SUNDAY NIGHT MUSIC BYTE
Kansas is an American rock band which became popular in the 1970s, with hit singles such as “Carry On Wayward Son” and “Dust in the Wind”. They have remained a classic rock radio staple and a popular touring act in North America and Europe.
The debut album, Kansas (#174), which was released in March 1974, showcased Kansas’ signature mix of guitars, keyboards, vocals, and Steinhardt’s violin style, which merged American-style boogie-rock with complex, symphonic arrangements and changing time signatures. Their sound bore the marks of late-1960s, early 1970s progressive rock, such as Genesis and Emerson, Lake, and Palmer. Promotion by Don Kirshner and touring behind the debut album and its two follow ups, Song for America (#57) and Masque (#70), increased awareness of Kansas.
On the strength of their 1977 hit single “Carry On Wayward Son” (#11) the band’s fourth album, Leftoverture (#5), released in October 1976, on which Steinhardt added viola and Walsh added vibraphone to their work, was a hit which garnered a lot of airplay on the burgeoning AOR radio format. “Carry On Wayward Son” was the closing song to the 1977 movie Heroes, featuring Henry Winkler and Sally Field. The follow up Point of Know Return (#4), released in October 1977, featured the title track (#28) and “Dust in the Wind” (#6), both hit singles.
Both albums had unique album covers, with Point of Know Return depicting a ship teetering over the edge of the world. Both albums have sold over 4 million copies in the U.S. alone. Both “Carry On Wayward Son” and “Dust In The Wind” were certified Gold singles, selling over one million units each.
During this period, Kansas became a major headlining act for several years, selling out the largest venues available to rock bands at the time (e.g., New York City’s Madison Square Garden). The band documented this era with its first live recording, 1978’s double live album Two For The Show, a snapshot of various performances from the 1977 and 1978 tours supporting Point Of Know Return. The band gained a solid reputation for faithful live reproduction of complex studio albums without the aid of additional musicians or MIDI sequencing computers.
Kansas self-produced their follow-up to Point Of Know Return. The 1979 album Monolith (#10) featured lyrics influenced by The Urantia Book and Native American themes. “Kansas” itself is a toponym derived from the Kansa tribe, whose name is widely believed to mean “People Of The South Wind.” The starkly expressive album cover depicts Plains Indians in traditional dress and space suit helmets living in a settlement under the ruins of highway overpasses. While the album produced a Top 40 single in “People of the South Wind” (#23), both the band and the label were disappointed in Monolith’s failure to produce sales or radio airplay close to its two predecessors. Nevertheless, the album went Platinum and the Platinum record hangs in the Kansas State Historical Society.
Kansas’ band members began to drift apart in the early 1980s. Kerry Livgren became a born-again Christian, and this was reflected in his lyrics on the next three albums, beginning with Audio-Visions (#26), and especially on the Top 40 single (“Hold On”) released from that album. Dave 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/guitarist John Elefante, also a born-again Christian, who along with his brother Dino, later became known for producing albums for Christian rock bands including Sweet Comfort Band, Petra, Bride, Rick Cua, and Guardian.
Please enjoy this video clip of Kansas performing “Carry On Wayward Son” in 1976…