Part 2: My Kingsmen journey

by Jeff Davis, DCW staff and member of the Anaheim

Publisher’s note: The first part in this series appeared in the April 2006 (Volume 35, Number 1) edition of the paper and can also be found in the archives of this Web site. This segment was originally published in the June 2, 2006 issue (Volume 35, Number 3).

The February numbers are in and we have exceeded our goal. Now, that doesn’t mean all who have signed up will actually be able to participate for whatever reason. There are people from all over the country expressing interest, including, believe it or not, the United Arab Emirates! Ring a bell?

Shoulder surgery was scheduled for the day after the March rehearsal and the braces came off eight days later YES!

So, I took my mellophone in to have creases taken out of various places and some dent removal. Two months, a new lead pipe and $350 later, we’re good to go. I should have just bought a new horn. Horn looks good, though. They did a great job.

The mellophone I used last rehearsal had to have been the first two-valve off the assembly line. Man that thing was old.

We had an even better turnout for the February rehearsal, brass-wise — 60-62. NICE. Heck, at this rate we should have 70
horns at the March rehearsal. We’ll be doing some marching basics, too. That should be fun on the knees.

If you’re a Kingsmen alum and not sure you want to do this, come to at least one rehearsal and I’m sure you’ll change your mind. That Web site again is

While our interest list shows the soprano and mellophone sections being full, I still encourage all former Kingsmen to get on board with this project. Even if you can’t march, there are plenty of support functions that need your expertise. This is a team effort. No one person is more important than another.

I can’t give up too much information as it could jeopardize my standing with the corps. Two significant events are happening in 2007, DCI coming to Southern California is #1, but event #2, mom and dad will hit 60 years of marriage — to each other even. (I’m sure to hear about THAT one!)

So we’re going to try and get all the family together for a little celebration while they are in SoCal for DCI. Heck, maybe I can get the whole fam to semis. That would be sweet! I won’t hold my breath.

It’s kind of weird to be talking about 2007, considering the 2006 season has yet to begin. But you have to understand, the return of the Kingsmen, for many, is a reliving of our glorious past . . . a past too long forgotten in today’s high-speed, amped-up activity.

For those few moments, we will be transported back to 1970s drum corps, when men were men and sheep were scared. It’s a good thing the Rose Bowl doesn’t have a roof on it. I imagine the neighbors are going to think another earthquake hit. It will be tremendous.

The proposed drill for the opener is done — not to give anything away, but it’s AWESOME!

OK, I’m biased. The entire volunteer staff is doing a great job and their hard work will be rewarded with that one glorious performance. My next entry will be after the March rehearsal. I’m not sure how soon after, as I’ll be doing the surgery thing the next day. I might be out of commission for a while. Until then, Spectemur Agendo.

All righty! It’s March 30, the rehearsal on the 19th was great. Really good turnout for the guard and drum line and around 55 or so brass. But the improvement from my last rehearsal was evident. We worked the second number and by the end of the day, it ROCKED!

The day started off with MARCHING BLOCK. I haven’t done a marching block in, let’s see, 26 years. Speaking of 26 years, GO STEELERS! I digress. It probably should have lasted longer, but we don’t want any blown knees this soon.

On the personal side, the surgery went well, there was no ligament tear, just some cleaning out and removing a little bone that I guess I don’t need. Day one wasn’t too bad. Day two all the medication had worn off and I then realized, “Oh yeah, I did have surgery!”

After a week on vicodin, I had a real bad reaction that pretty much shut down the digestive system. That was more painful than the shoulder. So, we’re not doing vicodin anymore.

Combine that with getting the braces off, (yeah!) with a pair of PLYERS (boo!) that made a real nasty crunching sound, and using a mechanical sanding device to get the glue off the teeth, and you have a great start to your week. But wait, it gets better.

Went back to the doctor today and he RIPPED out the stitches. I know, I made that sound worse than it actually was. But I think all my readers have come to expect a certain amount of exaggeration from me by now. However, now he wants me to move the arm. Yeah! This DOES cause a little discomfort.

Friday I start physical therapy. I am soooooooo looking forward to that, NOT! Remember this all happened in ONE WEEK! It has to get better from here. Right?

Even though the braces are off, my shoulder is limiting my ability to hold the horn. I’ll try to pick the horn up soon just to see how it feels. The therapy is almost worse than the original pain and I actually have less range of motion now. GREAT!

I hope to include in this installment feelings from some of the other members of the corps — their motivation, what they bring to the effort, stuff like that. It is my intent to finish part III after Kamp Kingsmen in June. We are scheduled to do a standstill performance on June 24, so you might want to make plans.

They’ve made the announcement about DCI in Pasadena, but no word on the Kingsmen being there. By now those of you who read Drum Corps World have surmised that, yes, the Kingsmen plan to hit the field in August 2007. Though I never actually said we would perform at DCI, duh! I think you figured it out yourselves.

Rehearsals have been just great, beyond even the practicing element, but from meeting new friends and hearing their “story”. One member in particular, Felix Hernandez, and I have been having a mutual admiration society via posting on the Kingsmen message boards.

We were competitors in the 1970s. He marched Kingsmen 1977-1978, then Blue Devils 1979 (grrrrrr). Sorry, old habits die hard. However, I finally got to meet him briefly last rehearsal. Really, though, there is no animosity on my part. As I have indicated in another article, I was either going to march Regiment or Blue Devils. There was no bad choice. Also, I finally got the chance to talk to one of my fellow alums — Rene Keres, Regiment 1978-1979.

I also did a little informal analysis of which corps (non-Kingsmen) is supplying the most members. To no surprise it is VK by a large majority. SCV came in a distant second.

Regiment would have come in second with six members, but three of them marched Kingsmen first. However, I think that should give you a little insight into an as-yet-unknown connection between the two corps. Think about it. They go here (Regiment), we go there (now).

The drill is written up through our second drum solo and it is really neat. Knowing that the way they teach drill now and what we did in the dark ages is completely different, I am curious to see how well we “old folks” adapt.

To you newbie’s reading this, you might think this is no big deal. You’ve seen the Vanguard Alumni corps, you know who the Madison Scouts are, so who cares? It’s just another bunch of old people trying to relive a distant memory. Ahhhh, to be young and naïve again.

Not having been an official “member” of the Kingsmen, I wouldn’t presume to try and educate you as to what this means. So instead, I’ll use the words of a former Kingsmen alum to try and put forth the magic that once was and will be again — the Kingsmen. Here’s what Sal Cipres, a member from 1977-1978 had to say:

“What is a Kingsmen anyway? In my opinion . . . being a Kingsmen is a state of mind more than anything else. I say this because, while you can see what a Kingsmen is by what one does or how one acts, you cannot define a Kingsmen by any specific set of words (or at least I can’t). Let me explain . . .

“There is no handbook provided to a person who wants to become a Kingsmen. It is more of an assimilation of a culture of pride and behavior that blends with a person’s soul in some way. And it isn’t the same for everyone.

“For me, even though I only experienced two years of ‘non-glory years’ marching, I have never forgotten what being a Kingsmen is all about over the past 29 years of my life. Not so much in the message of ‘being a Kingsmen’, but more like an amalgamation of my wonderful experiences (good and bad) that helped to shape what I am today.

“This is probably true for most young people who experience a fantastic corps with such positive energy, dedication and commitment.

“I am not one to connect with every member of the corps or even beat my chest about what a corps is or isn’t, but I do have some part of my soul that has been formed through the experience. I always reflect on the lessons and positive attitude and, more importantly, for me the RESPONSE to any situation — both in good times (which is easy), but mostly bad times which is much more trying — that defines what I am.

“I learned to take the good and the bad (like not making finals in 1977) and react positively because I can. I learned that I am in control of how I react to any situation. The beginning of that character part of my foundation came from being a Kingsmen.

“This response mechanism is not taught in school or on the streets of one’s city, but it is slowly cooked into one’s being by spending time with others who give everything they have to a cause bigger than themselves and never look for thanks, but rather, seek to improve what they leave for the future.

“This alumni course of events is a perfect example of the result. You folks are willing to give more than you get to give something back (to the DCI community) and to the future of the corps. Some people never get a chance to experience such a profound growth of one’s spirit even when they seek it out. This place — “The Kingsmen” — is a breeding ground for the total positive human growth that many people can only dream of.

“I am eternally grateful to all you Kingsmen before me who created this unexplainable and liquid soul that has helped to positively and permanently shape my being without me even being aware of the transformation until I grew wise enough to look back and wonder how I ended up where I am today, which is a fantastic ride through life that just keeps getting better every day. Thanks for that!

“Spectumur Agendo was a perfect foundation for my life’s adventure!”

Dale Nissenson Gough had this to say:

“I had the good fortune/luck/destiny — whatever it was — to march in the Kingsmen in 1972-1974. I always felt the Kingsmen were special above and beyond other corps. But who doesn’t feel that way about the corps they marched in?

“I didn’t know for sure if others outside of the Kingsmen felt that way about our corps. But after reading posts like the one from Jeff Davis and talking to many of our guests who will be marching with us, I now know for sure that there really was something very special about the Kingsmen. And I know for sure that I was very, very blessed to have ended up in the right place at the right time to share in the magic that was (and hopefully will be again) the Kingsmen. Thanks everyone (old alumni and new alumni) for making this possible.”

Ron Housley marched in 1967 and expressed his feeling this way:

“I think it was our own personalities that attracted us to the Kingsmen and it was the Kingsmen that helped strengthen those personality traits and gave them full expression.   I marched 1967 . . . not so much a glory year as a part of the process of creating the Kingsmen legend. Our claim to fame that year was an unbroken local winning streak, a state champion title and the Kingmen’s first national contest bid (not counting 1966 All-American since it was in our yard, as it were).

“But it was what we individually brought to the Kingsmen that made the Kingsmen what they were and are again today.   The Kingsmen reinforced that, channeled that drive and made champs out of all who ever wore the uniform.”

Finally, I have to add my 2-cents. I think, regardless of the relative success of the corps, there was still an aura about the organization that, to my mind, has never been duplicated. The Kingsmen were the genesis, matrix, if you will, of what you would want drum corps to be. To be part of that had to be magical.

Regardless of where you were beforehand, coming to the Kingsmen had to be, as noted, an assimilation into another world. Even looking at the so-called “super corps” of today, to me they have nothing on the Kingsmen.

The April 23 rehearsal is now history. One of many highlights included the new drums. If I counted correctly, there were about 12 snares, nine to 10 quints, overall just over 30 in the drum line. The brass line has been flirting with 60 the past few months.

Today we were at 65, with a half dozen who could not participate for various reasons. Unfortunately, the guard was behind me so I didn’t get a head count. I don’t know about anyone else there, but my moment was when we played So Very Hard to Go. This was the first time, for me anyway, to play SVHTG. At that point, I think I had a brief touch with how it must have been back in 1974. I can’t imagine how it will feel to play it come August 2007.

Well, I’m up over 2,500 words and, in order to avoid the paper from being “All Kingsmen all the time”, it’s time to close out this edition of “My Kingsmen Journey”. But fear not, the next one should be exciting, as it will likely have information from our first camp in June.