February 24, 2018

A punk progenitor

The building that once housed the Music Box, February 2012.

The birthplace of punk rock in Kansas City is coming down. Well, maybe not the birthplace, but the site of one of the earliest clubs to feature punk and new wave music, mainly by local bands, in a big way has an imminent date with the wrecking ball.

Ron Klaus (left) and John Nichols of the Embarrassment at the Music Box, 1981.

According to a story at kshb.com, the orange brick building on the southeast corner of 47th and Troost is coming down to make way for a new Ollie Gates shopping center. Lately, it housed a payday loan operation. But in 1981 it was the Music Box, where the cool kids gathered and bands like Duchamp, the Gear and Yardapes were in regular rotation.

The building that once housed the Music Box, summer 2011.

According to a Kansas City Star magazine cover story by Art Brisbane and Jo E. Hull (“Rock and Rebellion, Kansas City’s growing New Wave scene,” April 28, 1981) Music Box proprietors Craig and Pam Travitz booked punk bands into the basement of the Plaza East Tavern, 4719 Troost, calling it the Downliner, for nearly a year before they opened the Music Box a few doors to the north. In both places, they booked the progenitors of the local punk scene, as well as regional acts like Wichita’s Embarrassment (see photo here and previous post.), Springfield’s Morells and St. Louis’ Brown and Langrehr.

The building that housed the Downliner was torn down many years ago.


  1. So much nifty music and many great friends. All the great neighborhood stuff on that intersection is gone, sad to see it all disappear. Used to be a truly urban setting.

  2. I think The Music Box held on to about 1984 before it shut down. Saw The Gear, The Embarrassment and tons of other great local bands there. I always held hope that someone would reopen it as a live venue but it was not to be!!

  3. john barrick says:

    Saw a number of shows at both venues. On the occasions that I make to KC, it just seems that so much is missing.

  4. Larry Scudiero says:

    I had so much fun in both places.It was the birthplace of punk in KC

  5. Larry Scudiero says:

    I took members of The Tubes there , they loved it

  6. I used to do “video nights” there back when a VHS VCR cost $1500, and a blank tape cost $25.

  7. Steve Wilson says:

    Hi. Good memories of the Music Box. My band, Thumbs, played there a lot. It was a great scene.
    Management at the Downliner was much less musician friendly, but we had some good nights there too, including one show when the Kinks’ Mick Avory dropped in for a set.

  8. jackie morrison says:

    Enjoyed the shows and that crowd…Crossed paths with a college friend, now my husband…Married 30 years…Our friends band was the Corvairs…

  9. Anyone know where Deborah Carbery is?

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