Karl Lawrence King
(1891 - 1971)
Composers of Great Band Works
by Brian Harris
Karl King is pictured wearing the uniform
of the Thayer Military Band of Canton, Ohio.
This was his first professional position.
Karl King's Life Timeline
Karl King was born in Paintersville, Ohio (February
21, 1891), an only child.
The family moved to Canton, Ohio when King was 11
At age 12, Karl used earnings from his newspaper
route to purchase a cornet and pay for music lessons; later switched to
baritone because of embouchure problems.
He left school at age 14 after completing the 8th
grade and took a job as a printers assistant with the local newspaper.
At 17, he had two numbers (a march and a dirge)
accepted for publication.
At age 18, he had played for two paying postions
(Thayer Military Band & Neddermeyer Band).
When 19, Karl King joined the Robinson Famous
Circus band as a baritone player.
After three years spent with different circus bands,
he joined the Barnum and Bailey Circus at age 22.
At 23, Karl accepted his first director/conductor
position with the Sells-Floto/Buffalo Bill Circus band.
By age 24, he had more than 150 compositions in
Karl married at age 25, resigning his job with the
Sells-Floto Circus band.
When 26, he accepted the position as conductor of
the Barnum and Bailey Circus band.
At age 27, he enlisted in the US Army (WWI), but
the war ended before he began service; he returned to his hometown of Canton
as director of a local band.
At age 28, he began his music publishing business
and his only son, Karl L. King, Jr., was born.
When 29, the family moved to Fort Dodge, Iowa where
he accepted the job as director of the municipal band, a position he held
until his death 52 years later.
At 32, his father died.
When he was 59, Karl King was feted with a testimonial
dinner attended by the governor of Iowa, a Congressman, other dignitaries
and leaders in the band world including Glenn Bainum, A.A. Harding, Paul
Yoder, and William Santleman (conductor of the Marine Band).
At 62, was awarded an honorary doctorate in music
from Phillips University in Enid, Oklahoma.
At 70, he conducted a clinic-concert of his works
for the Texas Bandmasters Association in San Antonio, Texas.
At age 74, his 96-year-old mother died.
During his 79th year, a disastrous fire destroyed
the building where the Fort Dodge band was headquartered, destroying most
of his original manuscripts.
at 80, Karl King conducted his 2nd to last concert
- his birthday celebration - on February 21, 1971.
Karl King died (March 31, 1971) of acute diverticulosis
at age 80 in a Fort Dodge, Iowa hospital.
Karl King with Meredith Willson
Bits of Karl King Trivia
His father, Sandusky, sold farm equipment and played
tuba in the town band.
His mother, Anna, was not involved in music.
His only formal instruction in composition consisted
of four piano lessons and one harmony lesson.
He taught himself how to orchestrate by studying
He founded and ran the K.L. King Music House, his
music publishing business.
He was mostly interested in composing and conducting,
and did not particularly enjoy teaching music lessons.
He was influential in establishing the Iowa Band
Law, which allowed cities to levy a local tax for the maintenance
and employment of a band for musical purposes. This law was eventually
adopted by 28 other states.
He was a founding member of the Iowa Bandmasters
Association and was elected to membership in the American Bandmasters Association
at that group's first convention
He was one of the first composers to write music
for the growing school band movement.
He composed over 200 marches and close to 100 other
compositions like waltzes, serenades, and galops.
He once said: Ive sung my song. It was a rather
simple one; it wasnt too involved; Im happy about it.
click to enlarge image
Karl King's Trouping Days
1910 - baritone player with the Robinson Famous
Shows under bandmaster Woody Van - Route
1911 - baritone player with the Yankee Robinson
Circus under bandmaster Theo. Stout - Route
1912 - baritone player with the Sells-Floto Circus
under bandmaster W. P. English - Route
1913 - baritone player with the Barnum & Bailey
Circus under bandmaster Ned Brill - Route
1914 - Bandmaster for Sells-Floto & Buffalo
Bill Combined Shows - Route -
1915 - Bandmaster for Sells-Floto & Buffalo
Bill Combined Shows - Route -
1916 - Bandmaster for the Sells-Floto Circus
- Route -
1917 - Bandmaster for the Barnum & Bailey
1918 - Bandmaster for the Barnum & Bailey
Karl L. King by Thomas
J. Hatton (1975);
Karl L. King: His Life and
His Music by Jess Louis Gerardi, Jr.;
Karl L. King website (http://KarlKing.us)
Karl L. King Archives,
Fort Dodge Public Library, Fort Dodge, Iowa
Page 6, Composers of Great
Band Works by Dr. Brian Harris, Director of Bands McLennan Community