Velvet Knights Drum and Bugle Corps
The Velvet Knights had their origins in the Anaheim Explorer Scouts Drum and Bugle Corps, founded by Don Porter in 1958. Practicing on military installations, the corps and its members adopted a very military style, even when out of uniform. In 1963, the Explorer Scouts corps split into two new corps, the Anaheim Kingsmen and the Velvet Knights, largely, it has been claimed, because the members who went into the Kingsmen were "not traditional enough" for those who became the Velvet Knights.
Success came quickly for the Velvet Knights; within two years, the corps won the 1965 California State American Legion Championship. Throughout the remainder of the 1960s, the corps was a West Coast powerhouse, as were the Kingsmen, with the two corps dominating the state championships. (The two corps often also saw members move from one corps to the other, since their corps halls faced each other on opposite sides of the street.) The Velvet Knights started touring nationally by 1968, with mixed success; the made finals at both CYO Nationals and American Legion Nationals in 1970. Although the corps was founded on the basis of maintaining tradition, it was still innovative; the corps was credited with being the first to perform with G-F bugles during an appearance at Chicago's Civic Opera House in 1968, and they pioneered electronics on the field in 1968, when they used an electronic bugle that could sound like several other instruments.
During the early 1970s, the Velvet Knights struggled to attract members, although they did manage to recruit many very good musicians, which tended to offset their smaller numbers. The corps attended its first Drum Corps International World Championships at Whitewater, Wisconsin in 1973, finishing prelims in twenty-ninth place among forty-eight corps. The corps did not, however, return to DCI until 1977, when they finished in 25th place in Denver, earning DCI Associate membership. They repeated their placement in 1978, again in Denver. 1979, though, saw the Velvet Knights drop to 33rd place in Birmingham, Alabama. In 1978, corps members were hired by the California Surf professional soccer team to create the sound of pounding surf on tympani with special electronics effects, and in 1979, the corps appeared in the feature film, "Americathon".
The Velvet Knights took 1980 off from the competition field, marching only a parade corps, while the staff developed a five-year plan to take the corps to DCI Finalist status. When the corps re-entered the competition field, it was with a whole new, more relaxed attitude. In 1982, the corps abandoned their traditional cadet-style uniforms for Hawaiian shirts, red Vans sneakers, and straw hats, and "2 COOL VK" was born, a laid-back, West Coast counterpart for the East Coast's highly entertaining Bayonne Bridgemen. The scores and placements at DCI rose each year, thirty-third in 1981, twenty-first in 1982, seventeenth in 1983, and VK surpassed their goal by finishing in twelfth place and DCI Finals in 1984, the fourth year of their five-year plan. The corps' success and its newfound, enormous popularity meant that the corps not only retained its members (with only about ten leaving for other corps in a five yer period) but also had potential members coming from all over the country to audition. VK finished in eleventh place in 1985 and twelfth in 1986. In 1987, former Bridgeman director Bobby Hoffman joined the Velvet Knights staff, and his imagination brought a new level of absurdity to the corps, which vaulted to a seventh place finish that season and eighth the next, due to a high level of musicianship that was often masked by the corps' wild on-field antics.
VK achieved a status as "The Clown Princes of Drum Corps", and entertained crowd all across the United States and Canada. However, the level of musicianship gradually declined. The corps finished in eleventh in 1989, tenth in 1990, and dropped from Finals with a fourteenth place finish in 1991. VK returned to DCI's Top Twelve in 1992, placing in tenth, but that would be the corps' final Finals appearance. The corps could only manage to place thirteenth to sixteenth in 1993 through 1996. In its attempts to regain the Top Twelve, the Velvet Knights were acquiring debt by paying more to staff members than their fund-raising bingo operation could cover. Then, following the 1996 season, one staff member challenged the practice, that was prevalent throughout drum corps at the time, of classifying staff members as independent contractors. The complaint brought about an audit by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) just prior to the 1997 season. The IRS determined that the staff members were employees, rather than contractors, and that not only was the corps responsible for paying federal taxes and medicare costs for that year, but also for several previous years, plus penalties and interest for prior non-compliance. This decision brought about the immediate demise of the Velvet Knights Drum and Bugle Corps.
Show Summary (1972-1996)
|1972||Dialogue In Dissonance / Patriotic Songs / Cincinnati Kid / Blues In The Night / South Rampart Street Parade / The Long And Winding Road||---||---|
|1973||El Conquistador / Patriotic Songs / Frankenstein / Captain From Castile / Firebird Suite / Gift Horse / Malagueña / Love Theme (from Romeo and Juliet)||62.35||29th|
|1974||España Cañí / Battle Hymn Of The Republic / Les Preludes / Eleanor Rigby||---||---|
|1975||Mondo Cañí / El Capitan / From The Ramparts / Tribute To The Duke / The Farewell||---||---|
|1976||Pontieo / Brass Eel / Sneaking Up Behind You / Caravan Medley / Kachasa / El Gato Triste||---||---|
|1977||Left Bank Express / Groovin' Hard / Chelsea Bridge / Critic's Choice / Star Wars||74.25||25th|
|1978||Left Bank Express / Groovin' Hard / Fantas / I'll Write A Song For You||70.45||25th|
|1979||Dance With Me George / The Story In Your Eyes / Fantasy / Trepak (from The Nutcracker) / Squonk / I'll Write A Song For You||65.35||33rd|
|1980||First Suite for Band in E-Flat / Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah / Bandstand Boogie / You Can't Take That Away From Me / Stella By Starlight||Parades||Only|
|1981||Excelsior Fanfare / Temptation / Council Grove Groove / Armando's Rhumba / Echano / Let Me Try Again||57.95||33rd|
|1982||Fanfare / Hooray For Hollywood / Left Bank Express / Piano Concerto in F / Temptation / Catching The Sun||70.20||21st|
|1983||Fanfare / Hooray For Hollywood / Seaside Samba / Shagrila (from Jaws) / Centurian Starfire / Beautiful Things / Ending||71.45||17th|
|1984||NBC Chimes Festival / Centurian Starfire / Seaside Samba / All Night Long / Ending||83.20||12th|
|1985||Peter Gunn / NBC Chimes Festival / The Storm / Final Analysis / Catching The Sun / Ending||85.30||11th|
|1986||James Bond||James Bond Theme / From Russia With Love / Goldfinger / Live And Let Die / For Your Eyes Only / Ending||82.60||12th|
|1987||Magical Mystery Tour - Part I||Magical Mystery Tour / Chinatown / Brazil / Cannibal Fun Drum Solo / Surfer Girl / California Girls||90.00||7th|
|1988||Magical Mystery Tour - Part II||Magical Mystery Tour / Zorba The Greek / Malagueña / Cannibal Fun Drum Solo / There's No Place Like Home / America The Beautiful / Yankee Doodle Dandy /
You're A Grand Old Flag
|1989||Yo Mambo / Velvet Knights in Tunisia / Sing, Sing, Sing / 'Round Midnight / Nutcracker's Ball / Kansas City||87.00||11th|
|1990||Universal Studios/Hollywood Tour||Pomp And Circumstance / Summertime (from Porgy And Bess) / School's Out / Fox Fanfare / Hooray For Hollywood / Singin' In The Rain / Wizard Of Oz / The Sea Hawk /
Bottle Dance (from Fiddler on the Roof) / Keystone Cops / Slow Burn / The Summer Of '42 / Born To Be Wild
|1991||A Knight At The Apollo||Can't Turn You Loose / Respect / I Feel Good / Unchained Melody / My Girl / Ending||83.30||14th|
|1992||Magical Mystery Tour - Part III||Magical Mystery Tour / Brazil / Kodo Thunder / Carol Of The Russian Children / The Party's Over (from The Bells are Ringing) / Trepak (from The Nutcracker) / Hungarian Rhapsody||86.60||10th|
|1993||Kartoon Klassics||The Storm (from William Tell) / Marriage of Figaro / William Tell Overture / Hungarian Rhapsody||83.10||13th|
|1994||A Midsummer Knight's Dream||What's This? (from The Nightmare Before Christmas) / Making Christmas (from The Nightmare Before Christmas) / Beetlejuice / Love On Ice (from Edward Scissorhands) /
Hot, Hot, Hot / Oyelo
|1995||Harlequin Carnival||Lau Flora / Afrika / Starfish||74.70||15th|
|1996||Magical Mystery Tour In Space||Magical Mystery Tour / Also Sprach Zarathustra / Theme from The Jetsons / Walking In Space (from Interstellar Suite) / Hostility (from Interstellar Suite) /
Ilia's Theme (from Star Trek: The Motion Picture) / Journey Home
- A History of Drum & Bugle Corps, Vol. 2; Steve Vickers, ed.; Drum Corps World, pub.; 2003