Kansas Biography

This US band was formed in 1974 after David Hope (7 October 1949, Kansas, USA; bass), Steve Walsh (b. 15 June 1951, St. Joseph, Missouri, USA; keyboards, vocals), and Phil Ehart (b. Kansas, USA; drums, percussion) changed the name of their band, White Clover, to Kansas, recruiting Kerry Livgren (b. 18 September 1949, Kansas, USA; guitar, vocals), Robert Steinhardt (violin, strings, vocals), and Richard Williams (b. Kansas, USA; guitars). Although an American band, Kansas were heavily influenced from the outset by British rock of that era, such as Yes and Genesis, and this was evident in the lyrics of their primary songwriter, Walsh. Kansas released their debut in 1974, and the following two albums attained gold status, guaranteeing the band a high profile in the USA (although no Kansas albums reached the charts in the UK).

By 1977, the band had tired of the progressive rock pigeonhole into which the music press was forcing them, and decided to try a more commercial approach. The ballad ‘Dust In The Wind’ broke into the US Top 10, and the band’s popularity was confirmed on 27 June 1978 when they attended a ceremony at Madison Square Gardens in New York, at which the organization UNICEF named the band Deputy Ambassadors of Goodwill. In the early 80s Walsh decided to leave the band after he became unhappy with their increasingly commercial sound. He released the solo set, Schemer Dreamer, which featured other members of Kansas. He was replaced by John Elefante (b. Levittown, New York, USA; keyboards, vocals), who wrote four of the songs on Vinyl Confessions.

Kansas split in 1983 following two unsuccessful albums. Livgren and Hope had become born-again Christians, the former releasing Seeds Of Change, a commercially disastrous solo effort based on his religious experiences, and then recorded prolifically with AD. In October 1986, Walsh, Ehart and Williams re-formed Kansas with brilliant guitarist Steve Morse (b. 28 July 1954, Hamilton, Ohio, USA), lately of Dixie Dregs, and Billy Greer (bass). This reunion was celebrated with the release of Power, an album that rejected the jazz rock feel of earlier releases in favour of a heavier sound. In The Spirit Of Things followed a similar path, but was less successful. Morse subsequently left to form the Steve Morse Band, and Greg Robert (keyboards) and David Ragsdale (violin/guitar) joined the remaining members. This line-up recorded a hard rocking live album and 1995’s Freaks Of Nature, before Ragsdale and Robert both quit. Steinhardt returned to the line-up to help record Always Never The Same, on which the band covered some of their classic songs with the help of the London Symphony Orchestra. All six original members regrouped in 2000 to record Somewhere To Elsewhere. In 2002, the band released its first live DVD Device-Voice-Drum.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.