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Carry On Wayward Son

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"Carry On Wayward Son"
Single by Kansas
from the album Leftoverture
B-side"Questions of My Childhood"
ReleasedNovember 19, 1976 (US)[1]
StudioStudio in the Country
  • 5:26 (album version)
  • 4:38 ("50 years" 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 by American rock band Kansas, released on their 1976 studio album, Leftoverture. Written by guitarist Kerry Livgren, the song became the band's first Top 40 hit, reaching No. 11 on the US Billboard Hot 100 in early 1977.[4]

The song has since remained a classic rock radio staple and a signature song for the band.[5]


While Kansas' previous three 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 fourth album release, Leftoverture. According to Livgren, "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."[6] Although based in Atlanta, Georgia, 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 his parents' home where he was staying.[7] "Carry On Wayward Son" was written after the band had completed rehearsals. Livgren, who perceived the song as being "beamed down" to him in full,[8] 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."[6] Livgren was born again on July 25, 1979, and since 1980 recorded primarily as a Christian rock artist.[9]

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.[10]

...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.[11]

Kansas guitarist Rich Williams on the song's impact and enduring appeal

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. According to Livgren "It was the last night we were in Topeka. I came into the studio on the last day and said, ‘I think you better hear this one’. The guys looked at each other and said, ‘We gotta do this’."[12] In 2004, Ehart recalled, "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!"[13]

Kansas' other guitarist Rich Williams indicated in 2004 that the success of "Carry On Wayward Son" was not 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."[14]

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,[15][10] causing the November 23 single release of a 3:26 edit of the 5:26 album track (itself trimmed from 7:30 minutes).[16] Many Top 40 stations aired the full album cut rather than the single edit.[17]

Debuting at No. 86 on the Billboard Hot 100 dated December 25, 1976,[18] "Carry On Wayward Son" reached the Top 40at No. 36seven weeks later,[19] 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.[20][21] Ultimately "Carry On Wayward Son" reached a chart peak of No. 11 on the Hot 100 dated April 2, 1977:[22] Internationally the single reached No. 6 in Canada,[23] No. 51 in the UK [24] and No. 58 in Australia [25] 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. It was certified Gold by the RIAA for sales of 500,000 units on December 18, 1990, and reached quadruple platinum, or 4 million, on November 26, 2019.[26] "Carry On Wayward Son" is 96th on VH1's 100 Greatest Hard Rock Songs.[27]

Ultimate Classic Rock critic Eduardo Rivadavia rated "Carry On Wayward Son" as Kansas's greatest song, saying it "combines their progressive and commercial instincts" and "fluidly shifts between studied technique and an infectious melody, culminating in a soaring chorus."[28] Classic Rock critic Dave Ling also ranked it as Kansas' greatest song.[29]



Chart (1976–1978) Peak
Australian Singles (Kent Music Report)[30] 58
Canada Top Singles (RPM)[31] 5
UK Singles (OCC)[32] 51
US Billboard Hot 100[33] 11
Chart (2022) Peak
Hungary (Single Top 40)[34] 13


Region Certification Certified units/sales
Germany (BVMI)[35] Gold 250,000
United Kingdom (BPI)[36] Platinum 600,000
United States (RIAA)[26] 4× Platinum 4,000,000

Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

In other media[edit]


  1. ^ The exception is the first season finale. The song plays in the recap at the beginning of that season's penultimate episode.[39]


  1. ^ "RIAA certification".
  2. ^ "Top Of The Progs: Kansas - Carry On Wayward Son". TeamRock.com. 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. Archived from the original on July 7, 2013. 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. ^ Rivadavia, Eduardo. "Top 10 Kansas Songs". Ultimate Classic Rock. Retrieved March 22, 2022.
  6. ^ a b Ling, Dave (August 2016). "The Story Behind The Song: Carry On Wayward Son by Kansas". LouderSound.com. Retrieved July 21, 2021.
  7. ^ Allen, Craig (October 15, 2016). "Craig Allen's Fun Facts - Carry On Wayward Son". Retrieved July 24, 2021.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ a b Albany Democrat-Herald 18 July 2013 "Kansas is Koming! rock giants open Linn County Fair" by Cory Frye p.11
  11. ^ 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
  12. ^ Dome, Malcolm (October 14, 2022). "How Kansas cracked the charts with Carry On Wayward Son". Classic Rock. Louder Sound. Retrieved January 24, 2023.
  13. ^ Asbury Park Press April 29, 2005 "Kansas Carries On" by Mark Voger p.115
  14. ^ Wilkes-Barre Times Leader November 5, 2004 "Kansas Carrying On" by Alan K. Stout p.64
  15. ^ Cash Box vol: December 4, 1976 "Singles Reviews - Picks of the Week" p.23
  16. ^ Mansfield News Journal February 12, 1977 "Pretty Much Jocks at Work Pays Off" by Patrick Snyder p.10
  17. ^ Salina Journal March 20, 1977 "Kansas is a National Act Now" by Richard L Lewsi p.21
  18. ^ Billboard vol 88 #52 (December 25, 1976) "Billboard Hot 100" p.68
  19. ^ Billboard vol 89 #5 (February 5, 1977) "Billboard Hot 100" p.72
  20. ^ 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
  21. ^ Cash Box vol 38 #43 (March 12, 1977) "Album Chart Analysis" p.57
  22. ^ Billboard vol 89 #14 (April 9, 1977) "Billboard Hot 100" p.
  23. ^ RPM vol 26 #26 (March 26, 1977) "RPM Top Singles" p.19
  24. ^ "Official Charts Company". OfficialCharts.com. Retrieved January 24, 2011.
  25. ^ "Top 100 Singles". Retrieved July 24, 2021.
  26. ^ a b "American single certifications – Kansas – Carry On Wayward Son". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved November 9, 2020.
  27. ^ "Vh1 Top 100 Hard Rock Songs". Archived from the original on February 12, 2009. Retrieved February 7, 2009.
  28. ^ Rivadavia, Eduardo (June 15, 2013). "Top 10 Kansas Songs". Ultimate Classic Rock. Retrieved June 12, 2022.
  29. ^ Ling, Dave (July 14, 2016). "The Top 10 Best Kansas Songs". Classic Rock. Louder Sound. Retrieved January 24, 2023.
  30. ^ 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.
  31. ^ "Top RPM Singles: Issue 5274a." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved May 31, 2024.
  32. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved May 31, 2024.
  33. ^ "Kansas Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved May 31, 2024.
  34. ^ "Archívum – Slágerlisták – MAHASZ" (in Hungarian). Single (track) Top 40 lista. Magyar Hanglemezkiadók Szövetsége. Retrieved May 31, 2024.
  35. ^ "Gold-/Platin-Datenbank (Kansas; 'Carry On Wayward Son')" (in German). Bundesverband Musikindustrie. Retrieved March 24, 2023.
  36. ^ "British single certifications – Kansas – Carry On Wayward Son". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved August 4, 2023.
  37. ^ Bucksbaum, Sydney (July 29, 2017). "How 'Supernatural' Pulled Off That Comic-Con Surprise With Kansas". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved January 11, 2019.
  38. ^ 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.
  39. ^ a b Krupa, Jessy (June 1, 2016). "Supernatural: Season 11, Episode 23 - "Alpha and Omega"". Pop Matters.
  40. ^ Aguilar, Matthew (November 19, 2022). "Watch The Elite Make Their Grand AEW Returns at Full Gear". Comic Book. Retrieved December 5, 2022.