March 30, 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.

Municipal Auditorium turns 75

Vintage postcard showing the WPA-era building.

The magnificent Art Deco Municipal Auditorium, which will host a 75th birthday party Thursday, Oct. 13, has been the site of much Kansas City Rock History. Elvis Presley played three concerts there – May 24, 1956; Nov. 15, 1971; and June 29, 1974.

An ad for Elvis' 1956 concert at the auditorium.

Other notable shows include the Jimi Hendrix Experience Nov. 1, 1968, and the Rolling Stones (with Stevie Wonder opening), June 22, 1972.

Ticket stub from Elvis' 1974 show at the auditorium

I saw several great rock shows at Municipal — Frank Zappa (12/5/81), Prince (3/19/83), Willie Nelson (2/25/79) — and one I recall as a disappointing snorefest (Eric Clapton, 2/20/78).
How about you? What shows do you recall attending at Municipal Auditorium? Post your comments below.
The public is welcome to attend a free luncheon (hot dogs and popcorn) from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 13, at the Municipal Auditorium Arena, 301 W. 13th St. In addition to an ETA (That’s “Elvis Tribute Artist,” for the uninitiated) actors portraying Harry and Bess Truman, Franklin D. Roosevelt and basketball inventor James Naismith, plus Shriner clowns and members of the KC Roller Warriors will be on hand to add to the festivities.

JoAnn Streever will display her Elvis scrapbooks at the 75th birthday party.

As part of the display of historical photos, the folks who run the Auditorium have invited JoAnn Streever, a member of the local Stuck on Elvis fan club, to display some of her memorabilia, which includes clippings and tickets stubs from the Elvis concerts she attended in KC, including his 1974 concert at Municipal.

Calling all shutterbugs!

Jimi posed backstage with morning DJ "Humble" Harry Miller from concert sponsor KUDL-AM.

Among the holy grails of the Kansas City Rock History Project, in terms of photos, is the Jimi Hendrix Experience concert Nov. 1, 1968, at Municipal Auditorium.
If anyone out there has photos of Jimi, Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell on stage in Kansas City, please be in touch with me. And anyone who attended, please feel free to share your memories by commenting below.

Ad for Jimi in The KC Star

I have found some ads for the concert, whose opening act was Cat Mother and All-Night Newsboys, on the back of a KUDL Boss 30 survey and in the Kansas City Star.
My other top photo wants are, of course, the Beatles Sept. 17, 1964, at Municipal Stadium and the Who (with the Buckinghams) Nov. 17. 1967, at Shawnee Mission South High School Auditorium. I am looking for candid photos of the Who — something besides the 1968 yearbook spread.
I am also searching for snaps of such concerts as Led Zeppelin Nov. 5, 1969, at Memorial Hall, Elvis Costello and the Attractions, Feb. 1, 1978, at Pogo’s, and any of Elvis Presley’s five KC concerts: May 24, 1956, Nov. 15, 1971, and June 29, 1974, at Municipal Auditorium, and April 21, 1976, and June 18, 1977, at Kemper Arena.
If you have photos of these shows or any others you are willing to share with the Kansas City Rock History project, please write to rick@kcrockhistory.com. History will thank you.