Things to Do

Platt carries on Kansas legacy at Freeman Arts Pavilion

By Craig Horleman
Posted 7/10/24

SELBYVILLE — Ronnie Platt was just a fan of the classic progressive rock band Kansas 10 years ago. Since then, he’s been fronting it.

In 2014, upon the retirement of original lead …

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Things to Do

Platt carries on Kansas legacy at Freeman Arts Pavilion


SELBYVILLE — Ronnie Platt was just a fan of the classic progressive rock band Kansas 10 years ago. Since then, he’s been fronting it.

In 2014, upon the retirement of original lead singer Steve Walsh, Mr. Platt sent a Facebook message to guitarist Richard Williams about possibly taking over.

The note was sent on a Wednesday. And, by Monday, Mr. Platt had the job.

Now, he and his Kansas bandmates will perform on their “Kansas Classics” tour at Freeman Arts Pavilion on July 31.

It’s been 50 years since the group released its debut album, and it has gone on to sell more than 30 million worldwide.

Kansas’ catalog of 16 studio and five live albums has resulted in eight gold albums, three sextuple-platinum albums, one platinum live album, one quadruple-platinum single (“Carry on Wayward Son”) and another triple-platinum single (“Dust in the Wind”).

For Mr. Platt, who worked as a truck driver in the Chicago area, it was performing with the cover bands Ara and Shooting Star — which charted a few hits — that developed his singing background.

“Almost all my cover bands did Kansas songs, and not just (‘Dust in the Wind’ and ‘Point of Know Return’). A few of my cover bands really did some deep-cut Kansas stuff,” he said by phone last week from his home in Chicago. “Ara started in 1990, and I was in that band until 2003. We opened up for Kansas the first time in 1992. So, I was in front of (Kansas members) that time.

“And then, I think there were three or four other times we played festivals with them. Then, when I got into Shooting Star, I think it drew a little more attention to me.”

He was also in a band with current Kansas drummer Eric Holmquist’s father.

Plus, he recalled when Shooting Star played the Moondance Jam in Minnesota in June 2009, where the band was on the same bill as Foghat, Sheryl Crow, Journey and, yes, Kansas.

“I looked over, and I saw Rich Williams at the monitor board watching us play. So, I really don’t know if Rich put me in his back pocket back then or not,” Mr. Platt said.

Not resting on their laurels, the guys from Kansas have delivered two original albums during Mr. Platt’s tenure.

Summer 2020 marked the release of “The Absence of Presence,” Kansas’ 16th studio album, which debuted at No. 10 on Billboard’s Top Current Albums chart. It followed 2016’s “The Prelude Implicit,” which started at No. 14 on Billboard’s Top 200 Albums chart.

And, throughout 2016-22, the band celebrated the anniversaries of multiplatinum breakout albums “Leftoverture” and “Point of Know Return,” with anniversary tours for both.

There were also the live album releases “Leftoverture Live & Beyond” (2017) and “Point of Know Return Live & Beyond” (2021).

“Eleven years ago, if you would have told me I would be writing lyrics for the band Kansas and singing on studio albums, I’d say, ‘I’m going to sign you up for Alcoholics Anonymous.’ I mean, how crazy?” said the affable Mr. Platt.

“It was beyond my wildest dreams just to get the job. But to have my voice on a studio album of new material and then have such a big hand in writing lyrics for those albums is just really beyond my wildest dreams.”

Over five decades since the group’s start, folks are still packing shows and buying its music.

“This band really has no end in sight, and I think it’s because of the music and not the players. The music stands on its own. It’s just phenomenal,” Mr. Platt said.

He added that the demographic for Kansas shows has expanded in recent years. One reason is because the longtime WB drama “Supernatural” featured “Carry on Wayward Son” at the end of many of its seasons. In 2017, the band made a surprise appearance at Comic-Con International in San Diego to perform the song.

“When I first joined the band, our audience was really an older audience. ‘Leftoverture’ came out in 1976, and ‘Point of Know Return’ in 1977. If you were 20 years old then, do the math. But, in the 10 years I’ve been in the band, the opportunities that we took advantage of really introduced us to a younger audience,” Mr. Platt said.

“Of course, the TV show ‘Supernatural’ kind of adopting ‘Wayward Son’ as their theme song was a big shot in the arm. And then, when we did Comic-Con out in San Diego, that really was like the catapult of exposing us to younger viewers and then just the great parenting that’s out there — the parents that brought their kids to the show. And now, their kids are even coming to shows. It’s kind of wild. We call it our ‘job security.’”

Mr. Platt refers to himself as a “prog snob,” since he’s been listening to progressive rock groups, such as Kansas, Rush and Genesis, all his life.

“Discovering that I could do a pretty good job of sounding like Steve (Walsh) only propelled me more into Kansas music and just how intense and intricate the music was,” he said.

“I started playing piano and bass and guitar very, very young. And I would sit in front of my sister’s Panasonic multistereo — with the 8-track, the tuner and the turntable all in one — and just put on a Kansas album and sit there.”

While sounding like Mr. Walsh may have given Mr. Platt a leg up for fronting Kansas, he said he tries to be himself on stage.

“I think you’re a combination of your influences. Steve Perry (of Journey) was a huge influence on me. Lou Gramm (of Foreigner) was a huge influence on me. Although with him, it’s a little bit of a different tonality. But also Geddy Lee (of Rush) and Jon Anderson (of Yes) — those are extreme character voices. There’s no mistaking them,” Mr. Platt said.

“But I never really consciously tried to emulate those singers. It’s just they’ve been such a huge influence on me that it all just naturally comes out.”

He said the July 31 “Kansas Classics” show at Freeman will draw upon the hits and more.

“We’re doing a lot of 50th-anniversary shows and a lot of classic shows. There’s a different song selection between the two, which keeps it interesting for us,” he said.

“In the 10 years I’ve been in the band, outside of the heavy hitters, I could write an entire show of Kansas songs that we have yet to do since I’ve been in the band. That’s how much stuff we have to pull from.”

Tickets for the 7 p.m. concert are available at

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