Emerald Knights Drum and Bugle Corps

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Based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, The Emerald Knights fielded Open Class and Division III drum corps in the years 1965-1978, 1980–1984, 1986–1990 and 2001-2002. During 1991 they were known as the Knights, and from 1992-1996 Nite Express (or NEX). The corps is no longer active in DCI.


The history of drum and bugle corps in Cedar Rapids, Iowa dates back to the 1927, beginning with the Cedar Rapids Cadets. By the late 1930s, at least three drum and bugle corps operated in Cedar Rapids, including the all-girl Cavaliers, formed in 1938. The Emerald Knights Drum and Bugle Corps began for boys in 1965. Five years later, girls were admitted. Bingo began in 1974. They were a competitive open class corps, but in 1979 and 1985 had to go inactive for a year when financial expenditures caught up with them.

Resurfacing in 1986 as an A-60 corps, EK sought as much to entertain as compete. The 1986 year was clearly a rebuilding year (scoring 19th at the DCI A-60 prelims), but by 1987 the corps had won the DCM A-60 title and was becoming popular especially for their excellent drum line. Winning the DCI A-60 prelims only to lose the finals to the Mandarins, the corps vowed to win next year, and retained most of its members in 1988. 1988 started out very promising, the corps winning its second DCM A-60 title and scoring a comfortable 15 points above the Mandarins at DCI Midwest in Whitewater a week before DCI. The Whitewater show, however, would mark the beginning of a turn of fortunes as the Mandarins scored .2 behind the first place EK at DCI prelims, and then, beat the Emerald Knights in finals a second straight year. Many members did not return for the 1989 season, opting to march in such corps as Santa Clara Vanguard (snare) and Star of Indiana (tenors.) 1989 was another rebuilding year, placing barely out of both DCM and DCI finals. In 1990, with even smaller numbers (12 horns) the corps placed out of DCM but managed to take the final 7th spot at Finals. At Finals retreat that year, EK found itself playing "John 19:41" from Jesus Christ Superstar off the field next to the corps it would merge with in 1991: the 6th place Knight Command (formerly known as The Quad City Knights).

In 1991, new corps director Matthew Daugherty brought a new laid back philosophy both in show design and work ethic. That winter an agreement to merge with the Knight Command was reached. Drum corps looking to solve membership problems and ease financial burden by merging with another drum corps would do well to consider this failed experiment. First, Matt Daugherty's vision was a new direction for both corps. Knight Command would have continued their driving rock shows, while Emerald Knights considered Jesus Christ Superstar; instead the new corps were to play a Harry Connick, Jr show, in a swinging style akin to the Bluecoats. The new uniforms, which had already been purchased by the Emerald Knights at the time of the merger, were black pants and shoes with flimsy white double-breasted 40's gangster coats with a fake sky-blue carnation in the left breast pocket, black turtlenecks, and a flimsy white fedora- something like a generic gangster Halloween costume. Second, The drumline was mostly from North Texas State University and was clearly the strongest part of the corps- thanks to Daugherty's association with John Wooten, who was to be program coordinator in the beginning, and Eric Johnson, the drum caption head that year. Drum line would continue to be based in the south throughout the Nite Express years. While Knight Command's drum staff and drum line members found themselves in secondary roles, in other sections the talent was more evenly balanced between staff and members. However (third,) it was noted at the time that the members got along much better than the staff, and by season's end the less-mature adults had squandered any chance of there being a merged Knights corps in 1992. Fourth, Knight Command had a number of proud traditions such as their round table, while the Emerald Knight's traditions were more informal, if not forgotten after 1988. It is not to be concluded that Emerald Knights did not once have proud traditions of their own, but they were mostly usurped. The prevalence of Geneseo/Quad City/Knight Command traditions caused friction among some senior members. Fifth, the corps fell short of its goal of being a Class A powerhouse, a goal which was somewhat expected in combining the nucleus of 2 drum corps and the large staff. The 65-member corps did not make either DCM or DCI finals, despite its very high drum scores.

In breaking off the merger in 1992, Matt Daugherty and John Wooten took the laid back style to its logical conclusion, forging a new identity for the Cedar Rapids corps known as Nite Express. Only a handful of Emerald Knights joined this corps (mostly in the drum line,) instead most members joined the Quad City Knights. Therefore, Nite Express was a new corps in many respects, with few connections to the Emerald Knights. Among these connections, however, was Dean Bassett, a man who had marched timpani in the Emerald Knights in the late 1970s and had remained with the corps as equipment manager until his death in 1994. He was highly respected in the Emerald Knights organization, and the Emerald Knights equipment trailer in emerald and white with its very loud sound system was the envy of many corps.

Nite Express lasted four years, 1992-1996.

In 2001, Emerald Knights briefly returned to the field as a Division III corps, playing theme to the movie "First Knight". DCI was held in Buffalo, New York that year. Some EK pre-merger staff/members were involved in Administration. The new Emerald Knights was short lived, and the corps has no known plans to reform.

Notable Moments in Corps History

1976 Drum Corps International Class A Finals 6th Place

1977 DCI North Finals 8th Place

1977 DCI Midwest Finals 10th Place

1977 American Legion Finals 5th Place

1978 Drum Corps Midwest Finals 10th Place

1982 American International Championships Finals 13th Place

1983 Drums Across the Rockies 9th Place

1983 Drum Corps Midwest Finals 9th Place

1983 Drum Corps International Quarter Finalist

1984 Drum Corps International Quarter Finalist

1984 Drum Corps International Class A Finals 7th Place

1984 Drum Corps Midwest Finals 6th Place

1987 Drum Corps International Class A-60 Finals 2nd Place

1987 Drum Corps Midwest Division III Finals 1st Place

1988 Drum Corps Midwest Division III Finals 1st Place

1988 Drum Corps International Class A-60 Finals 2nd Place

1988 DCI Midwest Class A-60 Finals 1st Place

1989 DCI Midwest Class A-60 Finals 2nd Place

1990 DCI Midwest Class A-60 Finals 4th Place

1993 Drum Corps Midwest Division III Finals 1st Place

1994 Drum Corps International Quarter Finalist

1994 Drum Corps International Division II Finals 2nd Place

1994 U.S. Open Division II Finals 2nd Place

1995 Drum Corps Midwest Finals 7th Place

1995 DCI North Finals 10th Place

1996 North American Open 3rd Place

1996 Drum Corps Midwest Finals 7th Place

1996 U.S. Coast Guard Open Finals 1st Place

1996 Drum Corps International Quarter Finalist

1996 Drum Corps International Division II Finals 3rd Place