Music of Kansas
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|Music of the United States|
For many decades, Kansas has had a vibrant country and bluegrass scene. The Country Stampede Music Festival – one of the largest music festivals in the country – and the bluegrass/acoustic Walnut Valley Festival are testament to the continued popularity of these music genres in the state. Among current leading country artists, Martina McBride and Chely Wright are natives of Kansas.
The state has also fostered some rock acts – the one that is most associated with the state is almost certainly the band called Kansas. Some famous and pioneering jazz musicians also had roots in Kansas.
The first music performed in the area that is now Kansas was that of the Native Americans who lived there. However, little is known of these peoples' musical lives. The earliest documented music comes after settlement by Anglo-Americans in the 1850s.
One of the first musical works relating to Kansas was "Ho! For the Kansas Plains," a song written by James G. Clark in the 1850s, which mythologized the territory as the site of abolitionist battles during the Bleeding Kansas era. A representative lyric was "Ho! For the Kansas plains; Where men shall live in liberty; Free from the tyrant's chains." Along the same lines, some versions of the famous Civil War marching song "John Brown's Body" refer to John Brown's abolitionist activities in Kansas Territory during the same era.
Following the Civil War, as Kansas became known more for its cowboys, saloons and wide-open spaces, another notable song written in and about Kansas was "Home on the Range." It was penned in the state in the 1870s, and then spread throughout the American Old West as an unofficial anthem. It is now Kansas's official state song. The song established something of a template for Kansas music, and over the next several decades, music coming from Kansas remained in a similar folk or old-time music style, while lyrics referencing the state tended to focus on its open countryside.
In the 1920s, there was a radical break from this history as the Kansas City jazz scene developed in eastern Kansas. Coleman Hawkins, who introduced the tenor saxophone to jazz, was raised in Topeka, Kansas, and began touring in eastern Kansas by 1918 (at the age of 14). In the following years, Kansas native Charlie Parker also came to prominence in Kansas City. Finally, around the same time, Kansan Stan Kenton likewise became notable as a jazz band leader and pianist.
Avant-garde composer Moondog is from Marysville, Kansas.
Joe Walsh of Eagles and James Gang fame is a native of Wichita, Kansas, although he spent his youth in Columbus, Ohio. Melissa Etheridge and Katrina Leskanich, lead singer for Katrina and the Waves, are also native Kansans. Gene Clark, founding member of The Byrds, attended high school in Bonner Springs, Kansas and began performing in the state. Dawayne Bailey, a native of Manhattan, Kansas, toured and recorded with rock legends Bob Seger and Chicago. Stanley Sheldon, a bass guitar player from Ottawa, played with Peter Frampton at the height of his career in the mid-1970s, including the top selling Frampton Comes Alive!. Sheldon contributed as both bassist and songwriter on Frampton's instrumental album Fingerprints, which was a Grammy winner in 2007. Sheldon went on to perform with Warren Zevon, Lou Gramm of Foreigner and Delbert McClinton. Grammy and Dove Award winning guitarist Phil Keaggy was a resident of Leawood in the 1980s. Jennifer Knapp, born in Chanute, Kansas is a Grammy nominated, Dove Award-winning Christian folk rock musician whose first album Kansas released in 1998 was certified gold. Finally, Shooting Star, notable for being the first American act signed by Virgin Records, hailed from Overland Park.
1960s: Rock and roll
In the 1960s, blue-eyed soul, R&B and garage rock bands became popular with acts such as the Fabulous Flippers, The Blue Things, the Red Dogs, the Serfs, Eric & The Norsemen, Don Gould's The Sensational Showmen and Mike Finnigan traveling the midwest and releasing regional singles. The original Sensational Showmen from Concordia, Kansas The Sensational Showmen-Concordia
1980s: Punk rock
In the early 1980s, Wichita, Topeka and Lawrence, together with Kansas City, Missouri had a significant hardcore punk scene, centered at Lawrence's University of Kansas campus, and later at the Outhouse. Among the most popular bands were The Embarrassment, Get Smart!, Mortal Micronotz and Razor the hard rock act of Coffeyville, Kansas musician Scott Mehrens.
1990s: Alternative rock
In the 1990s, Kansas produced some bands that found regional and national success taking the predominant Grunge aesthetic and adding a Rockabilly or Country music twang, a style sometimes grouped into Alternative country.
Paw, out of Lawrence, Kansas became the most well-known of these bands following the 1993 release of their major-label album Dragline. Truck Stop Love, out of Manhattan, Kansas, had a somewhat similar sound and was also signed to a national label, Scotti Brothers Records, with the well-received How I Spent My Summer Vacation being an appropriate swan song. The Moving Van Goghs, also from Manhattan, Kansas, with a psychedelic/rock aesthetic, is also a notable band during the "pre-grunge" time period in the Kansas music scene. Finally, Kill Creek, a Lawrence band since the 1980s period was signed by Mammoth Recordings and achieved critical national attention with three full LPs and an EP. The sound of these bands was comparable to some Neil Young and their out-of-state contemporaries Uncle Tupelo, Dinosaur Jr. (circa 1993), The Jayhawks, and Mule. Other bands from Kansas signed during the same period included Shiner, Season to Risk, and Arthur Dodge and the Horsefeathers.
Late contemporaries included Grither, Zoom, Vitreous Humor, Believe it or Nots, Stick, and Puddle of Mudd.
Early contemporaries included The Pedaljets, a band fronted by Mike Allmayer who later formed Grither. The Pedaljets put out two LPs, "Today Today" (Twilight), "The Pedaljets" (Communion), and one 45 (Throbbing Lobster). Both albums received critical national attention. The Pedaljets toured the US extensively from 1984–1990, often opening for Husker Du, The Flaming Lips, Soul Asylum, The Replacements, the Meat Puppets, and other well known alternative bands of the 1980s.
Musical venues in Kansas
The following are alphabetical lists of notable venues located in Kansas that regularly host musical acts.
Concert halls & theaters
- Century II Convention Hall – Wichita
- Lied Center of Kansas – Lawrence
- McCain Auditorium – Manhattan
- Topeka Performing Arts Center – Topeka
Other notable indoor venues
- The Bottleneck – Lawrence
- Bramlage Coliseum – Manhattan
- The Cotillion Ballroom – Wichita
- Eighth Street Taproom – Lawrence
- Granada Theater – Lawrence
- Hutchinson Sports Arena – Hutchinson
- Intrust Bank Arena – Wichita, KS
- Jackpot Music Hall – Lawrence
- The Jazzhaus – Lawrence
- Kirby's Beer Store – Wichita
- Landon Arena/Kansas Expocentre – Topeka
- Liberty Hall – Lawrence
- Longhorn's Saloon – Manhattan
- Manhattan Arts Center – Manhattan
- McPherson Opera House (1889) - McPherson
- Memorial Hall – Kansas City
- Orpheum – Wichita
- Replay Lounge – Lawrence
- The Wareham Opera House – Manhattan
Outdoor venues and festivals
- Muddy Water Music Festival – Anthony
- Country Stampede Music Festival – Manhattan
- Kanrocksas Music Festival – Kansas City
- Walnut Valley Festival – Winfield
- Capitol Federal Park at Sandstone – Kansas City
- Lakefest Country Music Festival - Atchison, Kansas
- Riverfest Park - De Soto
- Blush, Steven (2001). American Hardcore: A Tribal History. Los Angeles: Feral House. ISBN 0-922915-71-7.