Carry On Wayward Son

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"Carry On Wayward Son"
Carry On Wayward Son.jpg
Single by Kansas
from the album Leftoverture
B-side"Questions of My Childhood"
ReleasedNovember 23, 1976 (US) [1]
StudioStudio in the Country
  • 5:26 (album version)
  • 3:26 (single edit)
Songwriter(s)Kerry Livgren
Producer(s)Jeff Glixman, Kansas
Kansas singles chronology
"It Takes a Woman's Love (To Make a Man)"
"Carry On Wayward Son"
"What's on My Mind"
Music video
"Carry On Wayward Son" on YouTube

"Carry On Wayward Son" is a song recorded by American rock band Kansas for their 1976 album Leftoverture: written by band member Kerry Livgren, the song became the band's first Top 40 single, reaching No. 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the spring of 1977.[4]


While Kansas' previous four albums had split songwriting duties between lead vocalist Steve Walsh and band member Kerry Livgren the latter essentially provided all the material for the band's fifth album release, Leftoverture: (Kerry Livgren quote:)"On the very first day of rehearsals, Steve...said that he had nothing – not a single song. I don’t relish that kind of pressure, but with hindsight it really brought out the best in me.”[5] Although based in Atlanta, Kansas had returned to their Topeka, Kansas, hometown to work up material for what would be the Leftoverture album, the band rehearsing in a vacant store in a strip mall the material Livgren was working up on a Lowrey organ at the parental home where he was staying.[6] "Carry On Wayward Son" was written after the band had completed rehearsals. Livgren, who perceived the song as being "beamed down" to him en toto,[7] in 2004 stated: "It's an autobiographical song. Parallel to my musical career I've always been on a spiritual sojourn, looking for truth and meaning. It was a song of self-encouragement. I was telling myself to keep on looking and I would find what I sought."[5]([Livgren was born again July 25, 1979, and as of 1980 recorded primarily as a Christian rock artist.)[8]

Kansas guitarist Rich Williams on the song's impact and enduring appeal
"When it came out, there was nothing like it. [It has] so many musically interesting parts. It wasn't rubber-stamped; it was unique to itself. It's a great sing-along. It had a lot of things going for it. When we recorded it, we knew we had a great song"[9]..."but we didn't realize what it would turn into. It's become part of rock-&-roll culture. But then it seemed like a fluke. It was the right song at the right time":[10]

Kansas drummer Phil Ehart recalled that Livgren mentioned a new song as Kansas was packing up to leave Topeka for Studio in the Country, the Louisiana facility where Leftoverture was recorded from December 1975, with Livgren presenting "Carry On Wayward Son" to his bandmates only after they had reached the studio.(Phil Ehart 2004 quote:)"It was the last, last [song] to be submitted for...'Leftoverture'...I can't even remember if we dropped something else to get [it] on there...[When] we recorded it, we didn't really think it would be a hit [as] it was about six minutes long...We were on the road [in December 1976 when] our manager...said: 'Well, you're not gonna believe this, but we actually have a hit song.' We said, 'What?' He said, 'Yeah. "Carry On Wayward Son" is shooting up the charts.' And it barely made it on the album!"[11]

Kansas guitarist Rich Williams indicated in 2004 that the success of "Carry On Wayward Son" wasn't a total surprise to the band: "As far as knowing what a hit was, we didn't have any idea. But we knew there was something special about ['Carry On Wayward Son']. It was very easy to listen to but still very different."[12]

Release and impact[edit]

Subsequent to the October 21, 1976, release of the Leftoverture album, the track "Carry On Wayward Son" became an FM radio favorite,[13][9] causing the November 23 single release of a 3:26 edit of the 5:26 album track (itself trimmed from 7:30 minutes):[14] reportedly a good many Top 40 stations aired the full album cut rather than the single edit.[15]

Debuting at No. 86 on the Billboard Hot 100 dated December 25, 1976,[16] "Carry On Wayward Son" reached the Top 40 - at No. 36 - seven weeks later,[17] the single in its first months of release typically garnering attention in what could be termed secondary markets being "added" by major market radio stations such as WABC-AM (NYC) and KHJ-AM (LA) only in March 1977.[18][19] Ultimately "Carry On Wayward Son" reached a chart peak of No. 11 on the Hot 100 dated April 2, 1977:[20] Internationally the single reached No. 6 in Canada,[21] No. 51 in the UK [22] and No. 58 in Australia [23] All initial releases of the single had a B-side of "Questions of My Childhood".

"Carry on Wayward Son" was later included on all Kansas compilation albums (except for Works in Progress) and was heard on all Kansas live albums. Certified Gold by the RIAA for sales of one million units on December 18, 1990,[24] "Carry On Wayward Son" is now certified quadruple platinum. "Carry On Wayward Son" is 96th on VH1's 100 Greatest Hard Rock Songs.[25]



Chart (1976–77) Peak
Australia (Kent Music Report)[26] 58
Canadian RPM Top Singles 5
UK Singles (OCC)[27] 51
US Billboard Hot 100[28] 11


Region Certification Certified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[29] Gold 400,000double-dagger
United States (RIAA)[24] 4× Platinum 4,000,000double-dagger

double-dagger Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

In other media[edit]

"Carry On Wayward Son" is considered the unofficial theme song of the TV series Supernatural.[30][31] It is played during the recap before every season finale of Supernatural, with the exception of the first season, where it was played during the recap of the penultimate episode.[32] At the end of the show's 200th episode in season 10, the cast of a play based on Supernatural sing the song. The song was also featured prominently in the series finale, titled "Carry On", referencing the song. Featured in the episode was the original song and a cover version by Neoni.[33]

The title of the novels in Rainbow Rowell's Simon Snow trilogy is also loosely based on this song. Even though the first novel, Carry On, is based on the song "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen, the second book, Wayward Son, is based on this song.[34]


The introspective lyrics of "Carry On Wayward Son" have facilitated the song's being recorded by a number of Contemporary Christian music acts, including all-female band Rachel Rachel for their 1991 debut album Way to My Heart which was produced by latterday Kansas frontman John Elefante the song's writer Kerry Livgren appeared in the track's video playing guitar (Dann Huff being the actual musician on the track).[35] "Carry On Wayward Son" has also be remade by Canadian Christian rock band Critical Mass (album Grasping For Hope in the Darkness/ 2004),[36] the Christian-influenced rock band Showdown (album Temptation Come My Way/ 2007), and Christian metal band Stryper (album The Covering/ 2011).[37]

The March 24, 2017 box set edition of the album For All Kings by thrash metal band Anthrax featured a remake of "Carry On Wayward Son" as a bonus track: the keyboards on the track were provided by Fred Mandel.[38] Other metal acts who have recorded "Carry On Wayward Son" include Dream Theater (EP A Change of Seasons/ 1995), Yngwie Malmsteen (album Inspiration/ 1997) (vocalist Jeff Scott Soto), Within the Ruins (EP Omen/ 2011),[37]Gwar (album Battle Maximus 2013 German release).[37] and Leo Moracchioli (album Leo Metal Covers vol 28/ 2020) (with Truls Haugen).[39] "Carry On Wayward Son" has also been recorded by the Wynners (album Makings/ 1977), Synkopy 61 [cs] (as "Kolemjdoucí") (single/ 1980), the Oak Ridge Boys (multi-artist album When Pigs Fly - Songs You Thought You'd Never Hear/ 2002), and Sylvain Cossette (album 70s/ 2007).[37]


  1. ^ "Kansas singles".
  2. ^ "Top Of The Progs: Kansas - Carry On Wayward Son". Retrieved February 22, 2017.
  3. ^ Winistorfer, Andrew (January 5, 2009). "VH1's 100 Greatest Hard Rock Songs list only slightly less annoying than their hip-hop list". VH1. Prefix Magazine. Retrieved February 1, 2014.
  4. ^ "Kansas – Chart history". Billboard Hot 100 for Kansas. Archived from the original on December 3, 2016. Retrieved November 26, 2016.
  5. ^ a b Ling, Dave (August 2016). "The Story Behind The Song: Carry On Wayward Son by Kansas". Retrieved July 21, 2021.
  6. ^ Allen, Craig (October 15, 2016). "Craig Allen's Fun Facts - Carry On Wayward Son". Retrieved July 24, 2021.
  7. ^ Virtue, Doreen (2016). The Courage to Be Creative: how to believe in yourself, your dreams & ideas & your career path. Carlsbad CA: Hay House Inc. pp. 51–52. ISBN 978-1-4019-4882-5.
  8. ^ Cusic, Don (2010). Encyclopedia of Contemporary Christian Music: Pop, Rock & Worship. Santa Barbara CA: ABC-Clio. pp. 280–282. ISBN 978-0-313-34425-1.
  9. ^ a b Albany Democrat-Herald" 18 July 2013 "Kansas is Koming! rock giants open Linn County Fair" by Cory Frye p.11
  10. ^ Morristown Daily Record July 20, 2010 "Jersey Gets a Taste of Kansas: after 36 years group still has a spot on the musical map" by Bill Nutt p.41
  11. ^ Asbury Park Press April 29, 2005 "Kansas Carries On" by Mark Voger p.115
  12. ^ Wilkes-Barre Times Leader November 5, 2004 "Kansas Carrying On" by Alan K. Stout p.64
  13. ^ Cash Box vol: December 4, 1976 "Singles Reviews - Picks of the Week" p.23
  14. ^ Mansfield News Journal February 12, 1977 "Pretty Much Jocks at Work Pays Off" by Patrick Snyder p.10
  15. ^ Salina Journal March 20, 1977 "Kansas is a National Act Now" by Richard L Lewsi p.21
  16. ^ Billboard vol 88 #52 (December 25, 1976) "Billboard Hot 100" p.68
  17. ^ 'Billboard vol 89 #5 (February 5, 1977) "Billboard Hot 100" p.72
  18. ^ Atlanta Constitution August 6, 1977 "'The Single': don't belittle the funny little record with the big round hole in the middle" by Bill King p.74
  19. ^ Cash Box vol 38 #43 (March 12, 1977) "Album Chart Analysis" p.57
  20. ^ 'Billboard vol 89 #14 (April 9, 1977) "Billboard Hot 100" p.
  21. ^ RPM vol 26 #26 (March 26, 1977) "RPM Top Singles" p.19
  22. ^ "Official Charts Company". Retrieved January 24, 2011.
  23. ^ "Top 100 Singles". Retrieved July 24, 2021.
  24. ^ a b "American single certifications – Kansas – Carry On Wayward Son". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved November 9, 2020.
  25. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on February 12, 2009. Retrieved February 7, 2009.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  26. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 164. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  27. ^ "Kansas: Artist Chart History". Official Charts Company.
  28. ^ "Kansas Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard.
  29. ^ "British single certifications – Kansas – Carry On Wayward Son". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved November 9, 2020.
  30. ^ Bucksbaum, Sydney (July 29, 2017). "How 'Supernatural' Pulled Off That Comic-Con Surprise With Kansas". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved January 11, 2019.
  31. ^ Romano, Will. "Phil Ehart of Kansas on the Roots of Leftoverture and Point of Know Return, and the New Prelude Implicit Album". Modern Drummer. Retrieved May 8, 2021.
  32. ^ Krupa, Jessy (June 1, 2016). "Supernatural: Season 11, Episode 23 - "Alpha and Omega"". Pop Matters.
  33. ^ Supernatural, Episode 15.20: "Carry On". Original airdate: November 20, 2020.
  34. ^ Robinson, Joanna (October 4, 2019). "Exclusive: Rainbow Rowell Reveals Her Simon Snow Trilogy Plans". Vanity Fair. Retrieved June 15, 2021.
  35. ^ Bellingham Herald July 5, 2009 "Artist Profile: Cheryl Jewell" by Margaret Bikman p.E4
  36. ^ Handey, Lisa M. "Catholic Rock With a Purpose: Catholic music spotlight interview with David Wang". Retrieved July 23, 2021.
  37. ^ a b c d ""Carry on Wayward Son" by Kansas/ Versions". Retrieved July 23, 2021.
  38. ^ "Anthrax Performs Cover Of KANSAS's 'Carry On Wayward Son' For First Time". April 24, 2017. Retrieved July 23, 2021.
  39. ^ "'Leo Moracchioli 'Leo Metal Covers, Volume 28". Retrieved July 25, 2021.