Kansas resurrected

Classic Kansas Leftoverture LP live and more
at Victoria


Kansas (L-R) Rich Williams, Billy Greer, Zak Rizvi, Phil Ehart, Ronnie Platt, David Manion, and David Ragsdale

By Tim Smith

In the world of classic rock music acts, there are bands—and then there’s Kansas. The one-time garage band from Topeka has been entertaining fans since 1974, with no signs of slowing down. They’re bringing their 40th Anniversary Leftoverture Tour to the Victoria Theatre on March 21.

Rich Williams is the band’s original guitarist. He offers an explanation for their enduring appeal, and points out that the road wasn’t always so smooth.

“Tenacity has a lot to do with it,” he says. “We had our day in the sun initially, but there was a point in time when the record company owed us more records, but the sales weren’t there. We were given some bad advice that no one wants to hear us anymore and it’s time to find a new line of work. It was very discouraging to hear that from management. Then we got a call from a German promoter asking if we wanted to come to Germany for a tour and we thought Sure, that would be a lot of fun, so we went and had a great time. When we got back, we called a friend who owned a club in Atlanta and asked if the club was available so we could do one last show. It sold out. We thought what if we got together every summer to do shows for 2 weeks, then it turned into 4 weeks, then 6 weeks. What we found was that the people who were advising us clearly didn’t know what our fan base was.”

Kansas released their debut album in 1974 after being discovered by Wally Gold, who worked for music promoter Don Kirshner. They have gone on to sell more than 30 million albums worldwide, resulting in eight gold albums, three sextuple-platinum albums, one platinum live album, and two million-selling gold singles, “Carry On Wayward Son” and “Dust in the Wind.” The band appeared on the Billboard charts for over 200 weeks throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s, and played to sold-out arenas in North America, Europe, and Japan. “Carry On Wayward Son” continues to be one of the top five most played songs on classic rock radio, and “Dust in the Wind” has been played on the radio more than three million times.

“The people who said we were done were clearly mistaken,” Williams says. “I’m busier now than ever before. Our audience has aged with us, but it’s also the youngest audience we’ve had in a long time. Having our song Carry On Wayward Son featured on the Supernatural  TV show certainly helped. We have all age groups. We did Comic-Con as a surprise to introduce Supernatural, and the reception we got was great.”

Williams notes that with a band like Kansas, the choice of venue is clearly important.

“I like playing anywhere, but on this 40th anniversary tour, most of them are performing arts centers,” he says. “To me, that’s the best-case scenario. The lights go down, and there’s the band. So much of the music we do really does rely on the atmosphere. Outdoor festivals and state fairs don’t really work for us. That’s where you find the casual Kansas fan, people walking by with their funnel cakes and saying Look, honey, there’s a combo playing over there, then they move on after a few minutes. With performing arts centers, there’s not really a bad seat in the house, and the acoustics
are great.”

In addition to Williams and original drummer Phil Ehart, the line-up includes bassist/vocalist Billy Greer, keyboardist David Manion, vocalist/keyboardist Ronnie Platt, violinist/guitarist David Ragsdale, and guitarist Zak Rizvi. Williams is quick to point out that there are no plans to lighten their workload anytime soon.

“We started the Leftoverture tour last year and we were hoping to do 20 or 30 dates, then we decided to do this 40th anniversary tour,” he says. “The rest of this year will continue that tour. I have friends that I played in bands with before Kansas, and they’re at retirement age, and they don’t know what to do with themselves. They’re back in bands, doing what they do best and loving it. This was a hobby when I started, and it’s been a long walk to get here. I’m the little boy who joined the circus and never looked back. I can’t imagine being a civilian again.”

Kansas will perform at the Victoria Theatre, 138 N. Main St., Dayton on March 21 at 8 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at TicketCenterStage.com or by calling the Victoria Theatre at 937-228-3630, or 888-228-3630.

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Tim Smith is an award-winning, bestselling author. Reach DCP freelance writer Tim Smith at TimSmith@DaytonCityPaper.com

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