by Lola Rossi-Meza
Born in Indio, John Stanley King was raised with all genres of music in the home, along with his four brothers; Chuck, Glenn, Ronnie and Bobbie; and two sisters; Banita and Jeanette., who are also musicians. His father played the clarinet and his mother played piano. He started playing drums on cans and would tinker on an old organ when he was eight. Being an offspring of a musical family for generations on both sides of the family, his first professional gig was when he 12 years old playing drums and singing in his Grandfather John Roy Danchack’s Dixieland band called the Desert Ramblers.
After High School, he attended COD (College of the Desert) for one year, and studied theatre, band and choir. “Toward the end of the year, there was a music camp in Pennsylvania, sponsored by Fred Waring,” said King. “It was called the Waring Workshop and COD gave me a partial scholarship to attend, and so I went to Pennsylvania for a two week summer music workshop and spent time with Fred Waring and The Pennsylvanians.”
While he was there, he wrote a song called The Waring Workshop song and everyone performed it on stage at the end of the program. After the show, King was asked to go to Mr. Waring’s dressing room. “Mr. Waring asked me if I would cut my hair, then he asked if I would like to join the Waring Tour. I said, ‘of course’.” He cut his hair, left school, and toured with them for two and a half years. They performed all over the country. “It was a blessing. Mr. Waring would do a benefit Concert every year to help raise funds for the building of The McCallum Theatre. In the lobby, there is a bust of him in the theatre because he donated and wanted so much for a facility to be built in the Desert.”
King’s Grandfather’s family were farmers originally from Arkansas. They were forced to leave their home during the “Dust Bowl” and were headed to California. However, along the way, they lived in tents in farm labor camps with several other families. “They were considered refugees because they didn’t have a home and traveled from place to place for picking crops. My Grandpa Gene, Grandma King, Uncle Bill, Uncle Harlan, Uncle John, Aunt Judy and my dad, who they called Babe because he was the little one and eight years old; formed a band, called The King Family Orchestra and played for the Square Dance in the recreation tent every Saturday night.”
They came through Imperial County and worked their way up through Northern California. While they were there, talent scouts were sent out by John Steinbeck to find some authentic Hillbilly Music for one of the scenes in the movie “Grapes of Wrath”. “They heard of my family’s music, found them and brought them to Hollywood to be in the movie. There is a big scene they were in playing their music ‘live’. There is a part in the movie where the cops were on their way to break up a party the Hillbillies were having in the recreation tent. During this part of the movie, Henry Fonda is dancing with his mom and is singing “Down In The Valley” and the camera pans across the band and it’s all my family. My Dad was playing mandolin.” While they didn’t pursue a Hollywood career, King goes on to say, “I remember when I was in High School, they would show the movie and would always stop at the part where my family was seen in the movie, and use a pointer to identify everyone.”
After their part in the movie was filmed, his Grandparents took the family back up to Northern California because they had picking to do. They were Hillbillies living off the land and doing the best they could. Later, the family moved to Banning where King’s father went to High School.
“My Mom’s side of the family were all Jazz Musicians. My Grandpa Danchack lived in Beaumont and was a trumpeter and bass player. My Mom met my Dad when she was seventeen and he was eighteen, they got married and moved to Indio. My Grandpa and Grandma Danchack moved to Cathedral City where he was a butcher by day and performed in local venues and private parties at night.I learned all the Standards from him,” shares King.
“It’s really funny. We have archives and contracts from when my Grandpa Gene was playing, where they would get paid in “pants” instead of money. They would all get new trousers for performing. Grandpa King played the Banjo until the day he passed at the age of 99. His style of Banjo picking was so unique, in 1939, the Library of Congress documented it. You can look it up on-line under John Henry King.”
King has been performing for the Parings Party for the Kraft Nabisco Golf Tournament for the past two years, where they have some of the attending Celebrities perform. “We had the pleasure of backing up one of the Gatlin Brothers, Don Felder from the Eagles, Alice Cooper and Robbie Creiger from the Doors. We had a great legendary musical moment with Alice Cooper singing “Break On Through To The Other Side” with Robbie Creiger on guitar, along with my band, a great moment of Rock and Roll.” King’s band members include Eric Frankson on fiddle, Derik Organ on drums, James East on bass, Danny Flahive on bass and Norman Merten on guitar.
John Stanley King performs every Monday from 6 until 9 p.m. at The Cork Tree Restaurant, 74-950 Country Club Drive in Palm Desert. (760) 779-0123; Every Tuesday from 6 until 9 p.m. in the Lounge and Grill at Escena Golf Club, 1100 Clubhouse Drive in Palm Springs. (760) 992-0002; Every Wednesday from 5 until 9 p.m. at the Hyatt Grand Champions, 44-600 Indian Wells Lane. (760) 346-4653; and is also there on New Year’s Eve….. 9 p.m. until 1:30 a.m. Every Thursday from 7 until 11 p.m. in the blueEmber Restaurant at Rancho Las Palmas Resort and Spa, 41-000 Bob hope Drive in Rancho Mirage. (760) 862-4581; and occasionally performs on the weekends for private parties, but enjoys having that time off to spend with his three sons Mason, Owen and Ethan, who already show an interest in music.
Most of his nieces and nephews also play instruments and sing. “Christmas is a great time for the generations of our family. We all get together and play and sing. Now all the younger musicians in the family are playing, it’s great, everyone sings in key.”
King celebrates his birthday on Monday, November 26. Even though he is working that evening, he stated, “I am very fortunate to be able to make a living at what I love to do, being a musician.”
You can contact Kristie Beasley at (760) 333-0627 or visit him on Face Book.