If you think of longevity with rock bands, the Rolling Stones are the first that comes to mind on the international music scene. In the Roanoke community, look no further than The Kings, a Roanoke based band that has been in existence for over 53 years.
I had the opportunity to meet the band members of the Kings and attend their July 5th concert at Elmwood Park. Along with the Kings, DJ Jerry English was laying down danceable tunes before and during intermission times. Many in the crowd danced to the music as DJ English played tunes from legendary Carolina Beach bands like the Tams, Band of Oz and Jim Quick.
DJ English was kind enough to allow me to shadow him during the entire evening. I had an excellent vantage point from my seat next to him, observing his DJ duties and interacting with the band. I was extremely impressed with the friendliness and hospitality of the Kings band members.
Prior to the Kings opening first set, I met the members of the band and the man that founded the group, Perry Caligan. Caligan started the band, then known as The Royal Kings, 53 years ago and was the lead singer and lead guitarist. He now acts as the business owner of Kings Entertainment Agency.
From 1969 until 1980, The Royal Kings were the house band for the Roanoke nightclub The Kings Inn. The current leader and manager of the band, Larry Wheeling, joined the band during February 1969. It was a thrill for me to be able to meet both Caligan and Wheeling at this event.
Before the concert began, I asked both Caligan and Wheeling about some of the bands that The Royal Kings opened up for during their days performing at The Kings Inn. Here are just a few of the artists they mentioned: The Four Tops, Ides of March, Chairmen of the Board and Billy Stewart.
Over the years there have been many members playing with the Kings. However, Wheeling has been with the band ever since he joined in 1969. Joining Larry Wheeling in the 2018 edition of the band are his brothers Brian Wheeling and Randy Wheeling. Below are the current 7 members of the Kings:
Brian Jones—guitar bass
Terry Brown—lead singer
Tim Martin—lead singer and guitar
Larry Wheeling—Trumpet and Keyboards
Randy Wheeling—Trumpet and Trombone
The Kings official motto is “These guys play everything.” That slogan is accurate.
With a total of 29 songs during their two-sets, the Kings had a wide variety of musical styles on their set list. Basically the Kings play all types of dance music: From Motown to current chart topping songs, the band keeps the groove going with guitars, bass, drums and a brass section. Plus the vocals of Terry Brown and Tim Martin makes the Kings a top-notch band.
For a majority of the songs performed in concert, Terry Brown takes the lead singing vocals. For the remainder of the Kings songs, Tim Martin provides lead vocals for the band. This combination of vocalists gives the Kings a nice balance with the various styles of music played during concerts.
The Kings opened up their first set of the evening with the classic Chicago song, ‘Does Anybody Really Know What Time It is.” Other highlights during the first part of the concert includes covers of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together”, Looking Glass’ “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)”, the Spinners’ “I’ll Be Around” and KC & the Sunshine Band’s “Boogie Shoes.’
Towards the end of the first set, Tim Martin sang the Old Crow Medicine Show song “Wagon Wheel” which actually mentions the name of Roanoke in the lyrics of this tune:
Walking to the south out of Roanoke
I caught a trucker out of Philly had a nice long toke
But he’s a heading west from the Cumberland Gap
To Johnson City, Tennessee
And I got to get a move on before the sun
I hear my baby calling my name and I know that she’s the only one
And if I die in Raleigh at least I will die free
After DJ Jerry English played classic Carolina Beach music during the intermission, the Kings came out rocking the house with covers of more contemporary tunes from the past five years. Highlights of the second set includes, DNCE’s “Cake By the Ocean”, Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling”, Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” and The Time’s “Jungle Love.”
There were two other exceptional performances by the Kings during the second set. The first song was the Portugal The Man’s “Feel It Still” which featured Terry Brown’s outstanding falsetto vocal range along with the band’s wonderful rhythm section.
The final song of the evening was Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk” song. Every part of this performance was excellent. From the vocals, the bass riffs, guitars and drums in sync and the brass section rocking, this ending song was “smokin’ hot” and was a fitting end to an excellent concert by the Kings.
After this event ended, I asked some folks for their thoughts about the Kings concert. Here are a couple responses:
Beth Ledwith of Salem:
“I thought they were great. They offered a variety that appealed to the audience and also played some current hits. They also played a good mix of slow and faster tempos. A great party band with talented members. The brass also adds additional richness to the overall sound. I would highly recommend them!”
Bruce Bias of Roanoke:
“Probably no other band has had such a local impact on the Roanoke Valley’s music scene than the Kings. Going back to the late 60’s to the present they have remained the most known group within a 200-mile radius of the valley. They stayed on top of current hits, while always keeping the roots of their beginnings true. I have always believed the horns was what set them apart form other really good local bands. Larry Wheeling: If Roanoke had a hall of fame for bands, you’d be in the very 1st class. Big thanks for your efforts to keep THE KINGS alive and thriving.”
Thanks to Beth and Bruce for sharing their thoughts on the Kings. If you are interested to know more about the Kings, check out their webpage.
I want to thank DJ Jerry English, Larry Wheeling and the rest of the Kings band for allowing me to witness the “Party in Elmwood” concert on stage with them on July 5th. It was an honor for me to be able to watch Roanoke’s legendary band perform their magic the day after Independence Day 2018.
Long live The Kings!
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7 thoughts on “The Kings: Rocking Roanoke Since 1965”
I’ve seen them more than once over the years, and their website says it all: “These guys play everything”. They belong on the “Everything Roanoke” list. Mill Mtn Star, Texas Tavern, & The Kings. Awesome that you could get up close and personal with them. Another fine article, David, on a mighty fine band.
I love the King’s, The Inn was the second home for a select few of us, who were avid fans as well as friends with the original members of the band. You see I remember: Tommy Thompson, Danny Counts, Tim and I think his brother’s name was Greg Ferguson, Tim Guilliams, there were more guys, that I just can’t seem to remember names right now. The Royal King’s were the Top Band in the state of Va and a household name in Roanoke. Loved them, a good, clean, outstanding bunch of exceptionally talented young men. The King’s and the King’s Inn will always hold some cherished memories for me. Thanks guys and God bless you.
I’ve seen them a couple of times in outdoor events. Nice to learn their history!
I have loved them since the days of the nightclub. The horns gets me everytime
Roanoke is soo lucky to have the Kings. Brian Wheeling and I were classmates at JHS. He was extremely talented even at 16 Years old.I don’t think there is a guitar rift he can’t play. They are iconic. Thanks for the article.
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I grew up in Roanoke and during my teens years one of my jobs was working at Bobby Ellis, Thunderbird Club! I talked him in to getting the first live band – Willie T and the Magnificents ! I even had my own booking agency for a few years-T Bird Attractions! I still have all of the Royal Kings 45’s! Also the Divots 45, the Blue Chords, Soul S, , George Penn and Fantastic 6 LP’s etc Even talked Bobby in to booking Clifford Curry ….. long time until his passing etc ! Those were the days !!!!! Even have Kings Inn t shirt !🎹🎤🎶🎼🎵