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.
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 Anaheim 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; they 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 crowds 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. The loss of a Finals position also lead to a drop in the average age of the corp so that within 3 years, the average age of the corps was 17. In its attempts to regain the Top Twelve, the Velvet Knights were acquiring debt by among other things paying more to staff members than their fund-raising bingo operation could cover. 1992 was the first year the corps started spending more than fundraising allowed, so that by 1994, each tour started with the corps already in debt up to $100,000. Along with the decline of Bingo as a fundraising source with the legalization of Indian Casinos in California, the corps finances were being stretched to a breaking point as early as 1993. Following the 1996 season, one staff member approached the IRS and 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)
Pale blue background indicates DCI Class Finalist; pale green background indicates DCI semifinalist.
|1972||Dialogue In Dissonance by Christopher "Kit" Squires / Patriotic Songs (Undetermined) / Cincinnati Kid by Lalo Schifrin /
Blues In The Night by Harold Arlen & Johnny Mercer / South Rampart Street Parade by Ray Bauduc & Bob Haggart /
The Long And Winding Road by Lennon–McCartney
|1973||El Conquistador by Hugo Montenegro / Patriotic Songs (Undetermined) / Frankenstein by Edgar Winter /
Captain From Castile by Alfred Newman / Firebird Suite by Igor Stravinsky / Gift Horse by Steve Spiegl /
Malagueña by Ernesto Lecuona / Love Theme (from Romeo and Juliet) by Nino Rota
|1974||España Cañí by Pascual Marquina Narro / Battle Hymn Of The Republic by William Steffe & Julia Ward Howe /
Les Preludes by Franz Liszt / Eleanor Rigby by John Lennon & Paul McCartney
|1975||Mondo Cane by Riz Ortolani & Nino Oliviero / El Capitan by John Philip Sousa /
From The Ramparts (Unknown) / Tribute To The Duke (Undetermined) / The Farewell (Unknown)
|1976||Pontieo by José Carlos Capinam and Edu Lobo / Brass Eel by Ary Barroso and Bob Russell /
Sneaking Up Behind You by Randy Brecker / Caravan Medley by Juan Tizol (& Others?) /
Kachasa (Unknown) / El Gato Triste by Chuck Mangione
|1977||Left Bank Express by Pete Jackson / Groovin' Hard by Don Menza / Chelsea Bridge by Billy Strayhorn /
Critic's Choice by Oliver Nelson / Star Wars by John Williams
|1978||Left Bank Express by Pete Jackson / Groovin' Hard by Don Menza / Fantasy by Maurice White, Verdine White, & Eddie del Barrio /
I'll Write A Song For You by Philip Bailey, Steve Beckmeier, and Al McKay
|1979||Dance With Me George by David Pack, Joe Puerta, Christopher North, & Burleigh Drummond (Ambrosia) /
The Story In Your Eyes by Justin Hayward / Fantasy by Maurice White, Verdine White, & Eddie del Barrio /
Trepak (from The Nutcracker) by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky / Squonk by Peter Gabriel /
I'll Write A Song For You by Philip Bailey, Steve Beckmeier, & Al McKay
|1980||Parade Corps||First Suite for Band in E-Flat by Gustav Holst / Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah by Allie Wrubel & Ray Gilbert /
Bandstand Boogie by Charles Albertine / You Can't Take That Away From Me by George Gershwin & Ira Gershwin /
Stella By Starlight by Victor Young
|1981||Excelsior Fanfare (Unknown) / Temptation by Nacio Herb Brown & Arthur Freed / Council Grove Groove by Frank Mantooth /
Armando's Rhumba by Chick Corea / Echano by Chuck Mangione / Let Me Try Again by Paul Anka
|1982||Catching the Sun||Fanfare by Wayne Downey / Hooray For Hollywood by Richard A. Whiting & Johnny Mercer /
Left Bank Express by Pete Jackson / Piano Concerto in F by George Gershwin /
Temptation by Nacio Herb Brown & Arthur Freed / Catching The Sun by Jay Beckenstein
|1983||Birth of the Shark||Fanfare by Wayne Downey / Hooray For Hollywood by Richard A. Whiting & Johnny Mercer /
Seaside Samba by Mitch Talevi / Shagrila (from Jaws) by John Williams /
Centurian Starfire & Beautiful Things by Joseph Curiale / Ending by Dave Elder
|1984||Chimes Festival All Knight||NBC Chimes Festival by Tommy Newsom / Centurian Starfire by Joseph Curiale / Seaside Samba by Mitch Talevi /
All Night Long (All Night) by Lionel Richie / Ending by Dave Elder
|1985||Peter Gunn in the Sun||Peter Gunn Theme by Henry Mancini / NBC Chimes Festival by Tommy Newsom / Beyond The Storm by Lee Ritenour /
Final Analysis by Don Ellis / Catching The Sun by Jay Beckenstein / Ending by Dave Elder
|1986||James Bond||James Bond Theme by Monty Norman / From Russia With Love by John Barry, Lionel Bart, & Monty Norman /
Goldfinger by John Barry / Live And Let Die by Linda McCartney & Paul McCartney /
For Your Eyes Only by Bill Conti / Ending by Dave Elder
|1987||Magical Mystery Tour - Part I||Magical Mystery Tour by John Lennon & Paul McCartney / Chinatown (Undetermined) / Brazil by Ary Barroso & Bob Russell /
Cannibal Drum Solo (Unknown) / Surfer Girl by Brian Wilson / California Girls by Brian Wilson & Mike Love
|1988||Magical Mystery Tour - Part II||Magical Mystery Tour by John Lennon & Paul McCartney / Zorba The Greek by Mikis Theodorakis /
Malagueña by Ernesto Lecuona / Cannibal Fun Drum Solo (Unknown) / There's No Place Like Home (Traditional) /
America The Beautiful by Samuel A. Ward & Katharine Lee Bates /
Yankee Doodle Dandy & You're A Grand Old Flag by George M. Cohan
|1989||A Velvet Knight in Tunisia||Yo Mambo by Charles Argersinger / Velvet Knights in Tunisia by Dizzy Gillespie & Frank Paparelli /
Sing, Sing, Sing by Louis Prima / 'Round Midnight by Thelonious Monk /
Nutcracker's Ball by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky / Kansas City by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller
|1990||Universal Studios/Hollywood Tour||Summertime (from Porgy And Bess) by George Gershwin & Dubose Heyward / School's Out for Summer by Alice Cooper /
20th Century Fox Fanfare by Alfred Newman / Hooray For Hollywood by Richard A Whiting & Johnny Mercer / Singin' In The Rain (from Singin' in the Rain) by Nacio Herb Brown & Arthur Freed / Wizard of Oz by E.Y. Harburg & Harold Arlen / The Sea Hawk by Eric Wolfgang Korngold /
Bottle Dance (from Fiddler on the Roof) by Jerry Bock & Sheldon Harnick /
Keystone Cops / Slow Burn by Chick Corea / The Summer of '42 by Michel Legrand / Born to be Wild by Bruce Springsteen
|1991||A Knight At The Apollo||Can't Turn You Loose & Respect by Otis Redding / I Feel Good by James Brown / Unchained Melody by Alex North & Hy Zaret / My Girl by Smokey Robinson & Ronald White / Ending by Brad Pearson||83.30||14th|
|1992||Magical Mystery Tour - Part III||Magical Mystery Tour by John Lennon & Paul McCartney / Brazil by Ary Barroso & Bob Russell / Kodo Thunder / Carol Of The Russian Children (from Russian Christmas Music) by Alfred Reed /
The Party's Over (from The Bells are Ringing) by Jule Styne, Betty Comden, & Adolph Green / Trepak (from The Nutcracker) by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky / Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 by Franz Liszt
|1993||Kartoon Klassics||The Storm (from William Tell) by Gioachino Rossini / The Marriage of Figaro by Wolfgang A. Mozart / William Tell Overture by Gioachino Rossini / Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 by Franz Liszt||83.10||13th|
|1994||A Midsummer Knight's Dream||What's This? & Making Christmas (from The Nightmare Before Christmas),
Theme from Beetlejuice, & Love On Ice (from Edward Scissorhands) by Danny Elfman /
Hot, Hot, Hot by Alphonsus Cassell / Oyelo by Eddie Palmen
|1995||Harlequin Carnival||Lau Flora, Afrika, Starfish All by Airto||74.70||15th|
|1996||Magical Mystery Tour In Space||Magical Mystery Tour by John Lennon & Paul McCartney / Also Sprach Zarathustra by Richard Strauss / Theme from The Jetsons by Hoyt S. Curtin / Walking In Space & Hostility (from Interstellar Suite) by Amin Bhatia /
Ilia's Theme (from Star Trek: The Motion Picture) by Jerry Goldsmith / Journey Home
- A History of Drum & Bugle Corps, Vol. 2; Steve Vickers, ed.; Drum Corps World, pub.; 2003
- "California State American Legion Championships". Maher Associates. Inc. Retrieved August 12, 2015.
- "History of Velvet Knights". Maher Associates, Inc. Retrieved April 10, 2012.
- "Song History for Velvet Knights". Maher Associates, Inc. Retrieved April 3, 2015.