Guess what Dorothy? You are not in Kansas anymore, so I’m bringing Kansas to you! The rock group Kansas, that is. That’s right Joe! They are more than “Dust in the Wind” my friend! My top ten Kansas songs are as follows:
- Carry On Wayward Son
- Dust in the Wind
- Point of Know Return
- The Wall
- People of the South Wind
- Song for America
- Hold On
- Play the Game Tonight
- Journey from Mariabronn
- Cheyenne Anthem
It was late 1970-something and on my stereo turntable you would often find the rock group Kansas spinning and filling my room with good ol’ homegrown rock-n-roll. Kansas was formed in 1970 in the city of Topeka, Kansas. I was a huge fan and I still am. Sadly, I find that in my travels outside my native state, most people only know the song “Carry On Wayward Son” and, maybe, “Dust in the Wind”. So I feel it is my duty as a Kansan to musically educate the world! Although Kansas never had a #1 single, they were no stranger to the top 20 Billboard chart. “Carry on Wayward Son” peaked at #11 in 1977 and “Dust in the Wind” was a top ten hit in 1978 peaking at #6. According to Billboard.com, both songs spent twenty weeks on the Billboard Top 100 Chart. The original line up of Kansas included Steve Walsh, Kerry Livgren, Rich Williams, Dave Hope, Robbie Steinhardt, and Phil Ehart.
Regardless of chart history, Kansas rocks! I was fortunate to witness them live in concert on several occasions as they toured the Midwest arenas and smaller venues. They never disappointed their fans and rocked their hearts out every show. All the members of Kansas were talented musicians and they became my “gateway” group into progressive rock (prog rock). I groomed my ears on Kansas and then had the courage to expand my prog rock musical tastes. I began listening to Yes, The Moody Blues, Pink Floyd, Genesis, Emerson Lake and Palmer, Supertramp, and the penultimate prog rockers, the masters of intellectual rock, RUSH!
In the late 70s into the early 80s, a Kansas concert was a musical spectacle to see and hear. Violins and keyboards combined with hard rocking guitars and drums always rocked the house. Pair that with the excellent showmanship and stage presence of lead singer/keyboardist Steve Walsh and your senses were lit on fire at each show. I was amazed more than once to witness Walsh perform a handstand on his keyboard and continue to play (even if it was only one chord or two!).
Steve Walsh was my favorite member of the band, after all he was the lead singer and voice of Kansas. I was very disappointed when he left the band after the Audio-Visions tour in the early 80s. He attempted a solo career and started a band called Streets, which included guitarist Mike Slamer, bass guitarist Billy Greer, drummer Tim Gerht, and Steve on lead vocals/keyboards. Streets played small venues and clubs. I saw them perform live at a small club called Luna’s Landing in Topeka, Kansas. Due to my friendship with lighting engineer, Mark Myer, and guitarist, Joe Greene, both of the local rock group Astre who were the opening act for Streets, I got to help out with some minor roadie duties and hang out with the band. This little connection led to me being able to chat with the members of Streets, including the man himself, Steve Walsh! It is a rock-n-roll experience I will never forget. After Streets called it quits, Walsh toured and played keyboards for the rock group Cheap Trick (another favorite of mine!) until he re-joined Kansas in 1985. He remained the frontman for Kansas until he retired from the music business in 2014.
I know Kansas, for most rock fans, is an obscure prog rock band mainly known for one or two songs that received national rock radio airplay. To me, the rock group Kansas is a reminder of home and that Jim Steinman was right when he sang, “rock-n-roll dreams do come true”. Kansas rocks!
© 2019 Greg Vessar. All Rights Reserved.