It’s been more than three decades since Kansas released its classics “Carry On Wayward Son” and “Dust in the Wind.” Yet the philosophical rockers have never been too far away.
There’ve been covers by Sarah Brightman, Stryper, The Oak Ridge Boys and Scorpions. Kansas songs have been featured in the movies “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy,” “Happy Gilmore” and “Old School,” and on several TV shows, including “The Simpsons,” “Desperate Housewives” and “South Park.”
Then came video games.
“All of a sudden I had my own guitar on in front of me with Rock Band,” Kansas guitarist Rich Williams said. “And whole families can play the game and come to the shows, so it sure changes the faces in the crowd.”
The band formed in Topeka named for the Sunflower State has sold more than 15 million records, according to the Recording Industry Association of America. Kansas hits include “Point of Know Return,” “Hold On,” “Fight Fire With Fire” and “Play the Game Tonight.”
“We took a little bit different approach when we got started as far as the sound goes, just incorporating a violin but not like a fiddle and making arrangements with the harmonies with guitar, violin and keyboard, you know, including orchestra sections and stuff with that — it’s a really classical sound,” Williams said.
“Kerry [Livgren, guitarist and keyboardist] wrote some great songs that have stood the test of time,” he added.
Kansas — original members Williams, lead singer and keyboardist Steve Walsh and drummer Phil Ehart, along with violinist David Ragsdale and bassist Billy Greer — will play at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 5 at the Fulton County Fair, 8514 State Route 108 in Wauseon. Tickets range from $16 to $20. Gate admission is $5.
For the 2009 DVD, “There’s Know Place Like Home,” the group performed with the 50-piece Washburn University Orchestra in its home state. Since recording with the London Symphony Orchestra for the 1998 disc, “Always Never the Same,” Kansas has been jamming with more classical musicians.
“We did an album with [the London Symphony Orchestra], which was kind of what enabled us to do the symphony tours we’ve been doing. To go into Abbey Road studio and be standing there in the middle of the big room there and hearing the London Symphony playing your material was — unbelievable,” Williams said.
“It’s a very powerful feeling to be up there with another 50 people standing behind you. It’s actually a very classy event.”
Make no mistake: Kansas rocks, whether playing fine arts centers or fairgrounds.
“We’re a live rock band,” Williams said. “There are other people you can go see if you want to see an act or an artist, that’s not what we do. We’re a band — musicians playing together, doing what we love to do.”