Rich Williams explains how Guitar Hero 2 cultivated the latest generation of Kansas fans

by Clay Howard

Rich Williams explains how Guitar Hero 2 cultivated the latest generation of Kansas fans

To many in the musical world of 2010, Kansas is just another tour stop in the center of the country — the place of Dorothy and Toto and tornados.

But to people of my generation, when you say Kansas, the mind races not to a geographic place, but to finely crafted songs with intricate arrangements featuring guitars, violins and soaring tenor vocals. Growing up, the songs of Kansas filled the airwaves on what was then known simply as “rock radio,” but has evolved over the graceless passage of time into classic rock. The band was a powerful force in the era of arena rock, with a number of classic hits, including “Dust in the Wind,” “Fight Fire with Fire” and the inescapable “Carry On Wayward Son.”

Some 30-plus years after the heyday of these songs, Kansas is still touring, this time in support of their new DVD release, There’s Know Place Like Home. The tour brings them to Cary’s Koka Booth Amphitheater on June 9. I took this opportunity to speak to Rich WIlliams, original guitarist, about the DVD, the tour and rock in general.

Y!W: How is the tour going so far?

RW: We are out west right now, heading to Billings tomorrow night. We have done about 10 or 12 shows so far.

Y!W: How are the audiences?

RW: We have always been a family friendly band, so a lot of people have brought their younger brothers or their kids, so we have always had a real good spectrum. But especially since Guitar Hero 2, we have had a big surge in younger audience members. Families play that game together, so that has brought whole families to the show.

Y!W: On classic recordings like “Carry On Wayward Son,” there were two guitarists. How long have you been carrying the weight as the sole guitarist?

RW: Kerry Livgren left the band about 25 years ago, then we did two albums with Steve Morse. And it has basically been me since then. Our violin player also plays guitar on some songs, but for the most part it is me, for about 20 years.

Y!W: I have always been intrigued by the interaction between the electric guitar and the violin in your music… it almost sounds like a different instrument.

RW: Yeah, it really does. When we play either in unison or in harmony, it kind of creates a third instrument.

Y!W: Your new DVD features you guys with a symphony. Are there any plans to do this again?

RW: Yeah, when this tour is over with Styx and Foreigner, we go back and do symphony dates again, to really support the DVD.

Y!W: Kansas has not played in North Carolina in several years, the last time I remember was at Speed Street in Charlotte, seven or eight years ago.

RW: I spend all my off time up in Youngsville, right outside of Wake Forest. The last time we played in the Raleigh/Durham/ Cary area was at Walnut Creek, when it was just called Walnut Creek. This will be the first time back in a long time. We have not been back to NC since that Charlotte show.

Kansas plays the Koka Booth Ampthitheater in Cary June 9.

For more information on Kansas, or on their new DVD, please visit