Part 1: My Kingsmen journey

by Jeff Davis, DCW staff and member of the Anaheim

As I start this article, September 5, 2005, I know not what the outcome will be. I gave a great deal of thought to the decision to march with the Kingsmen Alumni Corps. I even mentioned it to the wife, so I must be serious.

After receiving an e-mail from a former Kingsmen guard member (who also marched with me in Phantom Regiment), I figured I’d give it a shot. So, I went to the Web site — — and signed up.

I downloaded the mellophone part for Folk Song Suite (the 1972 opener). I have yet to actually whip out my horn due to a full set of braces. I anticipate they will be off by the end of the year. Since the first real rehearsal isn’t until June 2006, I’m probably good. However, I may just toot around to see just how bad it really is.

Now, the debate raging on the Internet is the use of the term “alumni”. The purists believe an alumni corps should be comprised of 100% alums of that corps. To my knowledge, the only “alumni” corps that qualifies for this is the Santa Clara Vanguard. However, if the purists wish to continue this debate for “truth in advertising”, considering that membership of most competitive corps is not 100% from, for example, Rockford, how can a corps claim to be “from” wherever they are?

So, in reality, alumni corps reflect the current state of the activity, good or bad. However, I doubt come August 2007, that anyone in the stands seeing those powder blue Kingsmen uniforms taking the field is going to think, “Hmmm, I wonder if they are 100% former Kingsmen?”

I prefer to think of it this way — the Kingsmen set the standard that most corps emulated. So, though we may not have marched Kingsmen, we were influenced by them. To me, that’s good enough.

For me, it would be an honor to put on a Kingsmen uniform and represent them as I remember them, class! Regardless of whatever internal struggles there may have been, outwardly, they were top-notch.

On September 30, I decide to dig out my horn and give it a shot. YIKES that’s not good, I’m stretching to hit an “F”, I’ve got to be able to get up to an “Ab”. My articulation needs work, but not as bad as my range (cow bell, here I come).

I practiced for about 30 minutes, then decided I was bad because the horn needed a good polishing. Too bad I didn’t have any silver polish handy! I really needed to get these braces off. I’m sure I’ll improve when they’re gone.

It’s not as hard a piece as I thought, but I am straining to recall the 6/8 time signature. I believe it translates into 2/4. So, I’ll probably try again as soon as I polish the horn. At least I’ll look good!

From what I’ve heard, so far we have about 80 brass. I believe the goal is 300 people on the field (sounds like my brother’s marching band).

So, I now have another ailment that is delaying my horn playing process — a rotator cup injury. I had an MRI and the guy wasn’t too worried. Why should he be, it’s not his shoulder. As is, it is hard to hold up the horn for very long.

I haven’t tried practicing since the most recent flair-up that produced severe pain — non-stop. A little Vicodin and the pain goes away, for a while anyway. As I type this, I really hope to be at full speed by January 1. That would mean no braces and no problem with the shoulder. Then I could REALLY start getting my chops in shape.

While I recognize this is a “one-time” performance, I look forward to the opportunity not only to perform at DCI again, but to represent the Kingsmen to the best of my abilities; to bring honor to the organization and uniform. I take this very seriously and, if I ever feel I cannot do justice to the uniform, I would step aside and let someone else carry on.

Regardless of the fact that I am not a Kingsmen alum, I challenge all of you non-Kingsmen out there who have expressed an interest in the corps, this isn’t a game. This isn’t for you to participate in and later claim to have marched Kingsmen. To me, this is a very serious commitment, one that I plan to keep.

In receiving a Kingsmen communiqué, my heart almost dropped out. It talked about a “mandatory” DCI camp which I mistakenly read as happening next August. Thankfully, I was corrected. It’s for August 2007. That’s better,   as I’m planning a trip to Madison NEXT August.

Also, we’re up over 100 brass, including a longtime acquaintance, “Soos” (BD, Copper Star, Nightfire, Dream, Del Sol and now Kingsmen). I’ve known Jesus for just about a decade now.   He has tried to get me to march every senior corps he’s been involved with (Dream, Del Sol).

Now, I think I can say I was a Kingsmen member before he signed up. Problem is, he DID march Kingsmen! I also know he is light years ahead of me in playing ability, as he has continued to practice. I recently had new bands put on (braces) and my teeth are killing me. This usually lasts about a week.

I have also been threatened by LancerFi (Drum Corps Planet screen name). She tells me I MUST march Kingsmen (she marched 2-7 and in the 1994 alumni corps). However, I can’t march in the rifle line. What, my legs not good enough? As bad as my horn chops might be right now, my rifle chops are even worse.

Besides, in my opinion, it wouldn’t be right for the Kingsmen Alumni corps to march guys in the guard and I hope we don’t. There is a rehearsal on October 30 that I am tempted to attend, even though I won’t be able to play. It would have been better if it were on the 2th, as I am leaving Monday for a business trip and need Sunday to pack.

So, it’s early November and I haven’t heard how the rehearsal went. I guess I should do more inquiries. My shoulder is getting better, gradually, but the braces are really holding me back. I have decided to wait until they come off before trying to play again.

I did attend a Thursday night rehearsal in Anaheim. It took me just over two hours to get there (probably won’t do that again). I’m not sure what I was expecting, but, as an outsider, I didn’t feel too out of place. They went through Folk Song Suite and parts of Mambo. I probably will hold out until the monthly weekend rehearsals.

It’s December 12 and we’re cranking as far as the number of people that “want” to do the corps. They had nearly 50 horns at a recent weekend rehearsal!

I’m tentatively planning on going to the January 8 rehearsal. However, since I am not convinced the braces will be off, what would I do there? We’ll see, I guess!

The mellophone parts for Mambo are, well, interesting. The guy who was arranging for them back in 1974, Kit Squires, I’m told, was a genius. I wonder where he is now and if he ever wrote for anyone else?

I’ve programmed my iPaq with all the weekend rehearsals and the camp in June. Now, I have no plausible excuse for missing (except for the occasional “family” issue.)

WOW! The January 8 rehearsal was AWESOME! It was estimated that we had 56 brass (according to some members, the Kingsmen never marched that many) probably about two dozen in the guard and, if I had to guess, which I do, around 12-16 drummers.

We worked Folk Song Suite and Exodus. I didn’t have a chanced to warm up, that and braces really were not fun. It was certainly worth the 200-mile round trip, though.

I believe we have some people from the East Coast, too! You could certainly feel the emotion as the horn line played for the rest of the corps. Members from various years gave a brief history on what it means to be a Kingsmen. One could not help but be moved and I wasn’t.

The magnitude of this project is evident to all and no one is going to let it fail.

On the down side, the shoulder issue has not progressed as the doctor had hoped. This means surgery and anywhere from two to six weeks of time off work and even more rehab. I was not pleased to learn this. I’m putting it off until late March due to work commitments.

I looked at the schedule and realized the next rehearsal was February 5 — Super Bowl Sunday. Being from Pittsburgh, I am now buying tickets to every lotto game in the hope of hitting it big so I can go to Detroit for a few days. At least rehearsal was moved up to 11:00 AM. However, if I’m not in Detroit, I’ll be in church, so I’m going to miss this one.

I talked to my brother in Fresno. He wants to march, too. His problem is bad knees and a heart ailment. I assured him we could find him a spot in the honor guard. Perhaps tambourine or cowbell in the pit!

However, this is only part one of I don’t know how many. So, stay tuned!