Kingtones – (Keyboards)
Where Are They Now:
Bruce Snoap continued to play with the Kingtones for 50 years. He and Phil Roberts were together in the band for 48 years. Bruce got married in 1966 to his girl friend Chick, the love of his life that he had been going with when the Kingtones played at Porky’s. At their wedding, Mike King, Bob Major and Phil Roberts were groomsmen. Pete Mervenne, for the first time ever, sang the wedding songs “Because” and “The Lord’s Prayer.” Bruce and Chick have three children and ten grandchildren. They still live in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Although Bruce doesn’t see Bob, Mike or Phil much any more, he still considers them three of his best friends. He has never joined or played music with any other band.
The Start of it all – The Kingtones:
In September of 1957, the school year had just begun at Oakleigh Junior High School. Gil King, a cornet player in the school music program, urged some of his fellow 7th graders to start a Rock and Roll band. It didn’t take a lot of convincing – what would be a better way of impressing the junior high girls and having a blast at the same time?
King recruited three sax players; Bob Major, Jim Hoeksma, and Jim Corsen; along with Jerry Gephart on piano, Tom Veenstra on trumpet, and Bob Green on drums. The fledgling group first started playing as a unit in the school’s band lab. Classmate Bruce Snoap also wanted in, and offered to buy a guitar in order to join the band and provide the group with his Elvis imitation.
They first played an Oakleigh P.T.A. meeting, then at a YMCA dance where they got the kids dancing with their rendition of “Rock Around The Clock”. The band played for free and the fun of performing instrumentals like “When The Saints Go Marching In” along with some of the hits of the day and Bruce’s Elvis numbers.
In 1958, inspired by the “twangy” guitar of Duane Eddy, Gil King persuaded his parents to buy him an electric guitar. The line-up of the band also changed at this time. The horn section was dropped except for Bob Major on sax. Chuck Snoap (Bruce’s brother) joined on bass, and Earl Hyde joined on guitar. Bruce Snoap, not a strong guitar player, offered to buy an organ in order to stay in the band.
The most important addition to the band, however, was vocalist Pete Mervenne. Not only did he possess an outstanding singing voice, but he was also handsome, a gifted athlete, and the most popular boy in school.
That same year, Gil King’s father held a contest for the employees in his drafting firm to come up with a name for his son’s band. The person with the winning suggestion would be presented a magnum of champagne. A list of 50 or 60 possible names was submitted to the band members to consider, and they chose the ‘Kingtones’ as their moniker.
The Kingtones went through some more personnel changes in 1959. The important additions were Mike King (Gil’s cousin) on drums and Phil Roberts on guitar. Roberts, who was from across town in East Grand Rapids, had played for another local band, the Rocking Revels. The Kingtones were impressed with Phil’s version of “Johnny B. Goode”, and invited him to join the band.