August 20, 2017

The heavy sounds of Stone Wall

Greg Whitfield, (from left) Ken Mairs and Allen Blasco of Stone Wall at the Fun Fair, Municipal Auditorium, June 1969.

Greg Whitfield, (from left) Ken Mairs and Allen Blasco of Stone Wall at the Fun Fair, Municipal Auditorium, June 1969.

If the Classmen (clean-cut brothers, managed by their father) were Kansas City’s equivalent to the Beach Boys and the Chesmann its Beatles, Stone Wall could be likened to Kansas City’s Cream or Led Zeppelin.

A power trio with roots in the blues, Stone Wall was led by singer-guitarist Allen Blasco in combination with three different rhythm sections (1968-76).

Allen Blasco of The Clergymen at the Hullaballoo Scene club, March 1968.

Allen Blasco of The Clergymen at the Hullaballoo Scene club, March 1968.

As a young teen (1965-68), Blasco led The Clergymen, whose ever-changing array of musicians included Ray Goldsich, later to become known as radio personality Ray Dunaway. They were good enough to headline the Hullaballoo Scene club, a spinoff from the 1965-66 NBC television show that opened in 1967 on 85th Street just east of Prospect Avenue.

Stone Wall played many times at the summer Sunday Volker Park love-ins of the 1970s.

Stone Wall played many times at the summer Sunday Volker Park love-ins of the 1970s.

But with the coming of Hendrix, Cream and Blue Cheer, 17-year-old Blasco wanted to emulate that heavier sound, and he had the chops and the equipment to do it. He and his band mates (Ken Mairs, drums, Greg Whitfield, bass, v.1; Lee Cline, d, Rick Bacus, b, v. 2; Pete Jacobs, d, Alan Cohen, b, v.3) played venues ranging from Volker Park love-ins (there’s a great YouTube video here) to Municipal Auditorium, as part of then-future Cowtown Ballroom impresario Stan Plesser’s June 1969 Fun Fair.

Short-lived Aquarius attracted top-name local bands.

Short-lived Aquarius attracted top-name local bands.

While Stone Wall gigged all around town and at such outlying venues as St. Joe’s Frog Hop Ballroom and The Jolly Troll in Holton, Kan., they struggled to create original songs and thus interest from major record labels.

Blasco went on to form and/or play with such bands as Neon Blue and the reformed Riverrock.

Starlight memories

The infamous 1977 show that drew noise complaints around Royals Stadium.

The nostalgic triple bill coming up at Starlight Theatre on Friday, May 10 — Styx, REO Speedwagon and Ted Nugent — made me wonder just how many times those three acts have collectively played Kansas City.

A Chris Fritz presentation, circa 1972-74.

The poster at left shows that promoter Chris Fritz presented two of the three groups – along with Joe Walsh’s Barnstorm – at Memorial Hall in the early ’70s. Nugent was still billed as leader of the Amboy Dukes then, just a few years after their Top 40 hit from 1968, “Journey to the Center of the Mind.” Barnstorm existed only from 1972 to 1974, so this would have to be from that period.

Guitar battle poster

The Nuge had played KC before, and he came through many times thereafter, as did REO and Styx. Part of REO’s 1977 double-live album was recorded at Memorial Hall.

When Nugent was at his commercial, multi-platinum-selling peak, he even headlined two stadium shows for Fritz. The first of those, on Sunday, June 26, 1977, became infamous for drawing noise complaints from miles around the Harry S Truman Sports Complex. (See story above) Second on the bill that night was REO Speedwagon.

The Nuge headlined Summer Rock '79

REO also headlined a memorable show at Royals Stadium on Sept. 1, 1979, literally “Ridin’ the Storm Out” on a night so rainy they could barely finish their set. Someone is selling a vintage T-shirt from that show for $140 online here.

Next month’s show is a production of Live Nation, Starlight’s promotional partner for the current season. I was also trying to think, for the purposes of this post, about what were the first rock shows staged at Starlight. I remember seeing the Grateful Dead and Elvis Costello (in separate shows) there during the 1980s, but I’m almost certain rock shows were held there during the 1960s and ’70s.

What are your Starlight rock memories? Please leave a comment below.

Need to unearth Cavern photos

Cavern studio letterhead, provided by Tom Sorrells

Tom Sorrells, a great friend of the Kansas City Rock History Project, has a request. He needs photos of the former Cavern Studios in Independence, Mo., for a project he is undertaking with Chicago’s esteemed Numero Group.
Cavern was active at least from the 1960s to 1980s. As evidenced by these 2 photos at (Jim) Wheeler Audio’s website, not only local acts, but giants like James Brown recorded there.
Tom has rescued some great trax from the Cavern vaults, but he needs more pix for a package that will meet Numero’s deluxe standard.
BTW, if you haven’t heard it, Tom’s first project with Numero, a history of his pure-pop Titan label, is available in both 2-CD and expanded, 4-LP versions here.
If you have any Cavern photos, friend/message Tom Sorrells on facebook or email him at: titanitsallpop@yahoo.com. Kansas City rock history will thank you.