The Emerald Knights

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Based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, The Emerald Knights fielded Open Class and Division III drum corps in the years 1965-1979, 1981-1984, 1986-1990 and 2001-2002. During 1991 they were known as the Knights, and from 1992-1996 Nite Express (or NEX). The corps is no longer active in DCI.


The history of drum and bugle corps in Cedar Rapids, Iowa dates back to the 1927, beginning with the Cedar Rapids Cadets. By the late 1930s, at least three drum and bugle corps operated in Cedar Rapids, including the all-girl Cavaliers, formed in 1938. The Emerald Knights Drum and Bugle Corps began for boys in 1965. Five years later, girls were admitted. Bingo began in 1974. They were a competetive open class corps, but in 1979 and 1985 had to go inactive for a year when financial expenditures caught up with them.

Resurfacing in 1986 as an A-60 corps, EK sought as much to entertain as compete. The 1986 year was clearly a rebuilding year (scoring 19th at the DCI A-60 prelims), but by 1987 the corps had won the DCM A-60 title and was becoming popular especially for their excellent drum line. Winning the DCI A-60 prelims only to loose the finals to the Mandarins, the corps vowed to win next year, and retained most of its members in 1988. 1988 started out very promising, the corps winning its second DCM A-60 title and scoring a comfortable 15 points above the Mandarins at DCI Midwest in Whitewater a week before DCI. The Whitewater show, however, would mark the beginning of a turn of fortunes as the Mandarins scored .2 behind the first place EK at DCI prelims, and then, beat the Emerald Knights in finals a second straight year. It was a heartbreaking defeat for the up and coming corps, and this time, many members did not return for the 1989 season, opting to march in such corps as Santa Clara Vanguard (snare) and Star of Indiana (tenors.) 1989 was another rebuilding year, placing barely out of both DCM and DCI finals. In 1990, with even smaller numbers (12 horns) the corps placed out of DCM but managed to take the final 7th spot at Finals. At Finals retreat that year, EK found itself playing "John 19:41" from Jesus Christ Superstar off the feild next to the corps it would merge with in 1991: the 6th place Knight Command (formerly known as The Quad City Knights).

In 1991, new corps director Matthew Daugherty brought a new laidback philosophy both in show design and work ethic. That winter an agreement to merge with the Knight Command was reached. Drum corps looking to solve membershipping problems and ease financial burden by merging with another drum corps would do well to consider this failed experiment. First, Matt Daugherty's vision was a new direction for both corps. Knight Command would have continued their driving rock shows, while Emerald Knights considered Jesus Christ Superstar; instead the new corps were to play a Harry Connick, Jr show, in a swinging style akin to the Bluecoats. The new uniforms were black pants and shoes with flimsy white double-breasted 40's gangster coats with a fake sky-blue carnation in the left breast pocket, black turtlenecks, and a flimsy white fedora- something like a generic gangster Halloween costume. Second, The drumline was mostly from North Texas State University and was clearly the strongest part of the corps- thanks to Daugherty's association with John Wooten, who was to be program coordinator in the beginning, and Eric Johnson, the drum caption head that year. Drumline would continue to be based in the south throughout the Nite Express years. While Knight Command's drum staff and drumline members found themselves in secondary roles, in other sections the talent was more evenly balanced between staff and members. However (third,) it was noted at the time that the members got along much better than the staff, and by season's end the less-mature adults had squandered any chance of there being a merged Knights corps in 1992. Fourth, Knight Command had a number of proud traditions such as their round table, while the Emerald Knight's traditions were more informal, if not forgotten after 1988. It is not to be concluded that Emerald Knights did not once have proud traditions of their own, but they were mostly usurped. The prevalance of Geneso/Quad City/Knight Command traditions caused friction among some senior members. Fifth, the corps fell short of its goal of being a Class A powerhouse, a goal which was somewhat expected in combining the nucleuses of 2 drum corps and the large staff. The 65-member corps did not make either DCM or DCI finals, despite its very high drum scores.

In breaking off the merger in 1992, Matt Daugherty and John Wooten took the laidback style to its logical conclusion, forging a new identity for the Cedar Rapids corps known as Nite Express. Only a handful of Emerald Knights joined this corps (mostly in the drumline,) instead most members joined the Quad City Knights. Therefore Nite Express was a new corps in many respects, with few connections to the Emerald Knights. Among these connections, however, was Dean Bassett, a man who had marched tympani in the Emerald Knights in the late 1970's and had remained with the corps as equipment manager until his death in 1994. He was highly respected in the Emerald Knights organisation, and the Emerald Knights equipment trailer in emerald and white with its very loud sound system was the envy of many corps.

Nite Express lasted four years, 1992-1996.

In 2001, Emerald Knights briefly returned to the field as a Division III corps, playing the show from Nite Express' 1996 season. Some EK pre-merger staff/members were involved. The new Emerald Knights was shortlived, and the corps has no known plans to reform.