An Interview with Karl Hinkle of The Knightsmen
One of Indiana's Premier Garage Bands in the Sixties
What was Indiana's greatest garage band in the '60's? Well, according to the Knightsmen, it was... the Knightsmen! The Lance Monthly gives a hearty thanks to Karl Hinkle for sharing his story with our readers and encourages a visit to the band's impressive website immediately after reading this very entertaining interview.
[Lance Monthly] How did you first get interested in music?
[Karl Hinkle] I was in the 6th grade in 1963 and I remember Jack Parr showing a home video of the Beatles on his television show. I was hooked on what I heard and saw. Parr told the TV audience that England was going crazy over this unknown group. They didn't stay unknown for long. When they came to America and did the Ed Sullivan show, it was all over but buying a Hofner bass guitar for me.
[Lance Monthly] Were the Knightsmen your first band?
[Karl Hinkle] The first band I was in didn't have a name. It was two other fellows and myself. The problem was that we all played rhythm guitars. So we didn't get that group off the ground. The next band was The Rebels: Bass, lead, drums and rhythm. I received my first paying gig in the 7th grade in 1964. We were together for a year, I think.
[Lance Monthly] Where were the Knightsmen formed?
[Karl Hinkle] The band was started by Gary Irwin and Tom Rea in 1964 under the name, The Demensions. David Lee joined shortly after. They found out there was another group with the same name and changed their name to The Knightsmen. Gary and David asked me to join them after they had heard me in the Rebels. I played bass guitar and sang lead. That was the combination they needed: their bass player and lead vocalist Lanny Hale was moving to New England.
[Lance Monthly] Please list the names of each of the Knightsmen, as well as the instruments each played.
[Karl Hinkle] When I joined the band in 1965, this was the line up and their ages: David Lee, keyboard and back up vocals (age 15); Gary Irwin, drums (age 15); Mark Tribby, lead guitar (age 15);Tom Rea, bass guitar (age 14); Don Lee, rhythm guitar (age 14); Rob McCoy, lead vocalist (age 14); Darrell Ball, lead vocalist (age 15); Karl Hinkle, lead vocalist (age 13)
[Lance Monthly] Where did the band usually practice?
[Karl Hinkle] Where do you think? In a garage, of course! It was Gary Irwin's parent's garage. It had no heat in the winter and no air-conditioning in the summer. We didn't care . . . we were making music.
[Lance Monthly] What kind of gigs did you get?
[Karl Hinkle] Schools, parties, fairs, as well as colleges, city-wide battle of the bands contests, drive-in theater battle of the bands contests. We were once featured on a float in the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race Parade one year. We played to over 400,000 people over a 4 mile parade route.
[Lance Monthly] How popular locally did the Knightsmen become?
[Karl Hinkle] We got fairly well known. We made television appearances, warmed up for headliners, and I think we received radio play.
[Lance Monthly] The band released one single that I'm aware of: "Let Love Come Between Us" and "Gimme A Little Sign." What year was this recorded?
[Karl Hinkle] Our double-sided 45 rpm was released in 1966. The original artists were Brenton Wood on "Gimme a Little Sign" and James and Bobby Purify on "Let Love Come Between Us." It was released on the Irwin Production label. It sold out locally. I think we got airplay . . . it's been awhile.
[Lance Monthly] Do any other '60s Knightsmen recordings exist?
[Karl Hinkle] Not unless some[one] recorded us on a portable recorder somewhere. No "live" recordings exist that I know of.
[Lance Monthly] You've previously mentioned a few Battle of the Bands that the Knightsmen participated in. What do you recall about the '68 Battle of the Bands that the Knightsmen won?
[Karl Hinkle] This was one of those drive-in theater Battle of the Bands contests. Pendleton Pike Drive-In had an ongoing battle of the bands contest each summer during the '60s sponsored by WIFE AM 1430. The whole deal was to come and compete against other bands and as you won you would return each week as the current champions to defend your title. The contest would start at the beginning of summer and whoever was the winner the last week of competition was the champion of the universe, more or less. Other bands included: Jay and the Raiders, The Trespassers, Dimension IV, Us Guys, and the Avengers. We performed a wide variety of songs from the Beatles, Sam and Dave, Young Rascals, Beach Boys, Three Dog Night, Kingsmen, Wilson Pickett, and the Yardbirds. The prize was a trophy. We decided to let each member keep the trophy at their house for a week each. I don't know who has it now. Winning the contest did help us. I believe the television appearance came from that contest. We appeared on a local TV show called "Bandstand 13" hosted by Jimmy Mack. Jimmy was the Dick Clark of Indianapolis and "Bandstand 13" was a local version of "American Bandstand."
[Lance Monthly] Did the Knightsmen open for any "national" acts that played in Indianapolis?
[Karl Hinkle] Yes. We opened one time for Kenny Rogers and the First Edition ("Just Dropped In To See What Condition My Condition Was In") and another time for Tommy Roe ("Dizzy" and "Oh, Sweet Pea").
[Lance Monthly] Why didn't the Knightsmen record any other singles?
[Karl Hinkle] We didn't record again because the band broke up. My family moved away and they couldn't go on without me. I love those guys!
[Lance Monthly] You played with the Wright Brothers after the Knightsmen. Please tell me a bit about your tenure with that band.
[Karl Hinkle] In 1972 I was asked to join The Wright Brothers Overland Stage Company. Tim and Tim Wright had started the band in 1970 and were, oooooh, deja vu, looking for a bass player and lead vocalist. BAM! I was in. We played together for three years and I had to leave. In 1978, the Wright Brothers (they had dropped the Overland Stage Company part of the band's name) asked me to rejoin them. We started playing in Nashville. We were a country-rock band, signed a contract with Warner Brothers Records in 1981 and released three singles, "Family Man," "When You Find Her Keep Her," and "Made In The USA" from the album by the same name. I left the Wright Brothers in 1984 in order to pursue a Christian music ministry.
[Lance Monthly] In 1998, the Knightsmen reunited. What was the catalyst for the reunion?
[Karl Hinkle] Flashback to 1983. We had actually reunited for the 15 year class reunion of Arlington High School's Class of '69. At the end of the evening I said to the people, "Let's do this again in 15 years." Ha-Ha! Flash forward to 1998. Gary Irwin and David Lee show up at a church I am singing at and we start talking about that night 15 years ago when we got back together for one glorious night. At least that's the way we remember it. Anyway, David asked me if I remembered what I had said that night. I said "no." Gary reminded me and I started to laugh. David and Gary weren't laughing and I said, "No. Again?" They said "It's been 15 years and they want the Knightsmen to do it again!" After that, we decided to stay together just in case. We have played other reunions as well as private parties and our drummer's wedding reception. Gary Irwin and his bride Joni Comer were married last December.
[Lance Monthly] Please tell me about the Knightsmen today. How often do you perform as a band?
[Karl Hinkle] The Knightsmen today are healthy and happy and groovy. We perform about six to eight times a year, if I can get out of the "home". We have plans for more recording projects with working titles such as: "Flabby Road," "Fit To Be Tie-Died," "Rock and Roll Won't Stunt Your Growth," and "I Got Down, Now I Can't Get Up." Our current CD, entitled "Fossilized" on the Music Saurus Productions label, is available for $15 for CD and $12 for tape, plus shipping and handling, through our web sight: http://knightsmen.tripod.com/indiana/ or by e-mailing me, Karl Hinkle, at: email@example.com . Songs on "Fossilized" are: "Land of a Thousand Dances," "Run For Your Life," "Higher and Higher," "Oh, Pretty Woman," "Slow Down", "Mustang Sally," "Let It Be Me," "Feel A Whole Lot Better," "You Can't Do That," "Six Days On The Road," "Barbara Ann," "Only The Lonely," "Devil with a Blue Dress On," "Sweet Soul Music," and "Good Golly Miss Molly."
[Lance Monthly] What are the Knightsmen's plans for 2001 and beyond?
[Karl Hinkle] To get to 2002. Seriously, we will play till we can't play any more, or until one of us has to leave the band. We only play '60s music and there are a lot of '60s songs out there. Since we are not totally dependent on the group, we have a ball playing together. In my 37 years of making music, I can honestly say I am having more fun now, with The Knightsmen, than at any other time in my secular music career. I love these men and I am in awe of their talents. They're fun to be around and I am flattered that they want to keep making music together.
[Lance Monthly] What else keeps you busy?
[Karl Hinkle] In 1985 my late pastor and friend, Tommy Paino III and I began a music ministry to the Christian church. I travel to different congregations each week to sing and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I come on an offering basis. In other words, I don't charge. My prayer is to encourage the church and to encourage a relationship with God through His Son Jesus Christ. Karl Hinkle Ministries can be reached through [the] Internet at: http://www.karlhinkle.com, e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org , [or] toll free at 877-624-3927.
[Lance Monthly] Thanks for your recollections, Karl.
[Karl Hinkle] Thanks. God bless you and the fine folks at The Lance Monthly.