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.

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.

Carney Rock

Len Barry's huge hit, "1-2-3," came out a few days after this show.

Kansas City amusement parks were often the site of rock concerts in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s.
The tradition of “School’s Out” concerts at Fairyland sponsored by Top 40 radio station WHB goes back farther than I realized in my earlier “World’s Happiest Broadcasters” post. Those events took place in the early 1970s. I have since found a newspaper ad (above) from June 1965 touting such a show with Len Barry of “1-2-3” fame as the headliner. That song came out the following month on Decca Records and went to #2 on the pop chart. I wonder if Barry sang it here? Anybody out there recall that show, or others at Fairyland?

This poster is from the second Carney Rock, circa 1974.

I have heard the Shadows of Night played there once. And of course, Chris Fritz promoted multiple Carney Rock bills there in the mid-’70s featuring bands like Spirit. (See photo, below left)
As for Worlds of Fun, I recall seeing shows by Squeeze and Ray Charles in an outdoor amphitheater there, but it must not have been in 1980, the year this ad (below right) was published. The big-name headliners that year were Rick Nelson, Hall and Oates and Kool & the Gang.

An ad for summer 1980 concerts at Worlds of Fun

I contacted the folks at Worlds of Fun earlier this year, but they have no record of what acts played there when. The park is now owned by the Cedar Fair group, and they have not promoted a concert series. The 1980s-era shows took place under WOF’s original Hunt Midwest ownership. I don’t have any WOF-concert ticket stubs, and I’ve saved almost all of mine, so I wonder if tickets were even printed for these shows. It looks like some were free with regular admission, and some carried a 99-cent surcharge.

Ed Cassidy and Spirit at the first Carney Rock in July 1973

So who out there can help? Anyone recall seeing a rock concert at Fairyland or Worlds of Fun? Got any photos or memorabilia to share? Leave a comment below or contact rick@kcrockhistory.com