Most of the family members play the fiddle
I always liked this article I wrote about the King Family Band for the Piatt County Journal-Republican, though the lead about VH1’s Behind the Music is dated. Published on February 6, 2008, I’m pretty sure it was the first of many music articles I would go on to write.
The history of music bands has shown that internal relationships can often be debauchery-laden and volatile. Tune in to an episode of VH1’s “Behind the Music” for a prime example.
But the collaboration of Monticello’s King Family Band, comprised of seven siblings and their parents, Tim and Kim King, proves that the time-honored cliche of band conflict does not have to be a reality.
“I enjoy being with my family and having my whole family doing something together,” said 11-year-old Rebecca King, one of eight fiddle players in the King Family Band.
Rebecca’s mother, Kim, who also plays the fiddle, concurs with her third-youngest daughter, saying it’s not every day you see nine family members playing inspirational bluegrass-gospel music together onstage.
It’s not every day you see nine family members playing inspirational bluegrass-gospel music together onstage.
“That’s kind of what makes us unique,” said Kim of her family’s band lineup. “People really respond to that.”
Equally proud to be a part of the King Family Band is the oldest King offspring, Caleb, a 19-year-old freshman at the University of Illinois who plays multiple instruments but concentrates on the fiddle and banjo for the family band.
“Overall, I just love music,” said Caleb, who also plays in a Christian rock band called Splintered Cross with siblings, Carson, 18, and Rachel, 16, as well as two friends.
“Obviously a family band is a good way to stay connected with your family, especially now that I’m going to the U of I [and] have a lot going on there.”
With two released CDs — “Pray Praise” and “En Route” — as well as regular monthly paying gigs that include out-of-state venues, the King Family Band is on a roll.
Though Kim insists her family plays music just for the fun of it, the King Family Band’s first-place finish during the amateur talent showcase at Springfield’s Greater Downstate Indoor Bluegrass Festival last November established that the Kings possess genuine musical talent.
“We had a really good response to that … people really came up and said they really enjoyed seeing the little kids [play],” Kim said of the festival’s amateur competition, which featured 15 bands that had to be accepted prior to entering the contest.
The King family played “Highways and Hedges” and “Boil the Cabbage Down” at the Springfield competition, songs that the two youngest daughters, Renee, 6, and Robin, 4, are able to contribute their musical chops to. Renee sang lead on “Highways and Hedges.”
“That took a lot of work,” said Kim with a laugh. “[Renee] to be able to stay on her part while the others were doing harmony.”
During the live performance of “Boil the Cabbage Down,” the King kids line up and play their bows on the fiddle of the sibling next to them, a fun diversion that draws an enthusiastic response from the audience.
The band’s vocal work has improved vastly in the last year, according to Kim, though it’s an area the King Family Band is still working to improve upon.
Instrumentation, meanwhile, has always been a strong point for the group, which models itself after Branson-styled bluegrass family bands like The Duttons and The Haygoods.
The Kings also added a mandolin to their sound in the last few years, played by 14-year-old Kendall for variety. Amid all the fiddle playing and other string instruments going on, the King Family Band’s sound is grounded by bass guitarist Tim King, father and husband of the King clan.
Eldest daughter Rachel handles lead-singing duties, though much of the band’s material consists of harmonizing vocals and non-vocal songs with percussion absent.
“Our strength is in instrumentals … people like to hear the dueling banjos, rocky top, some of the foggy-mountain breakdown,” said Kim.
While Splintered Cross plays for a younger audience and more “jumping around” occurs onstage, there is also a palatable vigor to the bluegrass music, Caleb said.
“There can be a lot of energy in bluegrass, just depending on who you play for and the audience. But when the audience is there to have fun, and you’re there to have fun, it can be a really exciting experience to play music for people,” Caleb said.
Photo by Lucia Macedo