Ohio native, eighth-grade dropout, and self-taught composer Karl Lawrence King (1891-1971) got his musical start in circus bands.   There, he began writing circus marches including the classic Barnum and Bailey’s Favorite, eventually amassing an oeuvre of more than 300 light works.  Initially a cornet player, he later switched to euphonium, so he made sure to feature the low brass prominently in many of his marches.  He spent the bulk of his career in Fort Dodge, Iowa, where he conducted what would become the Karl King Band.

As the title implies, The Trombone King (1945) spotlights the trombone section throughout the piece.  John Paynter, in the score of his 1983 edition of the piece, provides these informative notes:

THE TROMBONE KING is one of those wonderfully straightforward marches from the pen of Karl L. King that combines appealing melodies with simplicity of form.  The European march formula of the A – B – A form before the Trio makes the tunes all the more familiar to the listener and exposes Karl L. King as a master of key relationships.  Although one signature is employed throughout the march, the composer alternates the minor and the relative major modes, moving in the relationships of F minor – A-flat major – F minor (Trio) A-flat major.

A quick tempo of up to 144 beats per minute for the half note is appropriate, but select a pace that permits clear definition and clean playing, especially from the low brass.  The interpretation will be best enhanced by drawing out the maximum contrast between heavily articulated and accented passages and the frequent lyrical, “singing” melodic lines.  Be sure to allow the special parts for triangle, cymbals, bells and rim shots in the snare drum to be properly exposed.  But in all of this, capture the sheer joy and fun of one of Mr. King’s finest easy marches!

In 2009, The Columbia Summer Winds dedicated its performances of this piece to the memory of Debra Silver, whose trombone and baritone playing will be forever missed by the whole band.

Now, some resources:

Karl King’s website.  Maintained by the Karl King Band in Fort Dodge, Iowa.

Karl L. King on wikipedia.

Karl King at C. L. Barnhouse publishing.  Includes an extensive biography and works list.

Notes on many of Karl King’s compositions.

The Texas A&M Wind Symphony plays Trombone King: