December 12, 2017

KC’s first homegrown rocker

Larry Emmett (center) and the Sliders circa 1960, probably at Berry's Barn in Olathe, Kan.

According to several sources, the Kansas City area’s first homegrown rock band of note was Larry Emmett and the Sliders. While African-Americans were playing and listening to rhythm and blues in local clubs at least since the early 1950s, the flowering of white rock bands did not occur until after the Elvis Presley explosion of 1956.

The Sliders drew big crowds, including this one in Paola, Kan., circa 1960.

In fact, Larry Emmett was not a white man, but a Native American who was born on the Prairie Band Potawatomi Reservation near Mayetta, Kan. His parents moved to DeSoto, Kan., where Larry attended high school and began playing the guitar.
Upon his 2011 induction into the Kansas Music Hall of Fame, saxophonist Jim “Sweet Lips” Wilson told The Eudora, Kan., Reporter that the Sliders won a battle of the bands sponsored by WDAF-TV in 1958.

Young rockers often ran afoul of the older musicians' unions during the 1950s and '60s.

In the late 1950s and early ’60s, the band played gigs from Kansas City to Omaha, Neb., and many points in between. Their early engagements included high school dances and privately sponsored “teen town” parties, as well as Berry’s Barn in Olathe, Kan. — one of several area barns converted to dance halls during that era. They also performed at KC nightclubs, including the Promenade Ballroom at 31st and Main streets and the Crossroads at Benton Boulevard and Swope Parkway.

These two Midtown clubs were owned by the same person.

Larry Emmett and the Sliders consisted of Emmett (guitar and vocals), Charles “Bud” Ross (later of Kustom amps fame, on bass and vocals), Frank Huffman (drums) and Jim Wilson (sax and vocals). Before Ross joined, Larry’s father, Chris (aka Flash), often played the bass. Larry Emmett fronted several other bands before and after the Sliders, including the Tonemasters and the Swingin’ Indians (the latter group featuring Tom Bark, later of Colt 45/KC Blues Band).

The band's only recording, circa 1959-60.

The Sliders recorded one seven-inch 45 rpm record, released in 1959 or ’60 on their own Blues label. The titles, credited to Emmett, are “West Coast Blues” and “Bluesy,” and they are, indeed, slow blues instrumentals.

Larry Emmett's ex-wife, Annette Boudreaux, says Roger Calkins of the Silvertones studied Emmett's every move on stage.

Emmett’s ex-wife, Annette Boudreaux of Parkville, Mo., says Emmett loved the blues and that the Sliders covered songs by B.B. King, Hank Ballard, Muddy Waters and Bo Diddley, among others. “Their theme song was ‘Honky Tonk’ by Bill Doggett,” Boudreaux said. “He didn’t do all that gyration (Ed note: a la Elvis). He did the duck walk like Chuck Berry, though, and he could put his guitar behind his head and play it like that.”
Emmett left the Kansas City area in the late 1960s and died in 2000 in Albuquerque, N.M. Frank Huffman is also deceased. Jim Wilson lives in Eudora, and Bud Ross lives in the Kansas City area.

Comments

  1. What a cool post. I work on a Johnson County History website and have some photos of the “Soc Hop” dance barns in Overland Park and Lenexa. Apparently one band who played there, the Silver-Tones, had a drummer who went on to play in the Electric Prunes.

  2. Mary Ann Emmett says:

    Thanks for the video and pics! I remember those days well – I was known as “Little Emmett” and followed the band around from venue to venue and grew up listening to my brother, Larry, learn to play the guitar. Thanks again.

  3. Hello” I was The Lead Guitarist & Singer For Kansas Citys ” Pagan Square ” band .. We Booked & were signed With Goldman-Dell Productions from 1967 till 1970 . Singles Recorded at Damon Records include : “she Played second fiddle in an Old Rock Band”- ” I Need YOu”- “I Want To CRy “- ” Dripping Water ” .. I Now Record Using the Name “Zenith Lights “

  4. In the early 1960’s I sang and played guitar with a Johnson County group called The Chontels. We played all over K.C. including The Loft (formally Barry’s Barn), House of The Rising Sun (Mission Ks,), etc. I got to see Larry Emmitt play once at a lounge in Kansas City, Mo. He sounded really good. I retired from playing professionally in 1998 and now own a barber shop in Fort Smith Arkansas. Today, music is just a hobby. I have a few songs on my Facebook
    page under “PHOTOS/VIDEOS.

  5. Olivia Martinez says:

    thank you so much! This is my grandpa and he died the year I was born and I never meet him. I found out so much from this. I want to learn more about him!

  6. Larry Pollard says:

    Through a tip I stumbled on this site while looking for more info on Larry Emmitt. I was so happy to see the article because it would take people my age or older to remember Larry and the Sliders. In 1994 I was visiting with a friend in North Missouri who knew some of my musical past while living in KC. Short story, she happened to be Larry’s daughter but never met him until she was 37 years old. I was able to fill in some blanks for her about her father. She was able to spend some time with Larry before he passed. I have his 45 record which I am downloading with some other KC groups for her. Larry was having fun playing his music without knowing he paved the way for many of us. While living in KC I also had the opportunity to play some gigs and hang with the original Cosmopolitan Redskin, Tom Bark. I love this site….LP

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  2. Oz Racing Atelier Forged Zeus

    […] ue, N.M. Frank Huffman is also deceased. Jim Wilson lives in Eudora, and Bud Ros […]

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    […] City area in the late 1960s and died in 2000 in Albuquerque, N.M. Frank Huffman […]

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