photo credit Mark Schierholz
(left to right.Rich Williams, Billy Greer, David Ragsdale, Ronnie Platt, Phil Ehart, Dave Manion)
Kansas Band- Speaking with New Lead Vocalist Ronnie Platt
Kansas is a progressive rock band that’s recently had it’s 40th anniversary in 2013. Songs like “Carry on My Wayward Son” “Dust in the Wind” and “Point of No Return” are a few of their most influential songs. They have produced “8 gold albums, 3 sextuple-platinum albums , 1 platinum live album and a million-selling single.” A documentary came out in early 2015 (Miracles Out of Nowhere), chronicling Kansas from its origins in Topeka, Kansas.
In the fall of 2014, Ronnie Platt replaced lead singer Steve Walsh. Ronnie Platt grew up in Bellwood and still lives in the suburbs of Chicago today. We sat down with Ronnie to talk about how he came to be a part of the legendary band “Kansas”. (Kansas performed on July 7, 2015 in Elk Grove, IL)
How long have you been a musician and what was an early influence?
RP: My sister brought home a guitar; I was about 10 or 11. I can remember singing and being part of a musical family. Both of my grandmothers were gifted musicians, grandfather played professionally, and most of my family was musically inclined. When I was young that’s what everybody did, music. In grade school, they asked who wanted to be the band. This is when I started playing the trombone, guitar, bass guitar and more singing. In high school, I was in a rock band and totally consumed; focusing on listening to music and vocals. I felt most comfortable playing the keyboard-accompaniment with filling in the parts. I still play a lot of bass guitar. When I’m having a bad day, I’ll pick it up and play.
Who inspired you as a musician growing up in the Chicago suburbs?
RP: I was always into progressive rock especially in the 70’s, Kansas, Genesis, Styx, Rush. On the radio, there was a different variety of music, Jackson 5, Led Zepplin, Rare Earth..etc. I was a freshman in high school ‘76, ’77. I’d always been a huge fan of Kansas: LeftOverture…”Carry On My Wayward Son” and “Dust in the Wind”. I had a turntable. There was a great feel and depth to the music in which I connected and gravitated towards. In the 80’s the hair got even bigger, and rock changed (Motley Crue and Poison)What did you do before singing in “Kansas”?
RP: I played in the bands, ARRA and Shooting Star. My musical ambition was just to get better. I did a wide variety of singing, performing over the years. I did drive a truck for 25 years..it helped to pay the bills. But I never deviated from what I wanted…my progressive style of music and playing. One day while performing with Shooting Star, I had the chance to meet Kansas, Cheryl Crow, and Journey. We opened for them. Steve Walsh was planning to retire as the Lead Singer. Rich Williams and Phil Ehart were watching Shooting Star. I friended Rich on FB. Ironically I heard about the retirement of Steve about this time. I set up a meeting and flew to Atlanta. After few meetings and deliberations, I became the new lead singer for Kansas! It seemed like a good fit and the guys welcomed me in. Dave Manion came in around the same time as I did.
What were you thinking your first time on stage with Kansas? What was running through your mind?
RP: My very first show was Oklahoma City, Oklahoma in Fall 2014. I remember thinking “Where’s my heater?” It was cold and windy, not what I had expected. It made me preoccupied with warming up and keeping my fingers moving. It was exhilarating! My first show in Chicago was Nov. 1 of 2014. My sister, mother, and other family members were able to come. The rehearsals were intense and we practiced like every day long hours. I had been practicing for something like this my whole life. I was ready when the opportunity came. This year has flown by quickly….we’ve done Brazil 3 times, Chile and Mexico and many other cities.
What are some differences between groups from the “60’s to the 90’s” and “millennium bands”?
RP: The marketing structure has changed drastically. From LP’s to Itunes, Spotify, Sound Hound, etc. Professional acts (touring) are more refined and precise. Every move and note is calculated/choreographed. Back in the day, there was more room for improvisation. Now everything is pre-recorded, this restricts the artist from venturing into the unknown. I miss bands having room to breathe on stage….more of a live feel when no 2 shows are exactly the same. It enabled artists to hone their craft more by discovery. It was more authentic and more organic.
Who are you in the group?
RP:One day…this big dude came up and wanted autographs from the group. Unexpectedly, he called me a “Beast” after the concert the next day. After that, the guys joked about this. It felt great to be part of a group of guys that knows what is important. Great friends, good times, and laughter. We are cut from the same cloth. We are family. No one is above the other.
What can the fans expect from the next album from Kansas? The last record was 2000!
RP: This is so surreal for me! We started back in the studio within the last couple of weeks. Performing new material will be an awesome experience for all of us. It’s mind blowing. I never would have conceived of this. I can’t compare this to anything in my life!
Any last comments?
RP: I feel like I won the “Rock and Roll Lottery.” I’m blessed and honored for this great opportunity to be a part of a legendary band called “Kansas”. You have to be worthy and really have a passion for what you do. Recently, I watched America’s got Talent. There was a little girl that played beautifully, but she got nervous and stopped. Howie Mandel encouraged her to continue because she was gifted. My point is that if you love something so much, you can’t stop. Desire to get better. I’ve had this mindset my entire life. Sing better, hit the next highest note. Play guitar better. Never stop. Not picking up where you left off..because you’re actually going backwards and losing ground. Be productive and never stop moving forward. Be persistent and Don’t be complacent. If you love what you do, hone your craft and do it to the best of your ability.