I graduated from Fort Dodge Senior High in 1967. I was a member of the band as well and the band at what was then North Junior High. I was in a very popular band during my high school years with a good friend and fellow Dodger, Roger Dunker. When I left Fort Dodge, I went to college in California where I continued my music education and embarked on a wonderful professional career in music.
My mother knew Ruth King from her childhood days in Rutland as she was taken by her mother to the King music store on Central Avenue in Fort Dodge where Ruth would demonstrate music on the piano for customers. I don't remember the store but visited the King office (which I believe was near 8th Street and Central). I used to visit the Kings in their home on 4th Avenue and 11th street (I believe that is where their brick bungalow is located; just around the corner from the old North Junior High school building).
While I was is high school, I became interested in composing and arranging and inspired by the of music of Henry Mancini (especially the Pink Panther). At the suggestion of my high school band director and a member of the City Band, Mr. Keith Altemeier, I asked Karl how is could study composition in Fort Dodge. He very quickly offered to tutor me and I immediately accepted his offer. I learned much about composing music and especially band and circus music.
After meeting Karl, before the tutoring, I would visit him at his house and sometimes he and Ruth would invite me to stay for dinner. He would answer many of my questions and talked a great deal about his career and his love of music. He told me one thing that I have never forgotten. When I told him that I was amazed that he could compose his great works without formal training, he told me, "Studies only teach you the rules and how others have composed. They cannot teach you how to compose. That has to come from inside you - from your heart." (Nearly the exact quote since it made such an impression with me). The interesting thing about him telling me that is that every tutor I had said the same thing in a little different way. A few years later, when I was in high school, I asked him if he would teach me how to compose. I remember that he seemed a bit flattered and was very agreeable (with a big Karl King smile). Ruth was enthused also as it gave Karl something different to do and peaked his interest. Their home was very warm and comfortable and filled with photos and memorabilia. At the risk of sounding sentimental, I remember their home as a house filled with love. Karl and Ruth were a great couple and I could recognize their strong bond and love for each other.
He gave me instruction at his house, at the kitchen table. We would look at the music he wrote and he would tell me why he composed something the way he did. He also taught me the form of everything we studied. We did not have a schedule for my lessons and he did not really give me an assignment. I would take notes and go home to compose a little piece based on what he told me. We would look at my scratches on the music paper and discuss what I did. He would pencil in some corrections and sometimes rewrite a passage elsewhere on the page (with arrows pointing from the corrected section). He taught me how to compose in my head and gave me a handwritten chart of the range of the various instruments - including orchestral strings. We would then sit at his kitchen table and he would watch me write a "sketch" on paper and put in his two cents as we progressed, making little corrections. The studies were interrupted when I left for California where my college band director and I "bonded" as he was a great fan of Karl. A good lesson in social politics. Hahaha.
Karl had an interesting personality in that he was very disciplined and focused, but also had a good sense of humor. He was not shy about giving his opinion, and sometimes it was a little "gruff" for the 1960's. I couldn't help but smile and sometimes laugh at his remarks. He would look at me with just a hint of a smile as he know he was teaching me more than music. Occasionally, he would swear but always apologized for his indiscretions. But then, that apology was always accompanied by a little wink. Karl would not accept any payment from me as he told me it was his obligation to pass on his knowledge to anyone who asked for it. He was always ready to share and loved to give. Once I started to drift from his teaching and asked about orchestral composing. He gave me a look of disdain and told me he did not compose for orchestra or the symphony; he was a band composer and could only teach me about band composing. I apologized for asking and he put his hand on my shoulder and smiled as he told me, "Never be afraid to ask. That is how you learn." Karl, and Ruth, taught me more about life and living than I think they were aware of.
Our sessions usually began around 1:00 pm on Saturdays (after he and Ruth had lunch together). The lesson went on without break until Ruth needed the kitchen to prepare dinner. I was always invited and always accepted. Karl and I would adjourn to the living room where he would tell me stories about his musical life and experiences. Some of them were really funny and he also loved revealing when the joke was on him. He talked about the bond that developed between musicians and the many long friendships he had. I was a substitute player in the band as I played the upright bass, but not tuba or sousaphone. I would sub for Dick Johnson (on bass drum and cymbals) when he could not play, which was not often. (Dick was a local TV personality on KQTV). Keith put me on cymbals in the marching band but allowed me to play the bass in the band (and the orchestra, of course). Keith would always give me a raised eyebrow when I would rewrite the bass parts for many band and orchestra music, but he never really complained. Hahaha. While in college, I played cymbals for the marching band and the bass in the concert band.
I have nearly all the papers and exercises from those studies in my personal storage in Los Angeles. On my next trip to LA, I will look through them to see if there might be something of interest to your archives. I also have the first orchestral arrangement I ever wrote. Keith Altemeier allowed me to do an arrangement for the high school orchestra and a small choir of the current hit song, "The Shadow Of Your Smile." When I completed it and copied the individual parts myself, he allowed me to hand it to the orchestra and conduct a reading. I was incredibly excited to hear the orchestra breath life into my notes on the paper. I solicited volunteers for the choir, but they were not very consistent in rehearsing. After a few weeks of struggle, I met with Keith and explained that I did not think I could have everything ready in time for the spring orchestra concert. He agreed and allowed me to withdraw from the performance. We were both disappointed. I still have the manuscript for that arrangement and whenever I run into is, I read through it and laugh at how little I knew at that time. Years later in LA, I became good friends with the song's composer, Johnny Mandel, who is also a great arranger. I showed him my score one time and we both had a good laugh. However, it sounded very good and creative. Keith gave me a nice compliment.
|Don Walker was the vocal instructor at the high school and directed the "Fort Dodge Mens Civic Glee Club" (Reggie Schive wrote many of the arrangements for their annual spring show held in the auditorium of South Junior High). Don left before my senior year to teach in Fountain Valley, California. We reconnected in 1979 when he was teaching at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, California. In addition to teaching vocal music, he also taught math which shocked me. I had not idea that he has that interest also. Don also conducted the local community choir, the "Saddleback Concert Chorale" and he asked me to do an arrangement for them. I wrote a 30 minutes suite from Gershwin's "Porgy and Bess" and Don was very pleased. He declared me the resident composer/arranger for the choir and I did more arranging for them. Eventually, I got too busy with my professional work to devote much time to the choir. Don always seemed to be a stern task master in high school, but he became "Californiaized" and was a pretty mellow cat when we worked together in the early 1980's. I wrote a special arrangement of the "Hallelujah Chorus" for his retirement party. The new lyrics were personal and quite sarcastic; Don and the audience laughed until they cried. We lost contact when I moved to London, England where I composed for British TV and several small European films, in addition to arrangements for the London Symphony Orchestra, the BBC Orchestra, the Royal Philharmonic, and the English Chamber Orchestra. I first went to London in 1978 with Henry Mancini and his producer Joe Reisman (Joe was my best man when I married my second wife).|
Back in Los Angeles, I reconnected with Mancini who recommended I study with Academy Award (Oscar) winning composer and orchestrator, Hugo Friedhofer. I continued my studies with Elmer Bernstein, Nelson Riddle, Earle Hagen, Jerry Goldsmith, and others. At this time, I was getting jobs composing for cheap films and orchestrating for some television composers. Keith Altemeier told me during one of our phone conversations (we stayed in touch) that the City Band in Fort Dodge recorded an album of King's music. I immediately ordered two copies. One for me, and one for Mancini who grew up playing in a band in Pennsylvania. I took the album to Henry's office and gave it to him personally. He was delighted and asked me how I came about the album. I explained by background and relationship to Karl and Mancini expressed great interest. He then asked it I could compose circus music. I replied that I could do that "in my sleep." He laughed and then paused to think. He then told me he was going to be working on a George Roy Hill film starring Robert Redford about barn stormers in the 1920's, post WWI. Then he asked the magic question, "Would you be interesting is helping with the orchestrations on this project?" My God! My idol just asked me to work with him. I took no time to think about it and said I would be very interested. That was my first involvement with a major budget film and the start of a long relationship with Henry Mancini that lasted until his death in 1994. I was also the start of a wonderful career in music that allowed me to meet many, many big names of the film and music industries, and to work with Elmer Bernstein, Lalo Schifrin, Jerry Fielding, Jerry Goldsmith, John Williams, Alex North, and the renowned MIklos Rozsa. I met, worked with, and became friends with many of the musicians I admired while still a student in Fort Dodge. I became friend with many "stars" that I worked with over the years, from Stevie Wonder to Barbara Streisand, from the Boston Pops Orchestra to the London Symphony Orchestra, recording at every major film and recording studio in Hollywood as well as Abbey Road Studios in London (where I lived for 1 1/2 years while composing and arranging music). I have had a wonderful life in music and have some wonderful memories.
I could say I owe my career in music to Karl L. King, but that might not be the full story. However, if were not for him teaching me how to compose marches and circus music, I would not have been given the opportunity to work me my idol, Henry Mancini. True, I might well have had a career without his tutelage, but it gave me the credential to have at the right time - gave me a "break" - and that is what Hollywood has always been about. I possessed the tools that were needed at that time.
I now live in Hilo, Hawaii and am composing and arranging music for the high quality Hawaii County Band. They play the music of Karl L. King and other Iowans. And they play is very well. I feel very proud and fortunate to have grown up in Iowa in the 50's and 60's, to have experienced the great school music programs in Iowa at that time, to have met Karl L. King and especially to have received his tutelage as a budding young composer.
I have no regrets.
Anthony (Tony) Adams