King Charles Troup, and unicycle team will be a part of the 2015 MLKing, Jr. Day Parade on Monday, January 19, 2015 here in Savannah. The group is currently on tour with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Baily “Built to Amaze! – Nuts & Boltz Edition coming to Savannah, Wednesday, January 21 through Sunday, January 25, 2015!
In 1918, a young boy by the name of Jerry King slipped under the tent to see The Greatest Show on Earth®. Enamored, he especially recalled from that day the elephants and the man on the high wire riding a unicycle. In 1958, as a father who was concerned with the social events occurring within his community in South Bronx, King taught his son Charles and every kid in the neighborhood who wanted to learn how to ride a unicycle. He started a unicycle club and laid down certain rules to follow, such as discipline, direction and Christian principles.
Ten years later, the troupe auditioned on the sidewalk outside of Madison Square Garden for Irvin Feld, producer of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey®. The audition was a success, and the King Charles Troupe made its debut with Ringling Bros.® in 1969, becoming the first all-African-American circus act in its history. Led by King’s son Charles, the King Charles Troupe, reigned in popularity for nearly 20 years with The Greatest Show On Earth. Since then, the troupe has performed for stage productions domestically and internationally.
During an interview with Mark Birthwright, he stated “he likes riding in the circus because it allows he and the team to communicate with the kids. The team consists of 8 basketball players and 2 referees on unicycles. Birthwright who started riding the unicycle over 20 years ago in South Bronx, now resides in Las Vegas.
Today there are three generations of performers in the current troupe traveling with Ringling Bros. Presents Built To Amaze!® including a father and son working together. They still are motivated by Jerry King’s slogan, “Get changed, get together and get going.” They also have a tradition of their own, before every performance they say a prayer, do a special handshake and team roll call at the curtain.