King Music Company was a family owned Business that once operated in Brownwood and San Angelo and more recently operated a small satellite store in Abilene on Buffalo Gap Road. The store in Brownwood was opened in 1946 by Jimmy King and the San Angelo store was opened a few years later by his brother Leonard King. There were two other brothers and at one time, all 4 brothers, as well as their father and an uncle, were all serving as band directors at high schools and universities in Texas. Their Father James E. King had been the band director at Baylor and TCU and was the co-author of the University Of Texas fight song. He had moved to Coleman, Tx in the 30s and became the band director for the Coleman Bluecats where he composed the words and music to the school alma mater. Being so well connected with school music programs across the state gave them at an excellent advantage when they opened their businesses and started selling sheet music and renting/selling band instruments to them.
I recall many conversations with the late Jimmy King at his store in Brownwood. Most were near the end of his life as he suffered from worsening conditions of emphysema. He and his brother Leonard had a “big band” dance orchestra back in the 40s and 50s and used to play frequent “open air” events at the then newly opened Lake Brownwood State Park Pavillion and other spots around Texas. One of the more memorable stories I recall hearing from him was one he told of his grandfather who was a bugler for General George Armstrong Custer. He would have died in the massacre at Little Big Horn with General Custer but for a small twist of faith. That being, when the battle occurred his grandfather had been in the infirmary extremely sick with food poising after eating tainted mule meat a couple of days earlier.
Speaking from personal experience, I can say that Jimmy and Leonard King provided a lot of enrichment to the school music scene in central Texas. The many connections they had developed serving as band leaders themselves allowed them the ability to bring many high schools to Brownwood once a year to take part in the annual Stage Band Festival. I recall spending all day at those festivals enjoying those “big band” sounds. They would always bring in a well-known “guest performer” who also served as a judge for the contest. I remember one of the last festivals brought Herb Ellis which was one of the great jazz guitarists of the day. During their later years, the stage band festival became too much of a burden for the kings to manage. No one else would step forward to carry on so the Brownwood stage band festival just went away. I don’t think I ever acquired one of the recordings they made of the event every year but I found this one on YouTube.
A whole lot of musicians have a whole lot of wonderful stories related to King Music Company that will last them a lifetime. It’s sad that a tradition which influenced so many will no longer be creating memories in Brownwood and San Angelo and I would like to share a couple of the many memories I made with them. Back in the 50s and early 60s, Kings was just about the only place that had a good selection of recorded music to buy. I had bought a lot of 45s and a few LPs but the very first stereo album I ever bought was a copy of Willie Nelson recorded live at Panther Hall. I bought it from Kings when they were in their first location on Center Ave which occupied part of what’s now the Glamour Shop. I still have it and it’s one of the more treasured things I own.
I bought several guitars and amps from the Kings through the years. One of which was this old Kalamazoo amp that we use to call a “Kalama 300” because looking at its logo- it looks like that’s what it spells. I bought a Baldwin archtop hollow body electric guitar from them at the same time. Unfortunately, both Baldwin and Kalamazoo both went out of business long before the Kings did. I still have both the guitar and amp and the amp is still in good working condition. The guitar is suffering from a cracked tremolo and I need to find a suitable replacement before it will be playable again. I’ll have to admit though, my all-time favorite guitar is not one that came from Kings but from a pawn shop in Waco. I spotted an Alvarez Classical guitar just inside the doorway leading into a back room and it had definite issues with the bridge hanging loosely by the strings. I asked about it and the pawnbroker said “I ain’t got time to mess with it. If you got 5 bucks it’s yours”. I figured “what the heck”, snatched it up and took it Immediately to Pat McShan who was working at King’s at the time. He glued the bridge back on for another $5, sold me a new set of strings for 7 or 8 bucks, strung it up for me, and I’m still using it 30+ years later.
The store in Brownwood was sold a few years after Jimmy’s death and it’s my understanding it had sold for a second time when they permanently closed the doors in October of 2016. Leonard King sold his store to Caldwell Music when he retired sometime around 2000 I think but Caldwell Music went out of business just a few years later. Tarpley Music now operates a store at the same place as the old King Music store at 13 E. Twohig Ave, San Angelo.
This will be an online auction and it ends on November 30th. The details on the auction website aren’t real clear but CLICK HERE to read what information there is. There is also a phone number on the website you can call if you need more information.