Jerrold Jimmerson has performed with the Karl King Band since 1960, playing Bass Clarinet for Karl King, W. B. Green, and Reginald Schive. He has served the band in many capacities and been the conductor since Reggie's retirement in 2003.
Simply put, the music of Karl L. King and the Fort Dodge Municipal Band have had a tremendous influence on my life. From my earliest years, I was surrounded by the music of Karl King. Growing up in Fort Dodge and attending school there, I was influenced by Mr. King at an early age through the music we would play. He would come visit our Junior High and Senior High Band rehearsals, sometimes to direct one of his marches; other times to have us read a new piece on which he was working. I particularly remember reading his The Home Town Boy, which he dedicated to Meredith Willson, while it was still in his manuscript before being published.
I grew up just a few blocks from Oleson Park, where the Bandshell is located. As a child, I loved to ride my bike to the park to view the zoo, feed the deer, ride the little train, hike through the woods, eat a picnic lunch, swim in the pool, or ride through the seats in front of the Bandshell. It was my favorite place to be in the summer, and still is today! On Sunday evenings during the summer, we could usually hear the Band playing at our house if we didnít go out to the concert.
I always loved music as a child, especially Band music. I also loved the circus when it would come to town. It would arrive by its own special train, and I would go to the railroad yards to watch it unload. When that was done, it would form a huge parade through town, going within a block of my house. Then it would set up and we always had to go to the performance.
During my Sophomore year in High School, I switched from Clarinet (which I had started playing in 4th grade) to the Bass Clarinet. That was to be one of the best decisions of my life. I really wanted to play in Mr. Kingís Band, so I went to his music store downtown to visit with him about it. When I went in, he wasnít in the front of his store, so I wandered through the shelves of music to the back. There he was, putting away music. The picture is from a magazine article about him, but it looks just like he did the first time I ever met him.
I told him I would really like the opportunity to play in his band, and he asked me what I played. When I told him the Bass Clarinet, his response to that was that the Band hadnít had a Bass Clarinetist for a few years and he would like to have one again, so he invited me to come to a Friday night rehearsal. I went, took my place, and Mr. King started to rehearse the band for the evening. About halfway through rehearsal, he stopped the band in the middle of one of our songs, pointed at me, and told Arnold Bode, the bandís manager, This kidís pretty good. See that he gets a uniform before he goes home tonight.
He then went on to finish the rehearsal. When I left that evening, proudly carrying my King Band uniform, I was to begin a career that would allow me 11 years of playing under Mr. Kingís baton before his death, and a total of 43 years as a player in the Band, later under the direction of my college bandmaster, W. B. Green, and then another friend and acquaintance, Reginald R. Schive. I no longer play in the Band since I became the conductor, but I still have the same pride in the Band and in that uniform that I had some 45 years ago.
Mr. King was also very influential in my decision about where to go to college. One Friday night during rehearsal for one of the winter concerts, he came back after rehearsal and sat down beside me. He asked what I was going to do next year after I graduated from High School. I told him I had decided in 7th grade that I wanted be a Band Director someday, and thought I would probably go to Iowa State Teacherís College (now UNI) to learn to do that. However, finances were a big issue for me, since I had to pay for college myself. He told that Bill Green was doing a fine job at Buena Vista and suggested maybe I should go up there and look it over. One Saturday, I rode the train to Storm Lake by myself, walked around the town and the college, and met Mr. Green and his wife for a late breakfast. Mr. Green took me over to the college for a tour, and I was very impressed. We discussed finances and he told me there might be some scholarship help available, and he gave me a hint on a job as well. I went uptown and met the owner of a store there, who usually hired band students. Fortunately, there was a job open the next fall, and I could have it if I wanted it. When I arrived home that evening, I knew that this was what I was supposed to do with my life.
Just recently I learned from Mr. Greenís wife that Karl King had placed a phone call after he talked to me, encouraging Mr. Green to invite me there. Mr. King told Bill Green that he had been watching over this young man (me) for a few years, that I was being raised by my grandmother, that I wanted to become a band director, and that I had no financial means to do that. He was concerned about me and wanted Bill Green to watch over me for the next four years. When I graduated from college, I asked Mr. King to write a recommendation for my teaching credentials. He did that, and then sent me a postcard to let me know it was done.
I have always been extremely proud of this note from him. It simply says, Dear Jerry, Filled out your form & mailed it today. Gave you a No. 1 rating on all points, which you richly deserve! Karl L. King
I always tried to make my students aware of the influence of Karl L. King and his music wherever I taught during my 37-year career. At the first school I was in, Crestland Community, I brought a busload of students to Karl Kingís 80th birthday concert. One of my students brought along a camera that day and took several pictures, which I have included here. Little did any of us know that these would be taken just 6 short weeks before Mr. Kingís death in 1971.
The pictures I have included show Mr. King taking a bow after one selection (with Reg Schive on 1st Clarinet at the extreme left of the picture), a young Bass Clarinetist (me) concentrating on his music, and a picture of Mr. King himself.
The Band has provided my family with many wonderful experiences together. My wife, Alice, has been a tremendous supporter of my King band years. She has been a faithful listener at every concert since we were married 39 years ago now. All three of my sons grew up playing and going to Band concerts at the City Square or in Oleson Park. All three sons went on to play at various times in the King Band themselves. My oldest son, Kevin, played saxophone for several years, while my second son, Bryan, played trombone.
The picture of the 3 of us shows Bryan on the left, me in the center, and Kevin on the right. Later, our third son, Deron, played trombone for several seasons also. Deron and I are pictured in front of the Bandshell. Having my sons take an interest in music and play with the Band is one of my proudest moments in my years with the Band. Deron has gone to be a High School Band Director himself, first at Carroll, then at Atlantic, and now at Waseca, Minnesota. He now educates his students about the life and music of Karl King.
There have been many highlights for me through the years, which are chronicled by other people elsewhere on these pages. In addition to the 80th Birthday concert, I would have to include among my favorite highlights our trip to the Bi-Centennial celebration in Washington, D. C. in 1976; our performances at various conventions, such as the IBA, Windjammerís, and ASBDA through the years; performing with the Sousa re-creation concert band directed by Jimmy Saied; and the 100th anniversary of Mr. Kingís birth concert in 1991 that was taped and shown on Iowa Public Television.
For me, it has been a tremendous experience and one that so far has gone by much too quickly. I feel that I am very fortunate to have known and been influenced by such wonderfully talented people like Mr. King, Mr. Green, and Mr. Schive, along with the many, many other members who have proudly worn the King Band uniform through the years.
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