Kansas, the wayward sons of Topeka, carry on at the San Diego County Fair on Friday, July 3. And we’re told to watch for a new album in 2016. Founding guitarist Rich Williams took some questions from the Reader from his home in Atlanta.
What San Diego memories do you have with Kansas?
"Dust in the Wind"
Kansas performs their hit live, unplugged
“When we first came to town, I remember playing there with Elvin Bishop. A few thousand people. It was great. Walking around close to the waterfront, sailors, tattoo parlors everywhere. I’d never been in that kind of environment before...
“We’ve been there several times. People don’t have a lot bad to say about San Diego. My daughter is in the Navy, she [trained] in San Diego [and] loved it. Phil [Ehart], our drummer, his parents retired there. The best weather in the country. It’s always an up feeling to be going there.”
What about dangerous towns?
“We fled Chicago — I think it was the Agora Ballroom. A dicey neighborhood 35 years ago, and it hasn’t improved any [laughs]. Terrifying neighborhood. But once we got inside it was a great gig. I remember gang people harassing us as we were getting out of our cars.
“The Sportatorium in Hollywood, Florida. It’d be sold out, and I can recall the police hitting people trying to get in, and the doors were chained... El Paso, Texas, the gate would always get crushed and the security would bail out. So now you got nobody between you and this crowd. Just insane. There was a guy we called ‘the Spitter,’ he was always dead center, front row, and he’d spit at us the whole time! Did he hate us? Was he showing appreciation?”
Is the band relieved to be on the state fair circuit, away from all that?
“Oh there’s assholes everywhere [laughs]. We play casinos...performing arts centers, a bit of it all. The state fair circuit is low-pressure. People are sitting there with their families eating funnel cake.”
With your eye patch, do children mistake you for a pirate?
“I go to Kroger around the corner, and every little kid sees me, says, ‘Mommy, look, a pirate!’ You just ignore it [laughs].”
You must be used to it by now.
“Kids are unfiltered. I just choose not to make a response because kids are innocent. I sometimes want to comment to the parents, but some things are just better left unsaid.”