Kansas (band)

Kansas (band)
Background information
Origin Topeka, Kansas, United States
Genres Progressive rock, hard rock, art rock
Years active 1973–1984; 1985-present
Labels Kirshner, MCA, Magna Carta
Associated acts Proto-Kaw, Streets, AD, Seventh Key, Native Window
Website kansasband.com
Phil Ehart
Billy Greer
Rich Williams
Steve Walsh
David Ragsdale
Past members
Robby Steinhardt
Dave Hope
Kerry Livgren
John Elefante
Steve Morse

Kansas is an American rock band that became popular in the 1970s initially on Album-Oriented Rock charts, and later with hit singles such as "Carry On Wayward Son" and "Dust in the Wind".[1] They tour in North America and Europe.



1970–1973: Early years

Dave Hope (bass), Phil Ehart (drums, percussion), and Kerry Livgren (guitars, keyboards, synthesizers) formed a progressive rock group in 1970 in their hometown of Topeka, Kansas (Steve Walsh is from St. Joseph, Missouri), along with vocalists Lynn Meredith and Joel Warne, and keyboardist Don Montre, keyboardist Dan Wright, and saxophonist Larry Baker.[1]

A year earlier, Meredith, Montre, Wright and Livgren were performing in a band called The Reasons Why. After changing the band's name to Saratoga, they started playing Livgren's original material with Scott Kessler playing bass and Zeke Lowe on drums. In 1970, they changed the band's name again to Kansas and merged with members of rival Topeka progressive rock outfit White Clover. This early Kansas group, which lasted until 1971 when Ehart and Hope and some of the others left to reform White Clover, is sometimes referred to as Kansas I.

Ehart was replaced by Zeke Lowe and later Brad Schulz, Hope was replaced by Rod Mikinski on bass, and Baker was replaced by John Bolton on saxophone and flute. (This lineup is sometimes referred to as Kansas II, and 30 years later would re-form under the name Proto-Kaw.) In 1972, after Ehart returned from England (where he had gone to look for other musicians), he and Hope once again reformed White Clover with Robby Steinhardt (vocals, violin, viola, cello), Steve Walsh (vocals, keyboards, synthesizers, percussion) and Rich Williams (guitars). In 1973 they recruited Livgren from the second Kansas group, which then folded.[2] Eventually they received a recording contract with Don Kirshner's eponymous label and decided to adopt the Kansas name.

1974–1979: Rise to national prominence

The debut album, Kansas, was released in March 1974, nearly a year after it was recorded in New York. It defined the band's signature sound, a mix of American-style boogie-rock and complex, symphonic arrangements with changing time signatures. Steinhardt's violin was a distinctive element of the group's sound and set them apart from other progressive rock groups of the era. The band slowly developed a cult following, due to promotion by Kirshner and extensive touring for the debut album and its two follow-ups, Song for America and Masque.

The band in 1976.

Kansas released its fourth album, Leftoverture, in November 1976, which produced a hit single, "Carry On Wayward Son", in 1977. The follow-up, Point of Know Return, released in October 1977, featured the title track and "Dust in the Wind," both hit singles.

Leftoverture and Point each sold over four million copies in the U.S. Both "Carry On Wayward Son" and "Dust in the Wind" were certified gold singles, selling over one million units each. "Dust in the Wind" was certified gold as a digital download by the RIAA in 2005, almost 30 years after selling one million copies as a single. Leftoverture was certified five times platinum by the RIAA in 2001.

During this period, Kansas became a major headlining act and sold out the largest venues available to rock bands at the time, including New York's Madison Square Garden. The band documented this era in 1978 with Two for the Show, a double live album of recordings from various performances from its 1977 and 1978 tours. The band gained a solid reputation for faithful live reproduction of their studio recordings. In 1978 the band was named UNICEF Deputy Ambassadors of Goodwill.[3]

The follow-up studio album to Point of Know Return was Monolith (1979), which, like the live album, was self-produced. While the album produced a Top 40 single in "People of the South Wind"--the title refers to the meaning of the Kaw word 'Kansas'--it failed to garner the sales and radio airplay of its two predecessors. Nevertheless, the album went platinum. Kerry Livgren's platinum award for the album is on display at the Kansas History Museum[4]

1980–1984: Creative tensions

Kansas guitarist Steve Morse

Kansas' band members began to drift apart in the early 1980s. Livgren became a born-again Christian, and this was reflected in his lyrics on the next three albums, beginning with Audio-Visions. "Hold On," a Top 40 single from that album, displayed his new-found faith in a pop setting. Hope soon converted to Christianity as well. Walsh left in October 1981 to form a new band, Streets. In early 1982, Walsh was replaced by vocalist/keyboardist John Elefante,[1] a born-again Christian who was chosen over other applicants including Sammy Hagar and Doug Pinnick. Elefante and brother Dino Elefante were later successful producers for contemporary Christian artists, including Sweet Comfort Band, Petra, Bride, Rick Cua, and Guardian.

Kansas' first album with Elefante, Vinyl Confessions, released in June 1982, was their most successful studio release since Point of Know Return. The record renewed interest in the group and generated the band's first Top 20 hit in several years, "Play the Game Tonight." The album's overtly Christian lyrics attracted an entirely new audience. Still, sales of the album fell short of gold status, and the album has yet to be certified gold.

Drastic Measures followed in 1983. Because Livgren was holding back some Christian-oriented songs for another solo album, he contributed only three songs to the album[citation needed]. The rest were penned by the Elefante brothers, and without the violin of Steinhardt (who left the group before the recording sessions), the result was a more mainstream pop-rock album. The single, "Fight Fire with Fire," did not crack the Top 40 on the Billboard Hot 100 but reached #3 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart, making it the highest chart position of any Kansas release on any chart.

During the band's time with Elefante as lead vocalist, Livgren became increasingly uncomfortable with Kansas representing his Christian worldview. After a final New Year's Eve performance on December 31, 1983, Livgren and Hope left to form AD with former Bloodrock member Warren Ham, who had toured as a sideman with Kansas in 1982, and Michael Gleason, who had done the same in 1983. They were joined by drummer Dennis Holt. Elefante, Ehart, and Williams sought to continue as Kansas, and recorded one more song, "Perfect Lover," which appeared on the retrospective The Best of Kansas (1984). That was to be the final Kansas recording with Elefante, and the group disbanded after its release. Since leaving Kansas, Elefante has become a popular contemporary Christian music artist but has never again performed with the group.

1985–present: Reformation and touring

In 1985 the band came back together with Walsh, but without Livgren, Hope or Steinhardt.[1] The new line-up included bassist Billy Greer (of Streets) and guitarist Steve Morse (formerly of the Dixie Dregs). The re-formed band released Power in November 1986. The first single, "All I Wanted," became the last Kansas single to hit the Billboard Top 40 chart, peaking at #19.[1] Two more singles, the title track and "Can't Cry Anymore," were less successful. The new lineup released a second album, In the Spirit of Things, in 1988, but it was met with weak sales and Morse left the band at the end of the tour in 1989.

In 1990, a German promoter arranged to reunite all the original members of Kansas III (except for Steinhardt) for a European tour. Greer joined them, along with keyboardist Greg Robert, who had first joined Kansas on tour in 1986. At the end of the tour, Hope left again, but Livgren remained on into 1991. That year, violinist David Ragsdale joined the group and the return of the violin allowed Kansas to perform earlier material in arrangements closer to the originals. Livgren left during the 1991 tour, to be replaced temporarily by Steve Morse again. After the tour, Morse left and Ragsdale took over the extra guitar parts, leaving Williams as the primary guitar player. The resulting lineup of Ehart, Greer, Ragsdale, Robert, Walsh, and Williams lasted from 1991 to 1997. This period saw one live album and accompanying video, Live at the Whisky (1992) and one studio album Freaks of Nature (1995). On July 28, 1996, Kansas was inducted into the Rock Walk of Fame in Hollywood.

Kansas, June 6, 2009

In early 1997, Robert and Ragsdale left the band and Steinhardt returned. The following year Kansas released Always Never the Same, which featured Larry Baird conducting the London Symphony Orchestra. The album was a mix of older Kansas material (with new arrangements by Baird), several new songs, and a cover of "Eleanor Rigby". Somewhere to Elsewhere, released in July 2000, featured all the original members of Kansas, plus Greer, with all songs written by Livgren.

In 2000 Kansas was the opening act for Yes during their "Masterworks" tour. In 2002, Kansas II (the lineup prior to the recording and release of Kansas' first album) released an album under the group name Proto-Kaw, featuring demos and live material recorded from 1971 to 1973. This led to a new studio album, Before Became After (2004), with most of the Kansas II members participating. Proto-Kaw released a third album, The Wait of Glory, in 2006.

Kansas has continued to tour every year. The 2006 tour was delayed for a few weeks due to Steinhardt's second departure,[5] and Ragsdale subsequently returned to the lineup. In 2008, the Kansas website announced that four of the five current members (Ehart, Ragsdale, Williams and Greer) had formed a recording group called Native Window, and they released their self-titled debut album in June 2009.

In February 2009, Kansas recorded a concert in Topeka, Kansas featuring a full symphony orchestra, with Larry Baird conducting. Morse and Livgren appeared as special guests on several songs. The performance was released on CD, DVD and Blu-ray and the DVD hit #5 on Billboard's Music Video Chart the week after its release.

As of July 13, 2010, Kansas had recently completed a 30-day "United We Rock" tour with fellow classic rock legends Styx and Foreigner.

Kansas began a Collegiate Tour in September 2010. On this tour, they perform with the symphony orchestras of various U.S. colleges in an effort to raise money for the individual schools' music programs.


Kansas' two most popular songs, "Carry On Wayward Son" and "Dust in the Wind," have been covered by other artists, and featured on film and television soundtracks.

"Carry On, Wayward Son" has been covered by: Critical Mass, Dream Theater, Yngwie Malmsteen, The Oak Ridge Boys, Rachel Rachel, The Showdown, Stryper, and an off-the-cuff live version by the Foo Fighters. The riff and parts of the song was also shortly featured live by Pantera in their song "Cowboys from Hell."

"Dust in the Wind" has been covered by: Sarah Brightman, Scorpions (Acoustica), Christian artists Acappella and Billy Smiley, former New York Yankees center fielder and jazz guitarist Bernie Williams (The Journey Within), and ex-Kansas lead singer John Elefante (2006). It was sung by Will Ferrell during the movie Old School. It was prominently featured in several episodes of the television series Highlander and was referenced in the film Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure. It gained additional exposure when used as the music for a Subaru commercial.

Additional covers include: "Point of Know Return" by Vanden Plas (Beyond Daylight), "The Wall" by Lana Lane (Covers Collection), and "Fight Fire with Fire" by Frost (Raise Your First to Metal).

"Carry On, Wayward Son" has been included on soundtracks for the following movies and television shows: Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Family Guy, Gentlemen Broncos, Happy Gilmore, Heroes (1977), Scrubs, South Park ("Guitar Queer-o" episode), Strangers with Candy ("Yes You Can't"), and Supernatural (during the intro for each season finale), and Supernatural: The Anime Series (as the ending for each episode). It was also featured in the Guitar Hero II, Guitar Hero Smash Hits, Rock Band 2 and Rock Band Unplugged video games.



  1. ^ a b c d e Strong, Martin C. (2000). The Great Rock Discography (5th ed.). Edinburgh: Mojo Books. pp. 524–525. ISBN 1-84195-017-3. 
  2. ^ Rock Movers & Shakers by Dafydd Rees & Luke Crampton, 1991 Billboard Books.
  3. ^ "Kansas - Point Of No Return". Nehrecords.com. 1978-06-27. http://www.nehrecords.com/shop/KansasPoint.html. Retrieved 2011-04-18. 
  4. ^ "Cool Things, Kansas Platinum Record, Kansas Historical Society". Kshs.org. http://www.kshs.org/cool3/record.htm. Retrieved 2011-04-18. 
  5. ^ [1][dead link]

External links

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