KING & His Naughty Bunnies
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KING & His Naughty Bunnies

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"The King of Everthing"

The king of everything

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By SAMANTHA STILES

Thursday, March 05, 2009

At the start of a concert, Charles King flashes his toothy grin to the packed bar and the song starts with sound rising in his belly, it builds in the lungs, moves up his throat and bursts from his lips like a burp that tastes like rock ’n’ roll.

King’s eyes scan the crowd from behind dark sunglasses. Every voice is unique and so is King.

For being such an outgoing person, when he talks about being a gay, black man in Grand Junction, he lowers his voice and leans in. He’s not ashamed of who he is, “I’m many things,” he says, but he’s acutely aware that Grand Junction is a predominately white, conservative, small town.

Charles King plays with his band, King, at Quincy Bar. Photo by Christopher Tomlinson.

He is quite up front about the racism and homophobia he’s experienced living here, but instead of running from it, he said he chooses to confront it with grace and patience.

“You stand out here, so you can spread out elsewhere,” he said.

The 28-year-old singer, actor and bartender moved to Grand Junction from New York City three years ago. He signed a year-long acting contract with the now-defunct Cabaret Dinner Theater. King left the Cabaret long before the business sulked away with its tail between its legs.

“What I like about Charles is that he doesn’t let sh— get him down,” said Benjamin Dial, one of King’s roommates.

The biggest reason King has stayed in Grand Junction is to be with his five roommates. He calls them his makeshift family.

“I think if I was by myself it would be much harder,” King said. “But I have those guys.”

He described them as black, white, straight, gay, 40-years-old and nerdy — “we are living examples of diversity in this town,” King said.

“I moved to Boulder this summer and there was something missing,” said King’s roommate, Tyler Smith. “I realized it was my pseudo family ... Charles is the flamboyant one, the one who’s driven. If it wasn’t for our group, none of us would be successful.”

King’s real family life was rough, to say the least.

King grew up in Danieldale, Texas, near Dallas. As a child, he lived with his grandmother, Godmother, a teacher, in homeless shelters and in battered women’s shelters with his mother, whom King said was “bad into drugs.” His only brother is in jail.

For the most part, King said his grandmother and Godmother raised him.

“I didn’t have one home, I was always back and forth.”

The situation was intensified by the fact that his grandmother attended a Pentecostal church and his Godmother was Episcopalian.

“I have the heart of the Episcopal church and the charisma of the Pentecostal,” King said. “That’s what makes up my world of music.”

His tough childhood is often the topic of the songs he writes. He grew up listening to and singing Gospel music and singing what he calls “Jesus rock ’em” music and “episco-disco.” He was a choral director at church.

Some of his other musical influences are Luther Vandross, Mahalia Jackson, The Roots, Otis Redding and Steven Tyler.

“Love gospel because I love the way it makes you feel,” King said. “Love rock music because of the angst in it. And it was naughty and edgy and hard. It wasn’t perfect. Rock is grit and I like that unpolished beauty. Love punk music too, because the energy of punk is so undeniable.”

King lived in Texas until he was 17 and moved away to go to college.

“My first college choice was a Christian college in Wenham, Mass., with nothing but money and white people,” King said. “Why did I choose that college? Because I knew I could make a difference there.”

He was only there a year, but in that time, he said he frequently gave lectures on being homosexual and Christian.

A professor at Gordon College in Massachusetts urged him to move to New York City to pursue acting. King got into the American Musical and Dramatic Academy. That’s where he was introduced to the cutthroat world of acting, he said, and all the odd jobs he had to keep to scrape by.

His life in New York City was punctuated by trips around the country to act in different towns. At one point, he performed at Carnegie Hall, he said.

While at the Cabaret, King appeared in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” and “The Full Monty” an experience he describes as being incredibly “liberating.”

It seems like musical theater was more about the singing for King than the acting.

He’s dedicated the majority of his time in Grand Junction to building up his rock band, King and the Naughty Bunnies. The band has played all around town: Quincy Bar, Moulin Rouge, Mesa Theater & Club, various festivals and a Rock Jam Battle of the Bands.

King released his first 6-song EP “Manly Agenda” on Dec. 21 with a big show at Mesa Theater. In two months, he’s sold 230 CDs and some songs get play on KAFM. The cover of his EP is a picture of King, only he’s purple and covered in glitter.

“In three years I came here and busted my butt and did what it has taken some people 10 years or more to do,” he said. “And I had more odds against me.”

He’s in the middle of planning a nationwide concert tour now. He’s applied for over 30 venues and festivals across the country. So far, the response he’s gotten has been positive, he said.

“When I was younger, people would always say ‘What’re you gonna be? What do you want to do when you grow up? I used to always say ‘I want to change the world.’ ”

Charles King
AGE: 28
QUOTE: “I was supposed to be a lawyer or a preacher.”
FACT: King has been known to stay up until 4 a.m. just to get McDonald’s breakfast. - The Daily Sentinel


Discography

Debut EP 2008: Manly Agenda

Radio Play: KAFM 88.1
Magic 93.1
Jango Radio
Flawless 99.1

Photos

Bio

Born and raised in Dallas, TX., singer/songwriter/performer KING grew up listening to the Greats of Soul, Gospel, R&B, and Hip Hop that rang out in his house. Inspiring artist like The Roots, Otis Redding, Jackie Wilson, Patti Labelle, Sugar Hill Gang, Run DMC, Mahalia Jackson and Luther Vandross gave KING his introduction and musical foundation.

Even though he was raised with a traditional Southern upbringing, KING developed a secret passion for Punk and Rock. KING studied such icons as Robert Plant, Steven Tyler, Patti Smith, George Clinton, Rob Halford, Corey Glover and Zach de la Rocha. A tough childhood and rough teen years have informed and enlightened his songwriting, making his lyrics topical and piercing. Those words combine with his soulful, gritty vocals to make us stand up and take action. Whether you dance, sing along or are moved to action, you never forget a KING show.

KING has rocked the Western Slope @ festivals such as The Desert Rocks Festival, Frutia Fat Tire festival and the Wells-Fargo Jazz Fest. KING was a finalist in Grand West KIA's 2007 Battle of the Bands and a featured vocalist @ Rock Jam 2008 Southern Comfort Tent. KING has also made appearances at some of the premiere clubs in NYC including The Bitter End, The China Club, The Cutting Room, CBGB's. King was also a featured Soloist at Carnegie Hall w/ Tia Carrere and The Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland.

Come along. Join the Royal Court and experience KING!
www.myspace.com/manlyagenda