Byron King: Lifetime of adventure is legacy of musician, dies at 93

June 04, 2004
Santa Paula News
By Peggy Kelly Santa Paula TimesByron Felton King was made for the music that offered him a lifetime of adventure and friendships forged near the piano his fingers seemed fused to.Byron passed on June 1, 2004, just two days after his 93rd birthday. Byron died in Santa Paula, his birthplace on May 29, 1911 to Kenneth and Adella Greenough King.It was less than a year ago that King retired from tickling the ivories for the Santa Paula Rotary Club.“It’s a labor of love,” was the way King described his astonishing club record: King, known as the “King of Rotary Sing-Alongs” had led the club in song since 1935, four years after he first joined Rotary.He had taken breaks over the years for the travel and he and Janet, his wife of 15 years, loved, but Byron always returned to Santa Paula where he was also the Director of Music for the First United Methodist Church for 48 years.Byron’s musical career began at the age of 7 and one of his first jobs was running the old player piano at the Mission Theater on Main Street, now known as the Tower Theater building. Byron played for the silent flickers in an Oxnard theater in the 1920s and toured the world playing piano on a cruise ship in 1933. Byron even showed off his extraordinary musical talents at the grand piano of the internationally famous Raffles Hotel in the Orient, an experience he considered a career highlight.“It’s definitely the passing of an era,” said Rob Sawyer, the Rotary Song Leader who was partnered with the dignified Byron for about two decades.“It was unbelievable: Byron was always up for doing anything no matter how silly or how short the notice, he try anything,” said Sawyer. “You got used to a routine of Byron doing the same old songs or something strange; he was always game,” for something different no matter how musically challenging.Sawyer said that although some members of the Rotary Club had taken lessons from Byron when they were children, most were unaware of just how great was his talent until a special event.“About 15 years ago Byron was the program and when he stepped out of his role of being the accompanist or the foil of the song leader he was really a great player,” noted Sawyer. “His playing was a very different thing and a real eye-opener for a lot of people.”
As Byron aged arthritis struck the music makers’ hands but “he’d never complain, just say that it took him longer to warm up. . . he’d just do longer warm ups. Byron was an integral part of our Rotary Club and the Methodist Church, all these locations were he was depended on,” to provide music that didn’t always showcase his great range or true talents known throughout the world, Sawyer said.The Santa Paula Rotary Club became known as one of the most song-savvy in District 5420 and Byron deserved much of the credit. He was honored with the Rotary Distinguished Service Award and the Paul Harris Fellowship Award.Aside from his wife, Janet Richardson King, her two children John Richardson of Santa Paula and Alice Kelley of Raleigh, North Carolina and their families also survive Byron.He also leaves his brother, Marion King of Port Hueneme and niece Penny Colclough of Burbank and nephew Kenneth King of Oxnard and their families.Byron was married to Berneice Warrick for 24 years before her death and is survived by her son James Warrick of Las Vegas, NV and his family.He also leaves many cousins and friends.A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, June 9 at First United Methodist Church, 133 N. Mill St.Memorial donations in Byron’s memory can be made to the churches Music Department, 133 N. Mill St. Santa Paula, CA 93060.

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