Karl Lawrence King was born February 21, 1891 in Paintersville, Ohio. His family moved to Xenia a short time later, and around the turn of the century, the King family moved to Canton, where young Karl would begin to develop an interest in bands and music. After receiving some instruction on the cornet, King switched to baritone. His first band experience was with the Thayer Military Band of Canton, while in his teens. In 1909 King spent some time as a member of bands in Columbus and also Danville, Illinois. While a member of these bands, King began to compose marches and other works. Beginning in 1910, King began a decade-long career as a circus musician, spending one season each as a baritone player in the bands of Robinson’s Famous Circus, Yankee Robinson Circus, Sells Floto Circus, and the Barnum and Bailey “Greatest Show On Earth.” He continued to write music while a member of these bands, and in 1913 wrote what would become his masterpiece, “Barnum and Bailey’s Favorite.”
In 1914 King accepted the position as bandleader on the Sells Floto/Buffalo Bill Combined Shows, a position he would hold for three seasons. In 1917 and 1918 he returned to the Barnum and Bailey Circus band, this time as its leader and conductor. Recently married and intent upon settling down, King ended his circus “trouping days” and returned to Canton in 1919, where he led the Grand Army Band. In 1920 King relocated to Fort Dodge, Iowa, where he assumed leadership of the municipal band and operated his own publishing company, the K. L. King Music House. During his tenure, the Fort Dodge band gained national recognition, and King became a beloved member of the community as well as a band musician of national and international repute. Among many honors bestowed upon King was membership in the prestigious American Bandmasters Association. He served as ABA President in 1938 and was later named an Honorary Life President. He lived in Fort Dodge for the remainder of his life, passing away on March 31, 1971. His Fort Dodge band was subsequently renamed the “Karl L. King Municipal Band” in his honor. On October 22, 2006, a life-sized bronze statue of Mr. King was unveiled on the city square in Fort Dodge, as a testament and monument to the city’s most famous musician and citizen.
As a composer, King was one of the most prolific and popular in the history of band music. He composed at least 291 works, including 185 marches, 22 overtures, 12 galops, 29 waltzes, and works in many other styles. Not only did he compose some of the most brilliant and famous marches for experienced bands at the professional and university levels; he also displayed a remarkable ability to compose first-rate music for younger, less experienced musicians and bands. His music continues to be performed worldwide by bands of all experience levels.
Visit the Karl King website: www.karlking.us