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As most of you here know, mrW was launched three years ago on Labor Day. I’m told by one of my loyal staff members that Labor Day at mrW is a bit like Christmas. With no presents and no decorations on hand, I’m not so sure the comparison holds up, but who am I to argue? So, in the spirit of the season, I’ve tried over the last few years to put up a podcast commemorating our inception – a present of sorts. Something relevant or personal for the occasion. This year is no different.

This story is one that I wrote few years ago. It was in fact a personal eulogy for a man named Fred King, that wound up getting published two years ago in a magazine called The Harmonizer. Fred was my high school music teacher, and a legend in the world of accapela harmony. He died on September 1st, 2008. That year, the first of September just happened to be Labor Day, and as best I can figure, my old friend and mentor died about the same time I was posting the video that first launched this site.

Because the funeral was later that week, and mrW was little more than a single video and a few links, the coincidence of his passing didn’t occur to me until much later. In fact, I didn’t connect the dots until people who read the story began urging me to bring it to life with some of the music Fred created over the course of his remarkable career. I thought that was a good idea, and bringing it to life was nothing short of a headlong sprint down memory lane. Aside from my Dad, no one impacted my life like Fred King. Hopefully, if you give this a listen, it’ll remind you of someone in your past. Someone that made a difference.

My friends John McGlennan and Matt Cohen over at One Union Recording helped put this together in a way that I believe will make Garrison Keillor jealous. You may listen and decide for yourself. Everything in the story is precisely how I remember it, and most of what I remember is probably true. I have not changed any names to protect the innocent because, let’s face it, none of us are innocent. And besides, the people I mention were all affected by Fred in the same way I was.

I hope you like it. It’s nearly a half hour, so pour a beverage and get comfortable. Put on headphones. Turn it up. And have a happy Labor Day.

Mike

HQ here – in case y’all want to talk more, here’s the thread in the Water Cooler: HERE

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76 Comments

    1. Just listen to your podcast about Fred King and I am speechless. Mike Rowe, You are a GOOD Man. Thank You!

      dawn | 03/11/13 | 6:53 pm
    2. The Dundalk Chorus went to London to close 1994. They performed at a show that also had HS bands and choruses perform. I was there because our Queen Anne’s County HS band was there for the same event as the chorus. I sat in the front row for all of the performances that night. Mr. King was directing the Choir and he was part of the show as well with his many faces. It was a great night and I sought out a barbershop group on the Eastern Shore of Maryland after that. I have heard stories of Mr. King and some of the men I have sung with over the years and they were fun times to listen to. Thank you Mr. King and you Dundalk men for inspiring me.

      Jeff Leffelman | 11/21/12 | 8:51 pm
    3. I was lucky to have had Mr. King as my music teacher in Overlea HS. I moved out of state and just wondered if he was still living. Was shocked to find out he died in 2008!

      Loved being taught by him; he always made the chorus laugh and smile but expected us to work hard. It was not an “easy A” class and he made that quite clear.

      He was a good man and a great teacher and will be missed by all.

      M. Carlson | 08/27/12 | 10:01 am
    4. Mike,

      Fred’s legacy lives on in you. I sang with Dundalk in 1970. Although Fred and I were close in age he was my hero too.
      He was that type of person who made you feel you could do anything you set your mind to.
      By the way, was that the Trapp family singers doing ” Sing we and Chant it’?

      Thanks for the very fine tribute to Fred.

      Frank Fabian | 07/13/12 | 11:12 am
    5. Mike, for the first time in 10 years, this podcast made me cry. I started in Barbershop in the Evergreen District at 15. I was heavily involved in the chorus and close to the director Steve Kyes for about 3 years. Like you, the director made a huge impact on my life as a friend and a mentor. After high school, I became very involved in my career, which demanded enough of my time away from the chorus, that I could no longer attend regular practice. Now I find myself traveling constantly all over the world, but I have never lost my desire to ring some chords. It’s like a drug. Everywhere I go, I search for a local chorus to visit and try to attend a few practices. Thank you for sharing this spectacular podcast.

      Rick Duvall | 03/15/12 | 7:43 pm
    6. Mr king was also an inspiration in my life. I was in the 1st. Black gospel choir in the Baltimore county school system. We had amazing concerts and mix those times with the one and only Fred king and now you will have one of the best experiences of a life time.( Class of 81).

      Joanne | 03/08/12 | 2:27 pm
    7. Hi Mike,
      Thanks so much for this podcast of your article which first appeared in the Harmonizer magazine. I read it several times then and enjoyed your podcast even more. I had just joined the Frederick Catoctones chorus when the Chorus of the Chesapeake paid us a surprise visit on a Tuesday night rehearsal. At first, a faint sound of music, then a massive line of men in purple polo shirts filed into the basement of the church and filled it with beautiful barbershop harmony. Freddie was of course leading the way, and I was totally amazed at this group! Freddie kept us in stitches all night long, and the two choruses had an absolute blast togehter. Stories of Freddie were told for weeks after that, but I always wished I had sung with him like you did. That sealed my fate as a barbershopper, and I smile whenever I think of him, and you. Great fan of your show!

      Tom Landon, Frederick Catoctones Chorus

      Tom Landon | 03/02/12 | 7:16 pm
    8. MIKE !!!!!!!!!!!!!
      I just listened to your eulogy for Fred King. I cried most of the way through it. Fred was such a special person.

      It is so obvious to me, the love you hold in your heart for Fred. He was one of a kind and truly, a “diamond in the rough.”

      I was only with him for one semester at Towson State. and yet, he is one of the few people I remember touching my life. I had many music directors, but Fred was so special. Despite the laughter, and tears, we all had flowing from our bodies, he was able to get the most beautiful sound from us. To tell the truth, I liked his methods and expertise better than the professor who actually was responsible for our class.

      Thank you so very much for making him come back to life, for me, in in my mind’s eye. It was such a wonderful experience for me knowing how much music affects school children.

      If you should ever start a cause for music in our schools, I’d appreciate if you would let me know, or post it on your website.

      Thanks again,

      Mella

      Malkah | 02/28/12 | 9:46 pm
    9. I enjoyed this beautiful tribute to a man whom I’ve heard so much about and who has left his mark in the lives of his family, friends and admirers. My daughter just married Fred King’s grandson, Christian, less than two weeks ago. Fred’s son, Kevin, and his lovely wife, Bettye, are Christian’s parents. We have really been blessed with getting to know this precious family well over the last year and a half. I have heard so many tales of this funny and extremely talented man. I only wish that we could’ve known him personally. I’ve also heard very complimentary things about you, Mr. Rowe, and I thank you for making it possible for us all to know more about this magnificent man with pieces such as this.

      Rene’ Mills | 11/10/11 | 6:59 pm
    10. I had the privilege of singing with Fred as a member of the Patapsco Valley chapter under his son Kevin’s direction. My first encounter with Fred was in high school during an all county high school competition. Fred was our guest conductor and while on stage directing a rehearsal he turned towards me with a glare, looked away and then back again, only to have his teeth out and two devil horns on his head and stared me down. I lost it and busted out laughing so hard he began laughing until we were both in tears. It halted the rehearsal for a good 10 minutes until Fred picked me up and threw me over his shoulders, ran to the back of the auditorium and put me in the very last seat and ran back on stage, blew into his pitch pipe and proceeded as if nothing had happened. That was Fred at his BEST!

      Luke Gabriel | 11/10/11 | 10:42 am
    11. Thanks for sharing that Mike. I listened to the whole thing… and why wouldn’t I! such a heart warming story. I love barbershop quartets also… the harmony between the singers has always amazed me, and singing along with the songs from the story also brought tears to my eyes… it sounds so beautiful, you can’t help yourself. I’m glad you got over the stuttering, look where you are at now, in spite of it!! Thanks for sharing, thanks for all you do, and have become. Keep up the good work, looking forward to the new episodes in the fall.

      patricia | 11/06/11 | 11:35 am
    12. Mike, what a wonderful tribute to a wonderful man. I never had the pleasure of meeting Mr. King, as he passed shortly after my first international contest. Many of my friends knew Fred personally and the only way i know him is through all of these wonderful stories they tell. My quartet sings two King arrangements, and although we have many songs in our rep, they are easily my favorites. Thanks again for a wonderful tribute.

      John Sifuentes-Baritone/Lead
      San Marcos, Texas Chapter.
      Pleasant Street Quartet.
      Kickback Quartet.
      SWD

      John Sifuentes | 11/01/11 | 3:31 am
    13. This tribute brings a tear to my eye every time I listen. As a clumsy 14-year old, I sojourned into the rehearsal hall of the Chorus of the Chesapeake back in 1996. I also learned a tag from Bob Seay III, was blown away by the hugeness of the chorus sound, and began to have my life changed by the larger-then-life presence of Fred King. He mentored me through my high school years, taught me how to sing, arrange, conduct, and encouraged me to go to college and major in music. I’ve now been barbershopping for 15 years, and I hope I can carry on much of the legacy that Fred left behind. I was in attendance at Fred’s final Beer Blast in December of 2007, when you guys won that “gold medal.” It was such a special moment in the lives of everyone there, and I thank you so much for helping me to relive it. You rock, Mike!

      Matt Swann | 11/01/11 | 1:14 am
    14. Mike,
      Although I wasn’t part of the chorus, I was in the band and Mr. King had an impact on us as well. This story made me look back and reflect on the few, but memorable times that I interacted with him. Mr. King never let you leave his presence wihtout him teaching you something. One memory with Mr. King was when I mentioned to him about The Baltimore Colts and the band that played at halftime. I said to him, “I wish I could be a part of that”. His reply, “What’s stopping you”? With that, I looked up the information about the band and 3 weeks later auditioned and became part the Baltimore Colts Marching Band. When I told him that I had made it, he said “I had no doubt that you could do it”. He made me realize that the person or thing stopping me from doing something, is ME. Even today I think about the few interactions that I had with Mr. King and how much of an impact they had and still have on my life.
      Thank you for this story…..very touching/

      Kevin Williams | 10/30/11 | 9:03 am
    15. Mike, that was great. I’m sure you have impacted the lives of many people, and pay forward the talent and efforts of Mr. King. Thank you for being more than just a b-celebrity.

      Seven Bates | 10/19/11 | 3:33 pm
    16. Thank you Mike,

      Your tribute truely brought a tear to my eye. I have very many wonderful memories of Fred King and his family.

      While growing up in Parkville I had the pleasure of living next door to the King family. Not only did I live next door, but Fred and Pat King were my God Parents. I too grew up with Barber Shop in my blood. My father was in his own quartet called “The Sing a Lings” and also performed with the Parkville Post 183 Balladiers.

      Some of my fondest memories of Fred were the Holidays. Especially Christmas. Many of the families would get together and have a great time.

      I too remember Fred’s teeth. After my daughter was born back in 2001, We would go over to Pat and Freds’ house and we would exchange gifts for Christmas. One year we went over and my daughter got scared out of her wits when Fred showed her his teeth. Boy did she cry.

      I am glad that he left you with many memories of his wonderful career and talent. He was a wonderful man.

      Take care and thank you again for the heart warming tribute.

      Mike Annen

      Mike Annen | 09/19/11 | 11:14 am
    17. Mike

      Thank you from the bottom of my heart for that touching tribute. As the daughter of a charter member of the Dundalk Sweet Adelines I literally grew up with four part harmony and Fred. Imagine how I felt when Fred arrived at our house for a meeting and actually recognized the piano piece I was diligently practicing!
      Our chorus is also so pleased to have played a part in giving this amazingly talented and giving person the chance to follow his dreams and talents.
      I will play your tribute again and again and cherish each memory it brings back.

      Eileen “Hank” Marion | 09/18/11 | 3:35 pm
    18. Mike, Thank you for a wonderful tribute to Freddie. I remember being a part of the 250 man chorus put together to sing at the Kennedy Center for the 1976 bi-centennial. This was my first encounter with Freddie as a relatively new barbershopper. During our rehearsals for that show he always did his toothy grin to break the tension of the moment. But, on the other hand he was able to bring out the emotion in a song. I remember being on stage at the Kennedy Center and our closing song that night was Nearer My God To Thee. As you would say, he squeezed the moisture from my eyes. That song has since become one of my all time favorite songs to sing. It was to the glory of God that it was sung that night so long ago.

      Again, thank you for your very moving tribute to Freddie.

      Henry Krautwurst

      Henry Krautwurst | 09/17/11 | 8:58 am
    19. Mike
      What an incredible tribute to an amazing man! I saw Freddie do his teeth routine at international contest a few times in my over 30 years as a member. He was always fun to watch. But you have given a much deeper and more personal meaning of the man, and showed us the deeply human side of him. Bravo and a job well done. (btw: your production values are outstanding as well. I’ve been in the biz for many decades and appreciate quality work. This is as good as it gets.
      Nick Alexander, professional voice over guy, MC, Senior Show producer The Vocal Majority

      Nick Alexander | 09/16/11 | 11:19 am
    20. A wonderful piece created with lots of love, brings back plenty of memories. I have a video I made of Fred doing his tooth thing at an afterglow (he appeared with BSQ) and it is already a collector’s piece. We miss him.

      Larry Matthews | 09/15/11 | 2:40 pm
    21. “Mikey” — What a beautiful tribute to not only Fred, the rest of the Oriole Four but to BBS in general. You reduced me to tears with your wonderful memories and recordings. It’s been several years since I’ve listened to Jim and the guys, I’ve missed their powerful sound – thanks.

      Fred would be so pleased with your tribute AND your continued success. For those of us who “knew you way back when”, it’s been with pride to watch your shows on national TV. Best wishes for continued success.

      Thanks for the memories
      Jackie Grant

      Jackie Grant | 09/12/11 | 9:22 am
    22. It’s amazing what a close relationship with a teacher produces. Nice post Mike.

      Steve Bez | 09/10/11 | 4:56 pm
    23. Mike,

      you truly captured the spirit of this barbershop giant. Nothing I have seen or hear comes close to your excellent tribute.

      You brought back memories of my high school music teachor/mentor and it was a soul stirring experience!

      Thank you,
      Lauren House
      Reno, NV – FWD

      Lauren House | 09/09/11 | 3:15 pm
    24. Mike….I am in tears. Thank you for a wonderful half hour. I have sang all my life..with school choirs, in the Army during WW11…with the Barbershopers…100s of weddings…and some funerals (don’t like them) With mens chores…and now at 85,still trying to keep up. God bless you and love your show.

      Jim Zuidema | 09/09/11 | 1:34 pm
    25. Mike,
      Many things will be remembered, written, and discussed about Freddie King over the years. Most will be true or based in facts know by the observer; most will be humorous, some will be profane, many will touch our heartstrings, but none will be as inspiring or heart-felt as yours. In all, they will be a part of the tribute to a great man, who influenced our lives in so many ways. I’d like to relate a small way he touched me while bringing his brand of humor and entertainment to an audience. We thank you for sharing your insights of our great friend, teacher and mentor, Freddie
      Those who know me, know I’m hard to miss in a crowd (6’6’’, 300 lbs). I joined the Dundalk chapter while in high school shortly after the chapter chartered; Freddie was already a fixture – The Oriole Four became District Champs at the first convention I attended – They were our hero’s. Part of their ‘entertainment package’ was Freddie’s solo of Sweet Sixteen when he already ‘used’ his dentures as part of the act – this was before the sets of magical teeth. I thought his mouth was made of rubber! I was 18 or 19 when I went to his home for coaching – Kevin was just a rug-rat –but Fred devoted himself to helping us become better performers while babysitting the kids. He truly did it all!
      After Fred became the Director of the Chorus of the Chesapeake, his ideas for entertainment began to encompass us all. He looked for songs, skits, situations to ‘liven up’ our shows. One routine he roped me into was Crazy Guggenheim, the Jackie Gleason character – I was the bartender and his straight man! Another was a take off on the Jeanette MacDonald / Nelson Eddy song Indian Love Call – now I’m the Indian maiden, complete with an oversized bust and squaw outfit made by our friend, Betty Ireland. After a few bars of our pantomime, the recording got “bumped” and we switched parts. Freddie was hilarious trying to hit the highs and I was ridiculous sing the lows! The last routine was four of the biggest guys (a ton of fun) and Fred doing a can-can routine in our “three-threes” (per Freddie, we were too big to fit into two-twos)!
      Over the years he incorporated other routines where I made a fool of myself but he reminded me ‘It’s Just Entertainment’. He often told the chorus when we grumbled about dragging out an old novelty song like Yes, We Have No Bananas, someone in the audience is seeing and hearing this for the first time, so it will be entertaining.
      Yep, that’s some of my best memories of Freddie King, the Ultimate Entertainer… and my friend. Now what do I do with all the ridiculous costumes in my closet?
      Thanx, Mike. Bob

      Bob Hastings | 09/09/11 | 12:41 pm
    26. Wow. That’s all I can say.

      Diana Mac | 09/09/11 | 10:20 am
    27. Mike,
      Just finished listening to this for the third time – an hour spent but well worth every second. I first heard the Oriole Four when I was about 25. And Freddie – well he is just a legend on a whole bunch of levels. You have just added one more level for me.

      About 15 years ago when my son and I were at Harmony University, Freddie was there and did an “Evening with Freddie King” on either Wed or Thurs night. I told my son we had to go. “Why?” he asked. My reply – Just trust me. By the time Freddie was done with tears of laughter running down his cheeks, he said “I wouldn’t have missed that for the world”. Another convert for life to barbershop singing thanks to Freddie.

      Thanks for a few moments of reflection and inspiration. Now back to my own “Dirty Job” which I sometimes get paid for.

      Alan Lamson
      President
      Barbershop Harmony Society

      Alan Lamson | 09/09/11 | 5:58 am
    28. Mike – The text on your website about Freddy (and the comments below) are cut off on the right side and there are no left-right or up-down slide bars. Obviously, there’s no way to tell how much is cut off. Please advise your website administrator so he can fix it up. I’m glad to see that you’re an Eagle. So is my son who is, alas, atonal. We can’t share singing or barbershop memories but we sure can reminisce about his years and mine in the scouts. Keep up all of your good work.
      Yours in harmony,
      Mark Axelrod
      Teaneck, NJ Chapter
      SPEBSQSA

      mark axelrod | 09/08/11 | 3:31 pm
    29. Thank you Mike,thank you very, very much. I loved it!

      Scott Ward
      M-AD barbershopper

      Scott Ward | 09/08/11 | 9:40 am
    30. Mike, thanks for bringing up memories of my Father Henry Langenberg. My Father served in the 5th Armored Division in World War II.

      Singing in the church choir was one of things that put the war to rest in my fathers mind. He had a beautiful voice and loved to harmonize with anyone that could sing a tune.

      Fate would end his singing cancer of the throat,he survived but the war came back to haunt him in his 50′s and he was never the same after that.

      Just listening to your tribute and the singing in the background brought back fond memories of long ago.

      Gene H Langenberg

      Gene H Langenberg | 09/07/11 | 1:42 pm
    31. Not only is the podcast a beautiful tribute to an amazing man but it is truly a joy to listen to, from Mike’s words to the beautiful singing in the background ~ all around this podcast is a wonderful work of art.

      SLC | 09/07/11 | 10:46 am
    32. Mike,
      I have never had the need, or want, to place a posting on a blog site, but you have changed that. I want to tell you that your podcast added a new dimension to the memory that I have of my late Uncle (Fred King was my father’s brother). I could try to say a lot about him here, but I think you did such a good job, that I’ll just say thank you. He was the same person around the family gatherings that he was on stage. I really believe that it was never an act, he was just being himself! I was fortunate enough to see him one last time in the nursing home just days before his final exit. As he lay partially paralyzed in his bed, unable to speak, he made a motion to me as I was leaving…he wanted to give me a kiss goodbye. I bent down and we exchanged a kiss on the cheek. He was a man’s man and was never ashamed to show his affection. He knew he was leaving and wanted to say goodbye. If anybody is reading this and has been putting off telling a loved one how they feel, don’t put it off for another minute.
      God Bless,
      Eric King

      Eric King | 09/07/11 | 9:49 am
    33. Fred King was an icon of our hobby, a gold medal quartet baritone, a director of a championship chorus, a maker of men, and as Mike Rowe points out, a pied piper among teachers. He is one of the greatest barbershoppers I have ever known and I feel like I knew him well because he made me feel that way every time I ever spoke to him. He coached my quartets and judged me in contests and did so with much love and compasion. This article published in The Harmonizer is in my opinion the BEST piece I have ever read in 35 years in the hobby. Thank you Mike for writing this, for adding your voice to it for sharing with all, Freddie King the teacher, your friend and mentor. Every person who knew Freddie was better for it.
      Harmony-us-ly, Bob

      Bob Caldwell (SlickerLead) | 09/07/11 | 8:55 am
    34. Mike,

      Thanks for sharing your memories of Fred. Years ago I remember singing “Somewhere” with my quartet in a hotel lobby of an International Convention, and Fred came over to listen and had a tear in his eye when we finished. It was his arrangement.

      In quartet’s over the years I had the opportunity to be coached by him a few times, and watch him work his magic. He was a man unlike any other, and listening to your story just now brought back so many nice memories of Fred.

      Well done Mike, continued success with your career.

      Sincerly,

      Ken Kopka-Bass
      NED

      Ken Kopka | 09/07/11 | 2:50 am
    35. I have been in the Barbershop Harmony Scocity for 38 years and rememeber Fred King from many visits to Harmony Holiday in the Catskills and Poconos with his chorus and his female chorus. He was always the toast of the town with his false dentures, jokes, repartee’ and all around wonderful entertainment. Mike, you are a great host and story teller, keep up the good work. We love it.
      Bob and Linda Campion, Vernon, NY

      bob campion | 09/06/11 | 7:59 pm
    36. Mike,
      Thank you again for doing the best job of honoring dad. You captured his heart, his wit, and his musical genius. Some barbershoppers didn’t fully appreciate his music teacher talent…and some of his music teacher colleagues had no idea of his fame beyond Parkville Jr. High and Overlea Sr. You’ve put the record straight for them all! One time, after a heated music category session Roger Payne said to dad, “Freddie, you’re so easy to underestimate!” How true. Anyone who spent any time with him received his full energy and attention…and we are all the better for it.
      With my heart-felt sincerity,
      Kevin

      Kevin King | 09/06/11 | 2:59 pm
    37. Truly a touching and inspiring story. Thank you so much for sharing it with the world and with your fellow barbershoppers. I’m still new to the society (24 years old, and just shy of 3 years in), but it’s really an amazing organization, allowing everyone — young and old, from all walks of life — to come together to produce amazing sounds we would otherwise have no business making. It’s a great equalizer, a reason to make lifelong friends, and it really can change lives.

      David | 09/06/11 | 2:18 pm
    38. I too (like many) shed some tears on remembering this dynamo of a man. He is truly missed. It is great to hear of some similarities between Mike’s story and my own although mine is more local, but none the less inspiring. As bass in the “Vagabonds” I was honored with a silver medal (1976) and I too have a gold one (the size of a dinner plate) that was given to me by a chapter chorus I sang with for a time. Both are cherished just as much as the memory of Fred King. Thank you Mike Rowe for the great tribute as well as a glimpse into your life, WONDERFUL!!!!

      Norm Thompson | 09/06/11 | 2:07 pm
    39. First of all, this story is inspirational and I applaud you for posting it, Mike. The one thing that you mentioned was that Fred was a legend in the world of “acapella harmony”, but really, he was one of THE legends of the Barbershop Harmony Society. I have been in the society for 53 years and I knew Fred personally, and I sang with him on stage many times. He was an inspiration to everyone around him in both what he did and what he sang. The Barbershop Harmony Society salutes Fred King and will continue to do so forever.

      Batman | 09/06/11 | 10:12 am
    40. By the way, my locker was next to Chuck’s and I always wondered what that smell was. Thanks for clearing that up!

      Nanci D | 09/06/11 | 9:46 am
    41. What a wonderful tribute to an awesome man. Mr. King was the best and touched so many. Since I can’t sing, I was never in any of his classes but did have a lot of interaction with him. The last time I saw him, he had come to the studio where I worked to have photos taken of him with all his different teeth. He is greatly missed.

      Nanci D | 09/06/11 | 9:41 am
    42. The article itself made me pause and reflect, possibly the most eloquent piece of literature I have read. Admittedly I had nowhere near the connection you had, but your words brought out emotions none the less. I was fortunate enough to have met the man just once, at Harmony College back in the late 1980′s as a very young man experiencing it for the very first time.

      Being far too eager, and even more naive, I was up bright and early my first morning and was the only one standing at the cafeteria whent he doors opened. I sheepishly filled my breakfast plate and headed to a table in the middle of the room, prepared for a quiet and solitary morning meal. My early morning movements had, however caused one of my dorm-mates to stir and I was soon joined by a newly familiar face as he joined me at the table. I had no idea who Steve Iannacchione was, but I knew he could sing. Shortly thereafter a man sat down to join us and introduced himself as Joe Liles, a name I recognized as well.

      We chatted for a few minutes and were then being asked if the seat next to me was taken. I quickly replied “no, sit on down” and went back to the conversation. Suddenly a shiny disc appeared and a pitch was blown. I looked to my side and there was the most hideous et of teeth I had ever seen in my life. Beaming the way through a filth infested smile Fred King blurted, “looks like we have four of us: what part do you sing, kid?” I don’t remember what we sang, but I do remember them being gracious enough to let me sing the lead.

      I now direct a Sweet Adelines chorus, directed a BHS chapter for several years, am in my second registered quartet, and must too admit that I hope that one day someone will loook back at their time with me the same way I remember people like Fred King. Well done, Mike.

      Darcy Fraser | 09/06/11 | 8:36 am
    43. I just listened to your tribute to Freddie King! OMG! I don’t know how much kleenex I used, but I didn’t crap my pants! What a lovely tribute to a great man. It, in some ways, captured how I feel about the hobby…the joy…my first chapter meeting…my first opportunity singing four-part harmony. I’ve had the pleasure to meet and be in the presence of Fred King on a number of occasions. I’ve seen him MCing with his bag of dental prosthetics, none of which was “normal”. He was a master of everything he did. You opened a new area of knowledge for me about him as a teacher (in the schoolroom setting). I am a retired teacher and coach and, like you, hope I’ve touched one or two young people like he touched you. God Bless You for doing this. It is a wonderful legacy for Fred and his family and, really, all barbershoppers. It certainly drew tears of joy to my eyes and I thank you for the experience.

      Barry Knott | 09/06/11 | 8:34 am
    44. Mike…

      Mr. King was an inspiration to a lot of us from Overlea… Whether it be my mother and aunt who also had him as a teacher… or myself who received a perception about music that was an eye opening, getting coaching from him on my voice for the school plays so that it was not just your brother getting good parts.. or many others who may have only thought about it years later after hearing about his death…

      It is great having a person like Mr. King in our pasts, that gives us a link to each other

      Dave August | 09/06/11 | 7:34 am
    45. Mike,
      Like most everything you’ve done, this was a “real gem” done with class.
      Informative, interesting, warm and full of love. Thanks for putting in your voice and sharing it.
      Your friend, Joe

      Joe Pollio | 09/06/11 | 7:29 am
    46. Thank you, Mike, for making such a beautiful tribute to a beautiful man! I enjoyed being in Fred’s company probably more than any other man I’ve met! He made me laugh. He made me cry… sometimes even in the same sentence! I sing in a quartet that has gotten to sing around quite a bit, and sometimes shared a stage with one of Fred’s many quartets. They were always good and always entertaining, because you-know-who could make it so all by himself.

      My quartet is a member of the AIC (Association of Internationsl Champions), as were the Orioles, and one of the things I miss most is Fred’s participation in the annual AIC breakfast meeting, when we toast/roast the new champs and lament over our lost members. I can usually sing the “toast song” to the members who have passed on, but when it came time for lamenting Fred’s passing, I went stone silent. No sounds would or could come out, but they were really buzzing inside. I sang to Fred the best I’ve ever sung, but only Fred could hear it.

      Thanks again for the great tribute. It was really well done and much deserving for one of my life-long heroes, Mr. King, the King!

      Rod Johnson
      Happiness Emporium

      Rod Johnson | 09/06/11 | 7:28 am
    47. Goosebumps, tears, goosebumps, tears, goosebumps…….
      and tears. We all miss Fred.

      Eddie Sutton | 09/06/11 | 6:00 am
    48. Mike,

      That was a wonderfully moving tribute to our dear Freddie. The background music and the telling of your story is magnificent. Thanks for sharing!!!

      Joe Colon

      Joe Colon | 09/06/11 | 4:46 am
    49. Mike, like you I grew up in Overlea on a little street called Elinor Ave. I was from the class o 1987. I too had the honor of being taught and trained by Mr. Fred King. Although I had been in some sort of choir in since 4th grade, nothing prepared me for what I was about to experience with Mr. King. Starting in 9th grade I joined every choir that was offered except girls choir. And stayed with it until 12th grade .The boys choir was where I first heard barbershop and immediately fell in love with it. Theres no music on earth that can send chills down your spine when you hear that harmony like barbershop. Thanks to Mr. King I was encouraged to go out for the best choirs in school, Concert Corale and Chamber Singers, they were the best times of my high school life and will never be forgotten. I was very saddened by the loss of Fred King. But I will always be thankful that he was part of my life.

      Ryan Hofmeister

      Ryan Hofmeister | 09/05/11 | 10:15 pm
    50. What an absolutely wonderful tribute. Your admiration for the man is touching, and you have not fallen short on illustrating how unique and amazing he was. It sounds like he was a perfect example of “bring your passion with you.” (The vision of you and him marching through the halls, drumming up the student body for a pep rally, actually brought a few tears to my eyes, but in a good way). It just goes to show you how interconnected we are… he was a positive catalyst for you, no doubt you’ve already been one for another…and so on. I guess you just never know! And the music was great (that sound is mesmerizing). Hopefully, you’ve been able to make at least a small amount of time for it in your life over the years…especially since it seems to speak to you so much.

      Thanks for sharing this…I thoroughly enjoyed it, and will probably listen to it again!

      Lisa | 09/05/11 | 9:51 pm
    51. Mike – Thank you so much for setting this story to music. I adored the story when it was published in the Harmonizer, but this brings it to life. I never had the privilege to meet Fred King — had only been a Sweet Adeline for about 9 months when he died, but I love all the stories I’ve heard of him.

      I hope you keep that medal forever.

      Thanks, Mike, for telling the whole story, SPEBSQSA and all…

      PhoenixGirl | 09/05/11 | 9:11 pm
    52. Mike …What a beautiful tribute .Thank you . I first got to know Fred at Harmony College and spent some quiet time with him as he explained how he felt he owed barbershop more than he could ever repay ……..By accident ,it got him out of the steel mill and into teaching that high school music class ……We stayed in touch for a number of years and I’m proud I had the privelege of calling this great man , my friend.
      Graham Fagan

      Graham Fagan | 09/05/11 | 9:05 pm
    53. Mike,

      What a classy tribute to a man that has touched and changed so many of our lives. I still have the first prize from that special night too. Thanks pal.

      Rick

      RickTaylor | 09/05/11 | 8:36 pm
    54. I have read the Harmonizer but this tribute is an awesome tribute to a man we have been touched by. I started my barbershoping with The Chorus of the Chesapeake in 1969. When I was just 18 years old I was on stage with Fred and the Chorus in New Orleans 1971 when we won gold. I was the youngest member of the chorus at the time. I remember standing within arms reach of Fred when they announced us as the 1971 Chorus Champions SPEBSQSA. Today 40 years later I still wear my gold medal proudly to every convention and barbershop function I attend. I am in Ontario Canada now but still hold a soft spot for The Chorus that got me started on a life long journey of music, adventure and friendships. Thank you again Mike and thank you Fred.
      Doug Morrison

      Doug Morrison | 09/05/11 | 8:32 pm
    55. Mike: You’ve pretty well captured Freddie. I almost attended Overlea but moved from the Kenwood Ave. area to Glen Arm and attended Perry Hall. I am a member of the Chorus of the Chesapeake now and have known Freddie, Pat and Kevin for many years. Freddie coached my last quartet, Gentlemen’s Blend, from our beginning in the late 1990s. He told us the first night that we “would go as far as our talent would take us and we were only just scratching the surface of our talent.” Needless to say, we floated home.

      I couldn’t attend his funeral as he passed away one day after my mother-in-law who lived in SW Virginia. I had made it to the hospice to see him and we said our goodbyes. In 1976 I got to sing with three guys of a quartet who had been in a production of The Music Man in Harford County. We sang together at the cast party before my intro to barbershopping. Later on, I couldn’t understand the looks when I told my new friends that I sang with a quartet named the Oriole Four. It was Freddie’s gold-medalist quartet.

      I miss the man deeply. Thanks for the great tribute.

      Jim Botelle | 09/05/11 | 7:04 pm
    56. Mike – Weren’t we so luck to have Fred in our lives for so many years? I know how changed mine in many ways too! You put into words so well how much that meant to you.

      I first met Freddie in 1980, when my father joined the Dundalk, MD chapter. At the time I was 13 years old and I had no idea who he was or the stature he held in the society. All I remember about that first meeting was that he took time to talk with me backstage after one of Dad’s first chapter shows. Years later, when I see the demands placed on a front line director’s time, I appreciate that conversation even more.

      When I turned 16, I decided to join the chapter. Freddie was always very encouraging, and I learned a great deal from his craft sessions. I spent many hours in his basement getting personal coaching as part of one quartet or another, and he never charged us a dime. Today, coaches of his caliber charge enough money to make a career out of it.

      As a chorus director, Fred was a master at getting his chorus to reach high on game day (contest, show, etc.) with his inspirational talks. He never failed to get us all fired up and ready to kick some $%^&. I will never forget the time at division contest when Mike Kelly walked in to the warm-up room to greet us. At the time, Mike was the assistant director under Kevin King at the Patapsco Valley, MD chapter. Mike and Kevin were wishing us well, then as a parting shot, Mike said “We’re gonna kick your butts today.” When Kevin heard this, he quickly grabbed Mike by the sleeve and dragged him out of the room with a stern look on his face. After they left, Freddie said only this: “Boys, let’s prove him wrong.” The score sheets would later show that we defeated them soundly. Later Fred was overheard telling Mike (with a smile on his face the whole way), “You wrote your own obituary with that comment.” I believe I heard talk of awakening a sleeping giant, which certainly happened that day.

      As a showman, he was the best. He had an instinctual sense of comedic timing. His sense of humor and showmanship made our chapter shows during his tenure some of the most entertaining and fun to be a part of shows that I have ever been privileged to witness. A long time favorite feature on these shows was Uncle Fred’s Story Hour”, where Freddie would regale us with one of his collection of frog jokes. Many times we would hear a joke that had been told by him previously, but we would laugh anyway, because he was so good at delivering them. Then, just when you thought you’d heard every possible frog joke, he would tell one that you hadn’t heard before. He always had our audiences rolling in the aisles with his humor. The routine with the many sets of custom made false teeth was so funny I would leave the room sore from laughing so hard.

      Freddie was also a firm believer in never leaving anyone out; a practice which continues to this day in the Dundalk chapter with our “No Man Left Behind” mantra. He had a theory that every person could sing, if given enough training and coaching. He had any number of men in the chapter who were raw novices, and who often didn’t know how to blend properly. He would go to them individually and say “When I make this signal, sing silently until I give it again.” He could shut off 10 or 15 men with one hand signal if necessary. I think that each
      man thought the signal was only for him, but I guess we’ll never know for sure how many there actually were.

      The respect that he commanded within the ranks of the Dundalk men could be seen even recently, whenever he appeared in the room, half the guys would immediately steal a glance at him, regardless of who was up front. Even though he was not the current director, he was afforded a level of respect that I have not seen anywhere else.

      Of course, all the things that I related to you were oriented to things that he was involved in within his “home” chapter. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention his six decades on the quartet competitors stage, or his quartet gold medal, or his chorus director’s gold medal, or his countless hours of FREE coaching to quartets and choruses of all kinds, or his thousands of hand written barbershop arrangements, or his service to the society for many years as a judge… and the list goes on far longer than I can even recall right now.

      But you see, at the end of the day, he meant something different to each one of us. and *THAT* is what made him so special.

      Doug Treff | 09/05/11 | 6:48 pm
    57. When I was a little girl I got to hear Mr. King with his son in a quartet and actually meet him. It was a thrill. He was the pied piper, I would have followed him. What a performer and all those sets of teeth. I count myself as lucky. That was beautiful. Thank you.

      Janine | 09/05/11 | 6:47 pm
    58. The first time I read this story, I cried. Listening to you narrate it was more emotional. Thank you Mike for sharing this story to us once again. It is very heartwarming and inspirational.

      ~Cyn

      Cyn | 09/05/11 | 5:17 pm
    59. This would give Freddie a “tickle in his wee wee.” a phrase he would use when hearing a really good chord! We miss you Fred. Thanks Mike

      Renee Walsh | 09/05/11 | 4:57 pm
    60. My father is a member of the Chesapeake. Growing up we used to sing along while he was practicing. My siblings and I even learned a song in it’s four part harmony and sang it for his 60th birthday party. We even got our kids involved and they sang Rubber Ducky for him. Music is still a part of my family’s life and always will be. The power of singing to those who embrace it can be a great pick me up when you need one. Thank you for sharing your experiences and what they meant to you.

      Hope | 09/05/11 | 4:56 pm
    61. Amazing Mike, amazing. The more I hear you speak the less words I have to actually be able to respond.

      matt | 09/05/11 | 4:44 pm
    62. Awesome tribute Mike… thnx. Freddy was indeed a giant among men!! His legacy will live forever!

      George Davidson, baritone
      Classic Collection, ’82 BHS (SPEBSQSA) Qtet Champs

      George Davidson | 09/05/11 | 4:17 pm
    63. My son is a high school music instructor. During his tenure, four years now, the music class has grown from 27 to over 125. He made music cool again. He designed the uniforms for the marching band for last years tournament and the school went from class 3(lowest) to class 1(highest)in one year. The best the school has ever done. I am so proud of him. I feel my son is creating his legend in front of my eyes, and I like it.

      Butch | 09/05/11 | 4:13 pm
    64. Mike,
      I can’t tell you how many people I have shown that Harmonizer article to when I tell them of the famous people that are barbershoppers!
      Your name tops the list, And after this dedication to Fred King the admiration for you just doubled!
      What a great peice of work this is and I will indeed pass this on to people that knew Fred or special people.
      Continued success and I hope to sing a tag with you someday!!!!

      Al St.Louis | 09/05/11 | 4:05 pm
    65. WOW, Mike, What an incredible tribute. I agree with Bud…adding your voice and music made it so special. I too was a student of Fred way back in Junior High School and joined his women’s chorus right after high school. I was blessed to sing for Fred for 20 wonderful years. Thanks for saying what so many of us felt..

      Pat Edelmann | 09/05/11 | 3:58 pm
    66. Thanks Mike! I am married to a very inspirational elementary music teacher, and this was a great motivation to her.

      Damian | 09/05/11 | 3:52 pm
    67. Mike, I admire you for your ethics and talent. I don’t have time to listen now, but I will later tonight. Reading some of the other comments made me think of my son. He was a member of SPEBSQSA and a High School Quartet for several years ending in 2008. I know I have shed many tears listening to them and their beautiful voices. He is also an Eagle Scout, and is now the Drum Major of the Marching Blue Band at Penn State University, majoring in Music Education. I can only hope he can mentor and make a lasting impression on his students like Mr. King did for you and others.

      Joy Kenney | 09/05/11 | 3:25 pm
    68. What a wonderful tribute Mike. Enjoyed it immensely in the Harmonizer but it is so much more enjoyable when you add your voice and the music.

      Bud Laumann | 09/05/11 | 2:54 pm
    69. Thank you Fred! Mikey has done you proud! Thank you Mike for sharing your boundless talents and the stories of your life. This is a BEAUTIFUL tribute to your mentor and I for one appreciate it. Did not crap my pants but did have to wipe away a tear or two.

      Bennie Sparrow | 09/05/11 | 12:12 pm
    70. Mike, the tribute to Freddy was sent to me and I had heard some of the story of your meeting and I have to say it brought tears to my eyes……………I knew Freddy as a coach and as a quartet Bari but the story of your life changing experience was something special. Thank you for the insight to a side of Freddy, many of us who knew him and have enjoyed his frog joke’s and his outrageous antic’s with the teeth would not have known. Continued success with you and keep singing……………it keeps you young.

      Don Myers | 09/05/11 | 11:24 am
    71. The more I learn about you, the more I like you, Mike! Not only are you an Eagle Scout, but a barbershopper too? I haven’t been to a SPEBSQSA concert in YEARS, but listening to your Fred King tribute sent familiar chills up through my spine. Even more so, thank you for your tribute, if you will, to the Boy Scouts. Scouting is my passion, and I am a volunteer with the Northeast Illinois Council. I try to watch your show whenever it is on, and I’ll sign that petition about getting dirty. God bless you. YIS–Mary W

      Mary Wadleigh | 09/04/11 | 10:57 pm
    72. A very heart warming tribute, Mike. Thanks for sharing.

      Dani V | 09/04/11 | 3:14 pm
    73. Seems Fred King left an indelible handprint on your heart. What a lovely tribute and wonderful chapter in your autobiography.

      pilgrim101 | 09/04/11 | 2:41 pm
    74. Mike, Thanks to Fred King, I’m going for the Gold, too.

      Shannon Marie | 09/04/11 | 12:50 pm
    75. Very nice dedication to what sounds like a great man.

      Sal | 09/04/11 | 6:11 am