Kansas started out as a bar band playing cover versions of contemporary songs and soul oldies in the American state which gave them their name. They began working on their own music – largely inspired by the pomp of British prog-rock – and the band slowly built up a local following, eventually getting a demo tape to rock and roll impresario Don Kirshner.
He signed Kansas to his own, CBS-distributed label, and assigned Wally Gold to produce their debut album.
While their first three albums collected dust on record shop shelves, working live on the road was the only way to survive for the group, until their fourth LP Leftoverture (1976) sold over two million copies, boosted by the hit single Carry On Wayward Son.
The follow-up, Point of Know Return, (October 1977) featured the title track and Dust in the Wind, which also both became hit singles. Monolith (May 1979) generated the Top 40 single People of the South Wind, but the album failed to achieve the sales or radio airplay of its two predecessors.
During the tour for Monolith, founder member Kerry Livgren became a born-again Christian. Bassist Dave Hope soon converted to Christianity as well and Audio-Visions (September 1980) would be the final album with the original lineup (until they briefly reunited in 1999–2000), and the last Kansas studio album to be certified gold.
Unhappy with the new lyrical direction of the band, vocalist Steve Walsh left in October 1981 and was replaced by vocalist/keyboardist/guitarist John Elefante, also a Christian.
The first Kansas album with Elefante, Vinyl Confessions (June 1982) generated the band’s first Top 20 hit in several years – Play the Game Tonight – while the album’s mostly Christianity-based lyrics attracted a new audience.
Drastic Measures followed in July 1983 with violinist Robby Steinhardt leaving the group.
During the band’s time with Elefante as lead vocalist, Livgren became increasingly uncomfortable with Kansas representing his Christian viewpoint and after a final New Year’s Eve performance on 31 December 1983, Livgren and Hope left the group.
Elefante, drummer Phil Ehart and guitarist Rich Williams recorded one more song, Perfect Lover, after which the group disbanded.
Guitar, keyboards, vocals