King 'n Trio: Rotary's Rock 'n' Roll KingsAug 25, 2023 10:23AM ● By Terri Benson
The King ’n Trio was founded 23 years ago by a group of local Rotarians. Several members have come and gone over the years, but current members Chris Unfug, Merritt Kinsey, Russ Williams and Kelly Anderson are still belting out standards and original songs inspired by ’50s artists like the Kingston Trio and Elvis Presley.
These two music pioneers, according to bassist Kinsey, are also partly responsible for the band’s name. David Durham, one of the group’s founders, was very fond of Elvis Presley’s music and earned the nickname “The King.” When Durham was rounding up other musically inclined Rotarians, they came up with King ’n Trio as a homage to the Kingston Trio, which was collectively one of their favorite bands.
The band’s repertoire of songs is accompanied by upbeat folk sounds similar to Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger and Bob Dylan, with harmonizing vocals reminiscent of a barbershop quartet.
During performances, audiences are treated to witty repartee between members dressed in their trademark Hawaiian shirts and khakis. Unfug may switch out his guitar for a banjo or mandolin, and his bandmates may incorporate congas or the harmonica.
Sometimes the band welcomes its part-time members Charles Latshaw on ukulele and Amanda Chipchase on violin.
The King ’n Trio didn’t start out being such an in-demand group, but word spread when they were asked to perform by another rotary club. At the end of that performance, the club passed around a hat and suddenly the group was holding money they hadn’t expected.
“We just like to play music,” Kinsey said.
“The rest just came as a result,” Unfug added.
It didn’t take them long to decide to donate the money—a tradition they’ve carried on for more than 20 years. To date, the band has raised and donated over $300,000 to worthy causes, including the American Diabetes Association, Avalon Theatre, Mesa County Libraries, Kids Aid, Red Cross and Museums of Western Colorado.
Kinsey was part of the band in 2005 when they played for more than 30,000 Rotarians at Rotary International’s 100th anniversary convention.
“That stage was huge, with 40-foot speakers, sound crews, drivers to get us to the show on time and a jumbotron blowing us up to king size,” Kinsey said. “It was a real hoot to see the audience reach up and turn down their hearing aids all at the same time.”
That led to even more performances at Rotary Conferences, including one at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles. Once they found themselves in a green room with cable news pioneer Ted Turner.
SEE THEM LIVE
The group has released five CDs, which can be purchased at the band’s October 5 concert at the Avalon Theatre in Grand Junction.
This concert begins at 7 p.m. and benefits the local PEO Chapter DY (Philanthropic Educational Organization), which celebrates the advancement of women by providing scholarships, grants and education funding opportunities to local students.
Tickets are $20 and can be purchased at the Avalon Box Office Tuesday through Saturday, 12-6 p.m. or on Ticketmaster.com. Call the box office at 970-263-5757.