Robby Steinhardt in a 1976 promotional photo for Kansas
May 25, 1950 |
|Genres||Progressive rock, rock|
|Violin, viola, vocals|
Robert Eugene Steinhardt (born May 25, 1950) is a rock violinist and singer best known for his work with the group Kansas, for which he was co-lead singer / "frontman" and emcee along with keyboardist Steve Walsh, from 1973–1982 and 1997–2006. He and Steve Walsh are the only original members of the band who are not from Topeka.
Steinhardt grew up in Lawrence, Kansas and was the adopted son of Milton Steinhardt, director of music history at the University of Kansas. He started violin lessons at age eight and was classically trained. When his family traveled to Europe, the young Steinhardt played with some orchestras there. Steinhardt attended Lawrence High School and was the concertmaster during his high school years. He has often said that joining a rock band caused him to develop poor playing habits, one of which is holding his violin to the side of his head in order to hear himself better through the guitar amps and PA system.
Work with Kansas
Steinhardt's violin sound, and its interplay with the guitar and keyboards, helped define the Kansas sound. His lead vocals provided a contrast to the high tenor of singer Steve Walsh. The two often sang in harmony, with Steinhardt taking the lower voice. He has said that unless he has a writing credit on a song—his credits include about a half dozen songs—the violin (and occasional viola) part was written out for him, usually by Kerry Livgren.
Steinhardt joined a re-formed White Clover in 1972, with the group adopting the Kansas name before their first album in 1974. In 1983, he failed to show up to record the next Kansas album. His departure from the band after the Vinyl Confessions tour in 1982 was for personal reasons. In the interim, he fronted his own band, Steinhardt-Moon and was a member of the Stormbringer Band from 1990 to 1996, recording two CDs with the group during his membership. He also contributed to a Jethro Tull tribute album, To Cry You a Song: A Collection of Tull Tales on Magna Carta Records.
In early 2006, Steinhardt once again left Kansas, due mostly to overtouring and conflict with other band members. Since Steinhardt rejoined the band in 1997, the touring pace had been pretty hectic, averaging almost 100 shows per year. As part of a mutual agreement, he left Kansas once again. Steinhardt served as the emcee for the band's concerts when he was a member, with his fellow band member, Kerry Livgren describing his role like this: "Robby had a totally unique function as a violinist, second vocalist, and MC in a live situation. Robby was the link between the band on the stage and the audience." Violinist David Ragsdale (Steinhardt's original replacement) quickly replaced him again.
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