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|History for Geneseo Knights||Geneseo, IL|
|Inactive Junior Corps founded in 1965||Did you march Geneseo Knights?|
|Other names: Kewanee Black Knights; merged with Emerald Knights in 1991 to form Quad City Knights|
The Quad City Knights Drum and Bugle Corps began in 1946 as a senior drum corps in Kewanee, Illinois, under the name the Black Knights. That senior group, renowned as much for its partying as for its performances, competed continuously from the forties into the early sixties. The unit was eventually disbanded and reformed in 1965 as the Kewanee Black Knights, a junior corps. This unit hit the competitive field in 1966 and set a standard for years to come by making Finals in its first competition at the VFW State Championships. |
The corps shortened its name to The Knights in 1972, both to avoid confusion with the Black Knights of Belleville, Illinois, and to free itself from a monochromatic color scheme. The '72 corps defied convention by taking the field in uniforms that were actually in character for a group called Knights. They also began playing musical selections that were in keeping with the visual theme of the uniform, incorporating the musical "Camelot" into the '72 and '73 field shows.
Competitive success accompanied the stylistic changes as the corps placed 18th in the inaugural World Championships of the newly formed Drum Corps International. The corps finished in the top 25 again in 1973, placing 19th. The Knights moved to Geneseo, Illinois, the following year, where they remained until the 1988 season.
The Knights declined sharply in '74 and '75, and were within a few hours and a few points of folding at the VFW State Championships in Springfield in 1975. The corps was in danger of not making Finals at the very show where it had experienced its first success. They did make Finals, however, and went on a member-recruitment binge, ending the season with an appearance in the 1976 VFW National Championship Finals, finishing 23rd.
The corps continued to grow steadily throughout the remainder of the '70s, making the move into DCI Class A in 1979. The move proved fruitful as the corps took fifth in 1979, fielded more than 70 members in 1980, and took second in Class A in 1980. The corps was offered a DCI tour in 1981, complete with a first season trip to California (known to members as "The Tour from Hell"). The corps took advantage of the opportunity, increased membership to more than 90 and leaped back into a 19th place finish in DCI competition.
The 1982 corps, following a mystifying midseason setback at Whitewater, reached the organizational zenith in DCI competition, finishing 15th in Montreal. The 1983 corps, however, represented the strongest competitive unit the organization would ever field. The corps finished ninth at DCI Midwest in Whitewater, only to be relegated to 16th by the time Championships rolled around in Miami.
The '85 season saw a further erosion of membership, in what would be the trend through the remainder of the '80s. The '85 show, however, was one to remember. "Jesus Christ Superstar" became a spiritual touchstone for the corps, and one of the most remembered shows ever presented by any unit. The 1985 Prelim show in Madison may well be the finest single performance this corps ever presented.
Following the '85 season, the corps embarked on a new experiment by committing to rock music. The corps fought for acceptance of this new idiom through '86, '87, and 1988, and finally seemed to have turned the corner heading into 1989. The corps had moved to the Quad Cities (Moline and Rock Island, Illinois, Davenport and Bettendorf, Iowa) in 1988, and was financially stable thanks to a corporate sponsorship from Knights Inn Motels. The corps may have changed its name to the Quad City Knights at that time. Membership was up and the corps' presentation of Yes music was perhaps their most ambitious since adopting their rock format. Fate stepped in once again, however, as the sponsorship was abruptly cancelled (Knights Inn declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy), and the organization went into a tailspin. Leadership that was described by some as disastrous resulted in the corps missing an appearance in DCI East Finals, a chaotic tour that featured a near revolt by the members, and what appeared to be a politically motivated last-place finish in DCI Quarterfinals. These events ended the organization's streak of eight consecutive years as an associate member of DCI. The corps once again found itself hours away from folding.
Again, the decision was made to forge ahead despite the considerable financial distress and bitter disappointment that followed the '89 season. The 1990 season could be described as one of simple survival. Perhaps in an attempt to distance the corps from the disaster of '89, the organization competed under the quickly abandoned name Knight Command. The corps dropped from Open Class into Division III competition, but showed some hope for the future by placing sixth in Finals with only 40 marchers.
The Grateful Dead “what a long strange trip it's been” described the 1991 season best. The 1991 corps, while still fielded as the Knights, was actually an experimental merger between the Knights of the Quad Cities and the Emerald Knights of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. While the merger was a reasonable success on the field (tenth in DCI Class A Prelims), fundamental conflict between the staffs and management of the two organizations doomed the venture to failure.
On its own again in 1992, the Knights returned to Division III, playing music from the new version of "Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves,” the first in a series of movie/musical shows. That show brought them a tenth-place finish in Prelims.
The 1993 corps will be remembered, not simply for survival of a near tragedy, but for doing so with a dignity and purpose that showed them to be true "superstars” (as in “Jesus Christ Superstar”). The drum corps world was once again reminded what a thin line we walk when a Knights bus was broadsided on a tour through Ohio. The driver of the car was killed, but miraculously no one from the corps was seriously injured. The corps pulled itself together and made an appearance at its next scheduled performance. "Jesus Christ Superstar" made a return engagement in the Quad Cities, and the corps once again made Division III Finals, this time in Jackson, Mississippi.
The 1994 corps continued an odd tradition, begun in 1974, of playing the absolute worst musical show available in years ending in 4. "Absolute Beginners" was the choice this year. Little known and poorly understood, the music forced the corps to fight for acceptance by the judging community. The Knights, two-time defending DCI East Division III Champions, slipped to third in Allentown in 1994. Disappointing, yes, but nothing compared to the eight places the corps mysteriously lost on the bus ride to Boston for Championships.
Stunned by its 11th place finish in '94, the 1995 corps was determined to reassert itself. New staff came on board, all Knights alumni from the successful 1980s, all well known throughout the marching musical community for their considerable band experience. The hand of fate appeared once again, however, this time in the form of a disastrous financial bargain. What had promised to be a year of rebirth and the beginning of a march to regain the corps' birthright as a DCI member became a financial and organizational nightmare. Hamstrung from the start, the corps limped through the season week by week, always only hours from folding. By the time the corps reached DCI Championships in Buffalo, it had little staff, no functioning board, and zero financial reserves.
The performance by the Knights in Division III Prelims in Buffalo, New York, was the last in the history of a proud and honored organization. That history is filled with setbacks, some of their own making and some that remain a mystery. The true heritage of this corps is not in its setbacks but in the sometimes slow and painful steps forward that followed each of them. The legacy that corps members carry is one of pride, perseverance, and honor.
[Matt Chamberlain; Andy Combites, RAMD 2/13/93; A History of Drum and Bugle Corps]
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