Kansas’ Rich Williams: ‘I tried real work, and this isn’t it’

“I tried real work, and this isn’t it,” said Rich Williams of Kansas, which takes the On the Waterfront Great Lawn stage at Davis Park, Sunday, Sept. 2.

The Point of Know Return tour marks Kansas’ 30th year together. They released their first album in 1974, aptly titled Kansas. Aside from a short break in the 1980s, the band has been touring ever since.

Songs such as “Carry On Wayward Son” and “Dust in the Wind” catapulted the band to international stardom. Along the way, the band has played with Yes, ZZ Top, Queen and Mott the Hoople.

Lest we forget the hometown boys, Cheap Trick’s first tour was opening for Kansas, just before they recorded At Budokan (Note to Cheap Trick: Williams said if you guys could stop by at On the Waterfront, that would be great).

In an Aug. 28 interview with Williams—one of the founding members of Kansas—we discussed Kansas’ music and the band’s legacy. The band includes Billy Greer on bass and vocals, David Ragsdale on violin, Steve Walsh on guitar, Phil Ehart on drums, and Williams on guitar. Over the years, members have come and gone, but in its various forms, Kansas has released 14 studio and six live albums.

The band speaks from the heart, not trying to sugarcoat their image to keep themselves in the spotlight.

“We’ve never tried to be something we’re not,” Williams said. “The recording technology may be different, but we’re not a gimmick band. Everywhere we go, we just do what we do.”

The formula has worked. The last few years have seen a resurgence in Kansas tunes, on soundtracks and the hit video game Guitar Hero II.

Williams spoke of his schedule, and compared it to working when the band first started.

“You’d go into the studio and record an album, then you’d tour yourself to death,” he said.

Many bands went from the studio to the stage for years on end, or until they self-destructed. Kansas still tours year-round, but at a much more relaxed pace. They play on the weekends, leaving the weekdays for rehearsals for their newest project.

“It’s a lot more fun, and easier,” Williams said of his schedule.

I asked about his preference for stage or studio. “I enjoy both,” he said. “The studio’s great, it’s where the process begins. To create something, release it and just stand back and watch…it’s the most depressing thing in the world. The album gets the ball rolling, but we’ve always been a live band.”

He marveled at the ages represented at the shows: “The crowd is so young! The dedicated fans are still there, but now there’s a lot more teen-agers and younger people who are right there singing the words with you.”

Be sure to check out this legendary classic rock band Sept. 2 at On the Waterfront!

from the Aug. 29-Sept. 4, 2007, issue

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