Shooting Star (band)

Shooting Star (band)
Shooting Star
Origin Kansas City, Missouri
Genres Rock
Years active 1977–1987, 1989–present
Labels Arista, Virgin, Epic, Geffen, V&R, Enigma, Renaissance
Van McLain
Steve Thomas
Ron Verlin
Dennis Laffoon
Ronnie Platt
Janet Jameson
Past members
Gary West
Charles Waltz
Bill Guffey
Norm Dahlor
Keith Mitchell
Rod Lincoln
Eric Johnson
Terry Brock
Christian Howes
Shane Michaels
Kevin Chalfant

Shooting Star is a rock band from Kansas City, Missouri.

The band formed in the late 1970s. After quickly gaining enormous popularity in the Kansas City area, Shooting Star became the first American group to sign with Virgin Records. They recorded their 1979 debut album in England with legendary producer Gus Dudgeon, best known for his work with Elton John and David Bowie. The band gained national exposure when a number of songs garnered moderate air-play on album-oriented rock radio stations in the US.

The initial lineup was: Van McLain on guitar and vocals; Charles Waltz on violin, keyboards and vocals; Bill Guffey on keyboards; Gary West on guitar and vocals; Ron Verlin on bass, and Steve Thomas on drums.


Early history

The Shooting Star story began one winter day in 1960 when 5-year-old Ron Verlin moved into 5-year-old Van McLain's neighborhood in suburban Kansas City. They were next-door neighbors and instantly became good friends.

In February 1964, when the Beatles appeared on the Ed Sullivan show, they, like so many other kids around the country, were hooked and they drove their parents crazy begging to take guitar lessons. They put a band together with their brothers, Craig McLain and John Verlin, and played along to Beatles records in Ron's dad's garage. Two years later, Van and Craig moved to a different school district and the band split up.

Upon entering Shawnee Mission South High School, Van and Ron met up again. With the '50s nostalgia craze of 1971 brewing, they jumped at the opportunity to put together a band that played classic '50s hits. After seeing Sha Na Na in the movie Woodstock, they added three dancers to the act and called the band The Shooting Stars featuring The Galaxies, the name inspired by Bill Haley & His Comets. The band played its first gig at a local school. Sock hops were so popular they received offers over the next three years to play frat parties, country clubs and schools throughout the Midwest.

Off to England

By 1974, Van began serious songwriting. The band decided to stop playing cover songs and perform their own music. Later that year, they recorded a four-song demo tape and planned a trip to London, England to shop their songs for a record deal. They left on January 6, 1975 and after three weeks of shopping their music to different record labels, they were offered a recording contract with Arista Records.

Upon signing, The Shooting Stars were then given the opportunity to play a showcase performance at the legendary Marquee Club in London. The club was the birthplace of such bands as The Rolling Stones, The Who, Rod Stewart and the Faces, Led Zeppelin, Elton John and many others. The band then made their way to Morgan Studios to record their first single, Take the Money & Run. Shortly after this record was cut, Steve Miller released his song Take the Money & Run, which became a huge hit. Arista Records released The Shooting Stars from their contract and they returned to Kansas City.

In 1976 the band persuaded fellow musician Gary West (born Gary Hodgden) to join them as a singer and songwriting partner for Van. Gary, with his brother Ron West, had been a member of the premier Kansas City rock band of the '60s, The Chesmann Square. After The Chesmann dissolved in 1974, Ron West formed the band Missouri and Gary West moved with the Chesmann's lead guitarist Jim McAllister to New York City. There they formed the group The Beckies with songwriter Michael Brown, formerly of the group The Left Banke, and former Kansas Citian Scott Trusty. The Beckies released one album on Sire Records. Upon Gary's return to Kansas City, he and Van began songwriting in earnest.

In 1977, they shortened their name to Shooting Star. And with Ron Verlin on bass, they added Steve Thomas on drums, Bill Guffey on keyboards and Charles Waltz on violin, keyboards and vocals. They started recording demos in Gary's garage, all the while playing gigs around the Midwest. After saving enough money and putting a press kit together, they tried to secure another record deal in New York City. Through connections that Gary had made while a member of The Beckies, the band booked a showcase at the now infamous punk rock club CBGB's. The representative for a New York management firm was in the crowd that night and offered them a contract. With a management deal, Shooting Star returned to Kansas City to continue writing new material.

Virgin Records

Six months later, in 1978, the band's management arranged for them to play another showcase at the famous New York club Tracks. Three record companies, Atlantic Records, Virgin Records and A&M Records, made offers to sign the band. Virgin, then a small British record label, prevailed. The label was looking for a rock group to break into the US market, and Shooting Star became the first American band on their roster.

In May 1979 the band returned to London to record their eponymous debut album with producer Gus Dudgeon of Elton John fame. The album Shooting Star was released in January 1980, and the band embarked on a national tour opening for Robin Trower and Triumph. With their debut the band gained popularity with the songs "You Got What I Need," "Tonight," "Bring It On" and "Last Chance." "Wild In the Streets", a B-side release, was a staple of live show encores; the song was eventually released on CD as a bonus track.

With radio success, Shooting Star returned to the studio in 1981 to record Hang on for Your Life with producer Dennis McKay. The album generated FM airplay with the songs "Flesh and Blood," "Breakout," "Hollywood" and the title track. In support the album, the band toured extensively with ZZ Top, Cheap Trick, Todd Rundgren, Jefferson Starship and Journey. They appeared on the radio shows Rock Line, King Biscuit Flower Hour (KBFH), The Source and Westwood One. They also began headlining showcase clubs across the United States, setting attendance records as they went.

In 1982 the band began recording their third album, III Wishes, at the legendary Caribou Ranch studio near Boulder, Colorado. At the helm was Journey producer Kevin Elson. Without missing a beat, they returned to touring with such acts as REO Speedwagon, John Mellencamp, Jefferson Starship, Kansas and others.

1983 saw their continued collaboration with Kevin Elson on their fourth album, Burning. This record produced radio hits "Straight Ahead," "Winner" and "Train Rolls On." After touring in support of this record, the band experienced the departure of bassist Ron Verlin, who had become disenchanted with the music industry.

In 1984 bassist Norm Dahlor was recruited to take over for Ron, and the band began to record their fifth album, Silent Scream, with producer Ron Nevison. It was released in 1985 and produced the radio hit "Summer Sun." After completing this record, the band was asked to record two songs for the movie soundtrack Up the Creek. The songs were "Get Ready Boy" and "Take It." Van, Norm and Steve were also the backing band on Ian Hunter's single "Great Expectations." The band then toured with Heart, Bryan Adams and ZZ Top.

I'm getting out

In 1987, after ten years of touring and five albums, Shooting Star went on hiatus. Over the next several years fans from around the world were frustrated by not being able to find Shooting Star records, which all went out of print, while the band continued to receive radio airplay.

In July 1989, V&R Records, the band's own label, acquired the rights to release The Best of Shooting Star. This release marked the first time that any Shooting Star record appeared on CD and included two previously unreleased songs, "Christmas Together," a 1985 single which had been played on Kansas City radio, and "Touch Me Tonight," a new song by Van which peaked on the Billboard Hot 100 at #67. Enigma Records, a heavy metal label that was starting to acquire more mainstream artists, bought the rights to the album and retitled it "Touch Me Tonight: The Best of Shooting Star." In the November 4, 1989 issue of Billboard, the album secured a trivial place in rock music history by becoming the first album to reach that magazine's pop albums chart without being available in a vinyl record format.

The band also released the first two albums on one CD called Shooting Star/Hang on for Your Life; it omitted two songs from the albums ("Stranger" and "Sweet Elatia"). This CD became a collectible until the release of the band's entire catalog on CD.

A return...with Enigma

With the success of The Best Of and fans' desire for new material, Shooting Star was offered a new recording contract with Enigma Records. Returning to the group were original members Ron Verlin and Van McLain. Charles Waltz was originally slated to rejoin but had moved to California and was busy with another band, Toledo Waltz, while Gary West had left the music business entirely. Steve Thomas had played drums on "Touch Me Tonight" but was not able to return to music full-time. To fill out the band, McLain and Verlin recruited Dennis Laffoon on keyboards, Rod Lincoln on drums and vocalist Keith Mitchell. In Los Angeles, the band made a video for "Touch Me Tonight." It received extensive airplay on MTV, making their request chart, and rose to #67 on the Billboard Hot 100. This was the highest charting single of the band's career. The song also appeared in the Dolph Lundgren movie I Come in Peace.

In 1991 the band released their sixth effort, It's Not Over. During the recording of this project, Enigma Records went bankrupt and the group decided to finish it on their own. Released on their own V & R label, the album received critical acclaim throughout Europe and helped broaden the Shooting Star audience. After the album's release, Ron Verlin was replaced on bass by Eric Johnson (not the famous guitarist) and the band toured with Bad English, Bryan Adams and 38 Special. After selling about 10,000 copies of It's Not Over, the group was contacted by JRS Records (whose parent company was SCS Music), which agreed to take over distribution of the album nationally. But the group became dissatisfied with JRS, claiming they did very little to promote the album, and filed a lawsuit against them on October 14, 1992 in Johnson County, Kansas District Court.

By 1993, disappointed over the collapse of Enigma, the JRS fiasco, and the general decline in popularity of classic rock music, the band went into semi-retirement. They resurfaced each year to play occasional concerts, with Verlin back on bass. In 1997, the violin became a part of their sound again with the addition of violinist Terry Brock. Brock had performed as a background vocalist and keyboardist with Kansas on their Drastic Measures tour.

In 1998, after recovering from a battle with esophageal cancer, Van was asked to perform at a cancer benefit concert in Chicago. On stage were members of Night Ranger, Cheap Trick, Survivor and 38 Special. Van received a heartfelt response from the fans and his friends on stage, which rekindled interest in playing again. Upon returning home from the show, he began writing songs and contemplated recording them.

In the summer of 1999, while vacationing in Nashville, Tennessee, Van was reunited with producer/engineer Kevin Beamish. Among many others, Kevin's list of credits include REO Speedwagon, Jefferson Starship, Elton John and Clint Black. Kevin and Van had met 20 years earlier while Shooting Star was recording its first album. At that time, Kevin was a young engineer for Gus Dudgeon. Out of this chance meeting grew the plans to record and release Shooting Star's seventh album, Leap of Faith. The recording took place at Sound Stage Studios in Nashville, Tennessee from December 1999 through February 2000.

20 years and counting

Shooting Star celebrated their 20th year as recording artists in 2000 with the release of Leap of Faith and a fall tour.

Shane Michaels joined as the band's new violinist in May 2000, replacing Christian Howes (1999–2000), who had replaced Terry Brock. Original drummer Steve Thomas returned to the fold in 2004 and singer Keith Mitchell left in the summer of 2005 after reported voice problems. In 2006, the group released the album Circles with Kevin Chalfant (ex-member of 707 and The Storm) handling the lead vocals. He was replaced in 2007 by Ronnie Platt. Violinist Shane Michaels left the band in June 2008 to concentrate on another project, Flannigan's Right Hook, and was replaced by Janet Jameson. Bassist Ron Verlin, who'd left the group twice before (in 1984 and 1991), has taken temporary leaves of absence since his return in 1994. Dennis Laffoon covers the bass parts on keyboards when Verlin is not available to tour.

Original keyboardist Bill Guffey (William Guffey III) died on April 12, 2007.

The band's current lineup is Ronnie Platt (lead vocals), Van McLain (vocals, guitar), Janet Jameson (violin, backing vocals), Dennis Laffoon (keyboards, backing vocals), Ron Verlin (bass) and Steve Thomas (drums).


Current members
  • Van McLain - guitars, vocals (1977-1987; 1989-present)
  • Steve Thomas - drums (1977-1987; 1989; 2004-present)
  • Ron Verlin - bass (1977-1983; 1989-1991; 1994-present)
  • Dennis Laffoon - keyboards, backing vocals (1989-present)
  • Ronnie Platt - lead vocals (2007-present)
  • Janet Jameson - violin, backing vocals (2008-present)
Former members
  • Gary West - lead vocals, guitar, keyboards (1977-1987)
  • Charles Waltz - violin, keyboards, vocals (1977-1987)
  • Bill Guffey - keyboards (1977-1981; deceased)
  • Norm Dahlor - bass (1984-1987)
  • Keith Mitchell - lead vocals (1989-2005)
  • Rod Lincoln - drums (1989-2004)
  • Eric Johnson - bass (1991-1994)
  • Terry Brock - violin (1997-1999)
  • Christian Howes - violin (1999-2000)
  • Shane Michaels - violin (2000-2008)
  • Kevin Chalfant - lead vocals (2005-2007)


Studio albums
  • Shooting Star, 1980 (Billboard Top Album #147, on chart for 14 weeks)
  • Hang on for Your Life, 1981 (Billboard Top Album #92, on chart for 30 weeks)
  • Ill Wishes, 1982 (Billboard Top Album #82, on chart for 9 weeks)
  • Burning, 1983 (Billboard Top Album #162, on chart for 6 weeks)
  • Silent Scream, 1985
  • It's Not Over, 1991
  • Leap of Faith, 2000
  • Circles, 2006
Live albums
  • Shooting Star Live, 1994
Compilation albums

Charted Singles

1980 "You Got What I Need" 76
1982 "Hollywood" 70
1989 "Touch Me Tonight" 67


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