventure.”

Dale Nissenson Gough – 72-74

“Because I want to relive just a little bit of what it felt like to be a Kingsmen. I was going to say performing in front of thousands of screaming fans, but now that I think about it, I’d feel just as much pride if there was one person watching us practice.

I felt super human when I had that uniform on and I have a feeling that the people watching us thought that we were. Very few things in my life have given me such a rush.”

David Weinberg, 1976-1977

“I can remember the first day I saw the Kingsmen. I was only 14 years old. There was something to that sound I was listening to that hit my soul. It was then, at that very point, I fell in love with drum corps.

Little did I know it would bring me back full circle to the Kingsmen once again. We all remember our first love in life. Well, my first love of music is back in my life and I would not trade it for anything.

Tim Weigner, 1976-1977

“It’s been 29 years since I last marched in THE drum corps. While attending a business meeting in San Diego, I took the opportunity to drive up to Anaheim and listen in on the weekly horn practice. That was then I realized that the corps family has never left my heart.

“The sound of big brass, the smell of valve oil, the familiar faces with some age and the camaraderie, all brought on a sudden rush of memories and emotions. Why do it again?

“Knowing that there was a hidden purpose (character building) for all the rides up from San Diego, just so we could attend practice and the stops on the way home at Denny’s for the midnight special. To experience those spontaneous moments that popped-up before, during and after rehearsals. To pass on the inspiration to learn and enjoy music. To show that I can still lift my feet to my knees.

“For those few seconds of standing on the sideline and hearing again, ‘Anaheim Kingsmen, You May Take The Field!’ To stand as ONE at the end of show and absorb the moment that so few experience in life — priceless. For knowing that I am part of a unique family that many outsiders will never understand.”

Lastly, we have my good friend Jesus Soliz. Jesus marched in 1986

“Why you ask? For me there are many reasons. First and foremost, the Kingsmen taught me how to play a horn properly and how to be a responsible young adult. I would not be who I am today, musically or morally, if I had not been a member.

“There were so many who helped me be who I am. These people are very important to me and my being a member. They brought me into the corps and inspired me to work hard to perfect my craft. They kept me going the next year and even drove me to rehearsals. I grew up in a bit of a rough family life and they ‘hounded’ me to come and rehearse. These men shaped my life.

“Finally, I am here to pass on the discipline, honor and love of the activity to MY kids (students). Lots of them are asking me where they should go to march. I have sent a couple to SCV Cadets and Impulse!

“But when the StarCorps is up and running, I have somewhere else to send them. I want each of these kids to experience everything that I did when I was their age. The StarCorps will have all the ideals, and if my kids are there, I KNOW they will learn about the history of the activity and how to do it right.

Why you ask? I’m a Kingsmen. I bleed blue. The Kingsmen made me the man I am. Thank you, Kingsmen.”

In order to preserve space for other articles, I will close this now until we get closer to the June Kamp where I hope to provide some exciting news and updates. (tic, toc, tic, toc). That article will be in the next edition of DCW.

We’re far from over, folks. “The Return” is just around the corner.