Music News & Reviews

Classic rock band Kansas continues to ‘carry on’ with new singer

Members of the band Kansas are, from left to to right: Richard Williams, Billy Greer, David Ragsdale, Ronnie Platt, Phil Ehart and David Manion. Platt joined the classic rock group as its new singer in 2014.
Members of the band Kansas are, from left to to right: Richard Williams, Billy Greer, David Ragsdale, Ronnie Platt, Phil Ehart and David Manion. Platt joined the classic rock group as its new singer in 2014. Special to The Bee

Even as a child, Ronnie Platt wanted to be a musician when he grew up.

He remembers telling his mother as much and her simple, almost joking response.

“She said, you can’t do both,” says Platt, on the phone in a hotel room in Des Moines, where he’s performing as the front man for the classic rock band Kansas on a triple bill that includes Boston and Blue Oyster Cult.

The 54-year-old singer has done both, just not in the order he once thought.

Platt replaced Kansas singer Steve Walsh, who retired from the band in 2014, after recording some of the band’s biggest hits such as “Carry On Wayward Son,” “Dust in the Wind” and “Point of Know Return.” The Chicago native has played 150-plus live dates since joining Kansas and will be featured on its new album “The Prelude Implicit” when it is released in September.

It will be the band’s first album since 2000.

It’s not a bad turn of events for a guy who until two years ago was working a day job as a truck driver and singing in a classic rock cover band.

“I just enjoyed performing, in whatever capacity,” Platt says.

In the busy summer months, his cover band had gigs four times a week. He wasn’t looking to become famous when he sent a message to Kansas guitarist Rich Williams at the urging of a friend. Platt had met Williams a few times before. They were friends on Facebook. But he didn’t expect to hear back, really, and certainly not the very next day.

Within two days of sending that message, the singer had flown to Atlanta to meet with the full band. Within a week, Platt was the band’s new frontman.

He quickly gave notice at his day job.

There were some nerves in preparing to take over for Walsh, a guy Platt himself idolized and whose voice was indelibly imprinted in minds of radio listeners. Platt, who had been performing in bands since the 1980s, was confident in his vocal range and ability. And he was a longtime fan, so he knew the material.

“I knew I could sing the songs,” Platt says.

He was worried about the reaction from the fans. He’d seen the “Behind the Music” on Styx and knew how the fans treated Dennis DeYoung’s replacement; yelling profanities at the singer even years after he’d taken over.

But coming up on two years with Kansas, Platt says he’s been kindly welcomed by all involved.

It’s a fact he finds it flattering.

“And relieving,” he says.

Platt realizes the attachment fans have with the recorded version of Kansas’ songs and stays true to those versions, especially “Dust in the Wind,” though you might hear some minor embellishments on “Carry On Wayward Son,” he says.

His real contributions to the band (both vocally and lyrically) will heard on the new record, which Platt is eager to get in front of fans; eager to the point “of bursting,” he says.

This is an album with broad appeal. There are tracks that will no doubt appease hardcore fans of Kansas, but “there are a couple of song that are really pretty heavy,” Platt says, almost in the vein of contemporary progressive metal bands such as Dream Theater.

Sadly, Kansas isn’t playing any of the new material on its current tour.

For that, fans will have to wait until the band’s fall tour, which kicks off Sept. 30 in Pittsburgh, Pa. The tour coincides with the release of “The Prelude Implicit” and also, the 40th anniversary of the band’s breakthrough 1976 album “Leftoverture,” which the band will celebrate by playing in its entirety as it appears on record, Platt says. It will also play select tracks from the new record, he says.

“It is an exciting time for Kansas.”

Joshua Tehee: 559-441-6479, @joshuatehee

Kansas

  • 6 p.m. Thursday, June 16
  • Tachi Palace Hotel and Casino, 17225 Jersey Ave., Lemoore
  • $35-$75
  • 866-4PALACE, www.tachipalace.com
  Comments