Friday, May 7, 2010

The Rock Band, Kansas

This week we will rise above the noise and confusion, just to get a glimpse beyond this illusion... And for those of you who are sitting there wondering just what the heck I'm writing about, carry on my wayward son (or daughter) and keep reading!

Do an Internet search for the word, "Kansas," and you'll find hits for the state of Kansas and Kansas City along with many sites about the rock band, Kansas. The band and its name have a history going back 40 years. A band formed with the name, Kansas, by Topekans, Dave Hope, Phil Ehart and Kerry Livgren in 1970 folded, reformed and merged with different names and members before a newly formed band was brought together in 1973 with the name, Kansas, affixed permanently. Kansas band members by then were Phil Ehart, Dave Hope, Kerry Livgren, Robbie Steinhardt, Steve Walsh and Rich Williams.

With the release of their first major album, "Kansas," in 1974 Kansas moved into the national music spotlight as a progressive rock band, offering music which combined rock interwoven with classic symphonic tones and complex arrangements. Years later Kansas is still entertaining crowds of new and old fans with its distinctive, musical style and rich, reflective lyrics.

Enthusiastic followers known as "wheatheads" travel great distances to attend Kansas concerts such as the sold out January, 2008, performance at the Topeka Performing Arts Center. The band rocked the house that night with an assist from the Topeka Symphony Orchestra. Reviewer Bill Blankenship from the Topeka Capital-Journal commented after the concert, "More often than not, Kansas performs opuses, not songs. They are rich and textured and far too long for radio. They have movements, tempo changes, counterpoint and other symphonic forms that go well beyond the verse-chorus 'Roll Over Beethoven' roots of rock."

So let's sit back, pop in a CD and listen to some great music while perusing information on a band that named itself after a state.

Kansas, the Official Website
Includes information on:
  • Current Band Members
  • History
  • Multimedia
  • News and Reviews

    Some Current* & Former Band Members' Websites
  • Phil Ehart* (Wikipedia)
  • John Elefante
  • Billy Greer*
  • David Hope (Wikipedia)
  • Kerry Livgren
  • Steve Morse
  • David Ragsdale*
  • Robby Steinhardt (Wikipedia)
  • Steve Walsh*
  • Richard Williams*

  • Official website
  • MusicMoz
  • Wikipedia
  • Billboard Charts and Awards

    Fan Clubs
  • People of the South Wind (POTSW)

    Other Resources
  • Kerry Livgren Interview (2006)
  • Rich Williams Interview (2008)
  • Billy Greer Interview (2001)
  • Phil Ehart Interview
  • Song Lyrics (Rock Lyrics)
  • 1kansasfan has a large array of Kansas videos on YouTube

  • Kansas Platinum Record (Kansas State Historical Society)
  • A Review of the Kansas concert with the Washburn Symphony Orchestra held February 10, 2009 in Topeka. The concert was later released on DVD titled "There's Know Place Like Home," and shown on KTWU Public Television.
  • Resources found in the ATLAS online catalog (Includes State Library of Kansas holdings)

    Article contact: Bill Sowers
    (My thanks to Cindy Roupe for suggesting this topic)

    1. The first album I ever purchased was their Leftoverture album. Fell in love with their music, especially Song for America. Attended four concerts in HS / college - basically grew up on their music. But after mid 80s, they just didn't seem the same - much prefer their earlier stuff.

    2. Cool post. Thanks for sharing this.

    3. Great post. I enjoyed the links.

      Greg from Wichita

    4. Wow! This is a nice resource! I am now having a rocking day!

      I'm a fan of the band, but I'm even bigger fan of Topeka's very own Kerry Livgren, who was the lead guitarist/keyboardist and writer of their two biggest hits: "Carry on My Wayward Son" and "Dust in the Wind." As mentioned by the links on the excellent Kansas 150 SLK blog, Kerry joined his old band for those two song at the performances with the Washburn University orchestra and the Topeka Symphony.

      Please also take a look at to hear about Kerry's latest band Proto-kaw, which included some of the people he first played with in the 70s. Before I first saw them performed on Labor Day weekend in 2006, I had a preconceived impression that they were just some old guys who were capitalizing on past (almost attained) fame and Kerry's fame and reputation. They weren't! Those guys jammed. Manhattan locals Lynn Meredith's had a powerful voice and John Bolton's flute and sax added a symphonic dimension. Kerry's guitar playing was jaw dropping. Everybody was solid. For those who haven't heard about Kerry's stroke last year, here's an update on his recovery:

      I'm always love hearing about local kids making it big. Sorry I can't resist, but here's a local group that I follow: (I'm a huge fan of the lead guitarist)

      Thanks for allowing me to share!

      Andrew from Topeka

    5. I would like to add that Kansas played at White Concert Hall on the campus of Washburn University with the Washburn Symphony Orchestra on Feb. 7, 2009 to record their 35th anniversary DVD "Know Place Like Home." Several of the members attended Washburn University in the early 1970s while the various band versions were being formed. The band Kansas played at White Concert Hall during Homecoming on Sept. 27, 1971 along with folk guitarist Robert Williams. Although none of the guys graduated we'd like to think they got their classical music influence from the Washburn Music Department!

      For those who are interested in more early history there was a good article in the Topeka Capital Journal on March 7, 1976, p. 17. And of course there were lots of articles in the TCJ and several in the Washburn Review in Feb. 2009.

      The DVD "Know Place Like Home" local review:

      Martha Imparato
      Special Collections Librarian
      Mabee Library
      Washburn University

    6. I saw Kansas three times in San Juan and they were incredible, I think that all the fans around the world are waiting for a new Kansas CD with new material of both Kerry and Steve. Kansas is the best rock band of the world!