Kansas Music Hall of Fame
You may vote for a total of up to ten potential inductees, or as few as one. They may be chosen from those listed below, or you may “write in” as many as two others, as long as they meet the criteria for induction (go to our website listed below for more information). All votes must be received by midnight on Sunday, January 1, 2023. Email your votes to firstname.lastname@example.org or mail them to Kansas Music Hall of Fame, P.O. Box 189, Beloit, KS 67420. Please include your name, phone number and email address in case there are any questions about your vote. The 2023 inductees will be announced shortly after the above deadline on the Kansas Music Hall of Fame facebook page, and on our website: ksmhof.org. The date of the 2023 induction ceremony, either online or live, will also be announced at that time.
_____The Appleseed Cast – Lawrence
The Appleseed Cast is an alternative rock band from Lawrence, Kansas. Their 1999 album, called “Mare Vitalis”, garnered much critical acclaim. The Cast have released 8 albums overall, with 2009’s “Sagarmatha” appearing on the Billboard Heatseekers chart. Having toured extensively across the U.S. and Europe, the band have been hailed for their audio/visual live shows.
_____Ric Averill – Lawrence
Ric Averill is the Emeritus Artistic Director of Performing Arts at the Lawrence Arts Center. Averill is a director, playwright, screenwriter, composer, director, conductor, actor and educator. Averill has composed a youth opera based on The Emperor’s New Clothes for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC. The body of Ric’s Youth Theater work may be found at Dramatic Publishing and includes musicals and plays with music. Ric’s Seem-To-Be Songbook features children’s song heard across Kansas such as Ghostly Hall and The Pirate Song. Ric’s opera with modern dance, rock instrumentation and digital scenery, Midnight Visit to the Grave of Poe; A Grotesque Arabesque, premiered at the Lawrence Arts Center in October of 2015. Ric is currently working on a commission from the Rebel Playhouse to write a new musical, The Fantastical Dangerous Journey of Q, funded in part through an Aurand Harris Grant from the Children’s Theatre Foundation of America. Q will premiere in New York at the 14th Street Y on December 1st, 2018. Ric’s largest musical work was a drama/ballet based on The Snow Queen by H.C. Andersen, which opened in 2006 at the Lawrence Arts Center featuring a 12 piece orchestra. In addition to composing children’s songs, operas and ballets, Ric is often found as a professional performer and/or music director. Ric played keyboard for Theatre Lawrence’s Ring of Fire; The Johnny Cash Musical, and frequently plays incidental music on the mandolin, banjo, fiddle, guitar, bass or pretty much anything with strings. Ric’s primary instrument is the piano, which he can play backwards, with his nose and with his butt – rather John Cageian. Ric loves jamming with friends and looks for opportunities to hire fellow musicians for work in theatre as often as possible.
_____Lander Ballard – Wichita
Born in Robinson, Ill., Lander started playing guitar at age 6, and was singing even earlier. He was elected his church’s chorister at age 14. He studied guitar, and played in a working rock band through-out high school, and got his first professional job teaching guitar at 16. During his time in the U.S. Air Force he played in a show band in Viet Nam made up of other G.I.’s during off-duty hours at various military clubs and events around the Cam Rahn Bay area. He came to Wichita, KS. in 1970 to finish his military duty. He bought a Martin D-35, and began his solo career, singing and playing at various venues around the Kansas region.
After the service, he began writing songs and recorded a number of demos. With little interest from major record labels, Lander became one of the first to start his own independent record label, Free Wind Records, and recorded his first album, “High Time,” in Nashville. It was one of the early non-country records made there. After doing his first four albums in different studios, Lander put together his own studio, and has recorded five more albums of his own, as well as albums and demos. for many Kansas artists. Although Lander is best known for playing acoustic guitar in his live performances, his albums show his ability to play acoustic & electric guitars, both 6 & 12-string, electric bass, mandolin, keyboard, and percussion, coupled with great vocals & harmonies.
Lander has opened shows for many varied music luminaries, including: Stephen Stills, Bonnie Raitt, America, Roger McGuinn, Chris Hillman, John Hartford, Rory Gallagher, David Clayton Thomas, Leon Russell, and others. L.B. has also been the featured act for numerous concerts. Living in Newton, KS. since 1985, he continues to record, play live occasionally, and teach guitar in Newton and Wichita.
_____Banshee – Kansas City
Banshee, a melodic power metal band from the Midwest, was formed in the spring of 1986. Made up of members from the popular Mid-West touring act LICK (Tommy Lee Flood & Chuck Hopkins), Terry Dunn of Kansas City-based FRODO, GRANMAX, and Kent Burnham from Kansas City-based CRYPT KEEPER. By the fall of 1986, they released their first EP entitled Cry in the Night. (a video of which was on heavy rotation on MTV). Hopkins left shortly thereafter to pursue other projects in L.A. and was replaced by local Kansas City bassist Bill Westfall.
In 1988, Metal Blade Records re-released Cry In The Night and included the song “We Want You” on a compilation record, Metal Massacre No. 9. Later that year, the band released their first full-length album, Race Against Time, on Atlantic Records’ Titanium label, although their relationship was brief. In 1992, the band self-released their second full-length album, Take ‘Em By Storm, with members separating shortly thereafter. Reunion shows were played in 1999, 2000, and later in 2008. In 2008, a deal was negotiated with BlastZone Entertainment Group to provide worldwide distribution for a digitally remastered Take ‘Em By Storm and saw distribution reach on Amazon.com, iTunes, and Wal-Mart, with the re-release of the other albums following. In 2012, the band released their fourth studio album Mindslave on Snowblind Records. The album featured vocalist George Call (ASKA, Violent Storm, Omen), original bassist Chuck Hopkins, and drummer Marty Schiermann. In June 2012 in preparation for the upcoming tour, Hopkins and Schiermann were both unable to tour with the band and Mika Horiuchi (ex-Falling In Reverse and Celador) from Los Angeles, California stepped up on bass, while Vinnie E. Parma from Dallas, Texas took the role of drums.
_____Boko Maru – Kansas City
Boko Maru is an impressive hybrid of professional music experience that can convincingly play any style of music – from Jazz, Rock, and Blues to Funk, Country and more. Composed of saxophonist /percussionist/vocalist Todd Wilkinson, guitarist/vocalist Terry Swope, drummer Keith Mallory, saxophonist/keyboardist Joe Miquelon, and bassist /vocalist James Albright, their mantra was “Musicians’ music for everyone.” Capable of laser-like intensity, improvisational fireworks, and uncanny in their ability to fuse styles, Boko Maru quickly developed a following of dedicated fans. Their original compositions and adaptions of cover tunes display an understanding of musical virtuosity combined with pop sensibilities.
Between 1994 and 2001, the group performed hundreds of gigs at clubs including, the Drum Room, the Point, Club 427, and Fedora on the Plaza, not to mention myriads of weddings, corporate events, and private parties. At the Drum Room, they were the backing band for Kevin Toney, Mark Murphy, Herb Ellis, and Karrin Allyson, as well as doing recording sessions and commercials with many local professionals.
Boko Maru was hired as the house band with the Wave FM Smooth Jazz Station, and received the annual Pitch Magazine ‘Klammy Award’ for Best Jazz Ensemble in 2000. During their steady gig at Fedora’s, they were discovered by Gary Cavanaugh (CEO of Fun Pro Records), and subsequently signed to the label. In late 2000, they released a highly acclaimed CD titled “Dreamland”. It is a signature work of compelling originality.
In 2002 the group disbanded to pursue other projects,
_____Gary Charlson – Kansas City
Kansas City KS native Gary Charlson first came to the attention of the local music scene in the mid ’70s, while fronting his hard rock cover band, Dynaflow. A chance meeting with the fledgling KC indie record label, Titan, led to the release of his first 7″ 45 in 1978, “Real Life Saver,” which was critically acclaimed in many national fanzines at the time. A 2nd Titan 45, “Shark,” was released in ’79, also to glowing reviews in the music press. By this time, Gary had formed The Gary Charlson Band, and was gigging regularly in local KC-area clubs. In March of 1979, “Just Another Pop Album”, a sampler album released by Titan in 1980 included Gary’s 45 tracks and also featured a previously unreleased Charlson-penned song, “Goodbye Goodtimes”. This album was well received by the national and international music scene. The Gary Charlson Band performed a live-in-the-studio set at Chapman Studios and tracks from this recording were released on a 12” EP by Titan in 1980. It featured the first-ever recorded cover version of Big Star’s “September Gurls,” later covered by the Searchers, the Bangles and several other groups. In the early ’80s, Gary and Guido Toledo formed the cover band the 4Sknns, who remained very popular in the Kansas City region for 2 decades. In addition, he is a founding member of the cover band, the Crayons, who continue to perform, and have a strong following in the region. On top of this, Gary does solo acoustic gigs regularly throughout the KC-metro area.
_____Chuck Cowan – Emporia
Chuck Cowan has performed as a professional musician for more than 50 years. His versatile repertoire includes Classical, Jazz, Country-Western, Rock & Roll, and Folk stylings. Chuck has displayed his gift for music with many famous artist, orchestras, and groups, both live and in the studio.
Cowan started playing guitar while growing up in Emporia KS. His first big break came while he was a freshman at Emporia State University. He and his band were playing their first professional gig – a country club near Branson, MO – when an agent spotted them. “He came up and said. ‘Do you guys want to go on the road?'” Chuck recalled, “I thought, “Oh good Lord, this guy must be deaf’!”. Over the years, he eventually toured the Midwest, the East Coast, the West Coast, Hawaii, even as far away as Southeast Asia and Japan.
Ensembles he’s been with include the Glenn Miller, Woody Herman, and Les Baxter orchestras, plus Bob Wills & the Texas Playboys, Clyde McCoy, and Phil Campos & the Forum. A short list of artists he’s accompanied include Buddy Knox, Carl Mann, James Burton, Thumbs Carllile, Mundell Lowe, Sammy Davis Jr., The Coasters, the Shirells, Don Ho, Keely Smith, The New Christy Minstrels, and Michael Parks.
Cowan also played on a number of movie soundtracks, such as “Hells Belles”, “Blood Sabbath”, “Flareup” (with Raquel Welch), and the movie SMACK, which he wrote and scored the soundtrack for.
One of the more unusal turns in his career came when he was inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. It proved to be a surprising event for both Chuck and for the Hall. “I’d never heard of the Rockabilly Hall of Fame,” he said. “And they thought I was dead!”
Chuck Cowan’s discography lists a number of singles recorded from 1962 through 1978 for labels like Sidewalk, Inner-Glo, and Olympic Records, plus a number of albums/CD’s released between 1961 and 2007. His latest CD “At The Lovers’ Lost and Found” is still in print.
_____ Lester Estelle – Kansas City
Lester Estelle is an accomplished, versatile, Grammy nominated musician. Not only is he a dynamic drummer, he is also an accomplished bassist, studio producer and engineer. He is a native of Kansas City, but is currently based in Nashville, TN. He started his professional career as a touring musician at the age of fourteen, and continues to successfully follow his dream of playing and recording great music. He has toured, recorded and/or performed with the following artists: Pillar, Kelly Clarkson, Big & Rich, John Rich, Kim Burrell, Neal McCoy, Charlie Pride, Randy Owens, Lester Estelle Sr., Jimmie Bratcher, Trump Dawgs, Agnieszka Chylinska, Stars Go Dim, Disciple, Edens Edge, Seventh Day Slumber, Lynda Randle, Donnie McClurkin, Brian Doerksen, Bob Fitts, Heidi Newfield, Keith Anderson, Julian Vaughn, Tate Stevens, Love & Death, Bartek Krolik, Travis Wyrick, Rob Hawkins, Asaph Ward, Les Brown, Benyahu, Parker Simon, Shawna P, Nine Lashes and many others.
For more info: lesterdrums.com
____The Fantabulous Jags – Wellington
The Jags were formed in late 1957. The group consisted of Dolph Ybarra (sax), Jack Potucek (guitar), Bud Gorman (stand-up bass), and Harold Little (drums). Their home base for many years through 1962 was the “It’ll Do Club” in Wellington, where they always set attendance records. With occasional personnel changes, The Jags branched out, playing gigs all over the state of Kansas, having an extended stay at Kansas City”s Peppermint Lounge in late ’63/early ’64. Also in 1964, the band had extended stay in Denver, playing to packed houses and warm response from new fans. In the fall of 1965, the group made it to Las Vegas, where they worked successfully until they disbanded in 1966.
_____Jimmy Gallager – Kansas City
Jimmy Gallagher began playing music in the Kansas City area at the age of 11. His first band was Flaming Youth, in which all the members were under the age of 14. He played in many other bands, such as Small Fortune, Wings of Steel, Ricky and The Kidds, and The Janet Jameson Band. Eventually, in his early 20’s, he moved to Las Vegas, where he spent many years playing with Jonathan and Music Magic. Jimmy returned to KC in 2008 to marry his childhood sweetheart, Mindy. It didn’t take long for him to become one of KC’s first call keyboardists, adding his unique flavoring to recordings by The Reverend Jimmy Bratcher, Ken Zans, and Terry Hancock. He played with many KC notables, but in 2013 he began playing with the two bands that came to define him for Kansas City music lovers. He was part of Journeyman – The Eric Clapton Experience. And he played keyboards, guitar, mandolin, and sang with, by his account, his “favorite band ever”, The Kaopectones. Jimmy left us in August of 2019, but his musical legacy lives on.
_____Get Smart! – Lawrence
Get Smart! is a three-piece post-punk rock ‘n roll band that formed in Lawrence in 1980 while the members, Marcus Koch (guitar/vocals), Lisa Wertman Crowe (bass/vocals) and Frank Loose (drums/vocals), were attending the University of Kansas. The group was prominent in the local music scene, and along with a number of other bands, helped to solidify Lawrence as an alternative music hotbed and a destination for many other regional and national acts. Along with frequent local shows, the band toured the country extensively, performing 300 shows in a six-year span.
They released their first recording in 1981, a flexi-disc released through Talk Talk magazine. This was followed by Words Move, a self-released 4-track EP, and next was a four-band split cassette. They recorded their first LP, Action Reaction, prior to relocating to Chicago in late 1982, and in 1986, released their second LP, Swimming With Sharks.
The original lineup reformed in January, 2020, and in December, 2020, they released an EP of six previously recorded songs, titled Oh Yeah No. The group played a 40 + 1 anniversary show in Lawrence in 2021 and will perform again in Lawrence with Kansas native Freedy Johnston on September 24, 2022. Get Smart! plans to collaborate on and release more new music in the near future.
_____The Group – Topeka
The Group was a band formed in the mid-’60s in Topeka, KS. It consisted of top players from previous bands. The members were Lane Tietgen (guitar, vocals), Bob Beardmore (bass), Jim Parks (organ,vocals), Bill Shuart (trumpet), Charlie Schwartz (sax, vocals) and Evan Johnson (drums). The Group played mostly rock, and rhythm & blues. Many members doubled on multiple instruments, plus vocals. The band wore matching stage attire, and featured their choreography and vocal harmonies. Their trademark was using flourescent orange for their business cards, posters, and even their equipment truck. Their calendar was constantly full with bookings, and they enjoyed great success with a big following of loyal fans, performing regionally, and over a three state area. The Group backed The Drifters for a tour through the midwest. There was also a historic self – promoted appearance at The Topeka Municipal Auditorium that presented The Group in concert along with another local favorite, The Rising Suns. In addition to many other significand gigs in a variety of venues, The Group won a talent search conducted by Stax Records, and were offered free recording time at Stax in Memphis. But due to challenges, both logistical and financial, The Group was never able to fulfill this opportunity. Separately, there were also discussions with an agent from MGM Records about a possible record deal. Unfortunately, this was not able to be finalized either. Had even one of these events come to pass, there could have been much more to The Group story today. Although The Group’s tenure was only a couple of years in length, they made a lasting impact in their market, and influenced many other bands and upcoming individual players. After The Group ended its successful run, the individual members went on to even greater notoriety in the music industry, both with subsequent bands, and on their own. In particular, Lane Tietgen became a member of The Serfs with Mike Finnigan, plus other projects along the way. Lane also became a prolific songwriter, his songs being recorded by high profile artists both at the time, and since.
_____Angela Hagenbach – Kansas City
Kansas City singer/songwriter, Angela Hagenbach, has been hailed as “one of America’s best fresh voices in jazz”, and a staple in the Kansas City scene for nearly three decades, singing everything from swinging straight-ahead Jazz Standards, Blues, and original compositions to sensual rhythmic Latin Jazz. A former trombonist and fashion model (at different times), her professional music career was launched in 1990. Angela’s national debut recording, ‘Weaver Of Dreams,’ released in January 2001, was nominated for a Grammy, and shot to the number five position on the Gavin Jazz Chart in six short weeks. Angela’s talents have placed her on the international stage, from The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts to opening for Ray Charles in Marciac, France. She was twice chosen to represent the United States as a Jazz Ambassador to the world under the auspices of the United States Information Agency and the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
_____Wendell Hall – St. George
Born in St. George, KS in 1896, Wendell Hall was also known as “The Red Haired Music Maker” and the “Pineapple Picador”. In 1923 his song “It Ain’t Gonna Rain No Mo’ “ sold an amazing two million copies. It was considered the first radio hit song ever. Hall played numerous instruments, but the ukelele was his favorite. He became an excellent player, even publishing his own ukelele instruction book. In 1924, he began hosting “The Eveready Hour”, and Eveready painted the tops of their batteries red in his honor. Among Hall’s guests on the show were Will Rogers, Carson Robison, Art Gillham, and the Waldorf Astoria Orchestra. That same year, Hall married Marion Martin, and the wedding ceremony was broadcast on the radio, likely the first broadcast wedding ceremony in radio history (this is probably where Hank Williams got the same idea decades later). In 1929, Hall hosted “The Majestic Music Hour”, and later “Gillettes Community Sing”. Wendell Hall made many recordings for Victor, Columbia, Brunswick and numerous other labels. He died in 1969.
_____Chip Hardy – Scott City
Chip Hardy is a 35 year veteran of the Nashville music business. His career has ranged from songwriter, to producer, to A&R at a major record label, to working with songwriters in music publishing. He was born and raised in the small town of Scott City in western Kansas “out in the middle of nowhere”. His mother is an accomplished keyboard player and his dad loved to sing. At the age of four, Chip was spinning old 78 rpm records of Glen Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Doris Day and Hank Williams, Sr. Around age seven, his mother taught him basic chords on ukulele, and he began playing and singing for various school and community events. At 12 he took up guitar and began writing songs. Throughout his high school years, Chip joined a Pop-Rock cover band that played western Kansas, the Oklahoma panhandle, the Texas panhandle, parts of Eastern Colorado and western Nebraska. He attended college at Fort Hays State University and was a music education major until his senior year. “I just wanted out” was his quote about college “because I knew I wanted to go to Nashville and write songs.” As a songwriter, Chip’s songs have been recorded by Dionne Warwick, Dean Martin, Conway Twitty & Loretta Lynn, Charley Pride and The Whites. His production credits include Loretta Lynn, Dann Rogers, The Vega Bros., Rick & Janis Carnes and Joe Barnhill while being assistant to the producer on projects by George Strait, Reba McEntire, Waylon Jennings, The Oak Ridge Boys, Mac Davis, Roger Miller, Glen Campbell, Barbara Mandrell and numerous others. He was also in charge of artist development for MCA Records. During his publisher career, Chip recorded over 1,200 song demos for Hamstein Music including the demos for “Just To See You Smile” by Tim McGraw and “I’ll Think Of A Reason Later”, the first hit by Lee Ann Womack. He also helped develop Jerrod Neimann’s career while running Marathon Key Music Publishing, which was a joint venture between Billy Joe Walker, Jr. and Warner Chappell Music. Currently Chip is producing indie projects and songwriter demos at THE 515 Studio in the Berry Hill section of Nashville.
_____Mark Hart – Fort Scott
Mark Hart is an American musician and multi-instrumentalist best known for being a member of both Supertramp (1986–1988, 1996–2002, 2015-present) and Crowded House (1993–1996, 2007–2019) as well as being a group member, touring and session musician for acts such as Ringo Starr (during the 2000’s). In addition, Hart has also composed film scores, and is a record producer.
Mark was born in Fort Scott, KS and grew up there. From the age of seven, he received piano lessons, and followed with learning guitar some years later. Moving with his older brother to Kansas City during the ’70s, Mark studied classical music in college while playing with a number of local groups and doing session work. With a move to Los Angeles, he became a full-time session musician, working with varied artist in a variety of styles.
By 1982, Mark had formed Combonation, which was signed by Warner Brothers Records. Released in 1984, their self-titled album, was produced by Ted Templeman (Van Morrison, The Doobie Brothers, Van Halen, etc.). A few years later, Hart began his long associations with both Supertramp and Crowded House, and eventually Ringo Starr. Along the way, Hart has scored the motion pictures “Life Among The Cannibals” (1996) and “Mockingbird Don’t Sing” (2001), both directed by Harry Bromely Davenport. His producer credits include records for Tim Finn (leader of Crowded House) and Ceremony (Chaz Bono’s group) among others.
Mark Hart has two solo album releases: “Nada Sonata” (2002) and “The Backroom” (2014), both for PSB Records.
Currently, Hart continues to record and tour with Supertramp, and still does session work.
_____Arnie Johnson – Lawrence
Arnie Johnson, 79, was born in Salina. After a brief time in California, he moved with his family to Lawrence in 1952. The son of amateur musicians, he grew up listening to his extended family play country music together. He joined a local band as a singer in 1972 and in 1979 formed his own band, Arnie Johnson and the Midnight Special. Arnie led his band to iconic status in the region, performing at dance halls and nightclubs every weekend for decades. They drew people who love country music and love to dance. As time went on, Arnie augmented his rich baritone and stage presence by playing rhythm guitar, a vast repertoire of danceable country tunes, and a list of his own original songs. In 2017 he retired from the band but continues sharing his love of music by performing as a guest artist with other regional performers.
_____Justus – Kansas City
In 1975, a group of six young musicians, each locally recognized for having played in some of the top bands in the Kansas City area, united to form the group Justus. Drawing from the best musicians they could find, these accomplished players joined to create their own style, and compositions. Together, they created original music uniquely contemporary, and unlike any other for the time. The band consisted of Doug Auwater on drums, Chuck Boyd on lead vocals and percussion, Mark Leggett on guitar, Gary Heatwole on vocals and bass, Mark Hart on keyboards, and Bill Bergman on sax. Like many bands, Justus performed for local establishments and events, including warmup act for Roy Ayers Ubiquity at the Music Hall, as the opening act for Grover Washington Jr. at the Uptown Theater, and at the Municipal Auditorium, opening for Gino Vannelli. Their status in the musical community rose when they decided at the last minute to submit a tape for a highly publicized Midwestern Rock Showdown, presented by the Radio Station KY-102. Out of 225 contestants, Justus was one of only five groups chosen to perform at the Uptown Theater. Out of those five groups competing in the showdown, Justus was chosen as the winner. According to the Station Manager, Bob Garrett, “All the bands were good… Justus was just a little better.” Justus continued to build a large following and performed with regularity until they disbanded in 1980. Their influence on the local music scene and respect from not only their audiences, but also their peers has left an indelible mark to this day. Justus’ former members are still active players in Kansas City, Los Angeles and surrounding cities, and as far away as St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador.
_____Frankie Kay – Kansas City
Frankie Kay was born on Novermber 11, 1929. He grew up in Kansas City, KS. He started taking guitar and steel guitar lessons at an early age. By the time he was 12 years old, he was playing in various venues in the Kansas City area. At age 14 he started his own band. By the time he was 20, he was a well known band leader and was playing 6 nights a week at Johnny Bakers Club, while also playing live radio during the day on both WHB and KCMO radio stations. Then, legendary country radio DJ Dal Stallard told him that Cowboy Copas was needing a steel guitar player in Nashville. He left Kansas City and joined up with Cowboy Copas’ band in 1951, touring during the week and returning to Nashville on the weekends to play the Grand Ole Opry. He did this for a little over a year, but was not making enough money, so he returned to Kansas City and started a new band, Frankie Kay and his Westernairs playing live music six nights a week. He was a full time musician/band leader in the Kansas City area for the remainder of his life. Frankie Kay died on January 14, 2020 at the age of 90.
_____Jon E. Miller – Newton
Jon E. Miller was a business owner, sound engineer, and music developer via Miller Recording Studio for many local and national artists. Founded Miller Recording Studio in earnest from 1976 to 1992 in North Newton, KS. In 1978, he founded Miller Music Company, Inc., W. Central St., Wichita, KS , a full -service music store which included a quality luthier, electronics repair (Thesis Audio, still operating today), sales of guitars, amps, and PA systems for musicians, plus lessons and band instrument rentals. Jon also worked as professional musician and taught lessons from 1963 to 2004. Studio clients included Mark O’Connor, Evergreen Records in Nashville, Mark Walberg and Donnie Walberg, audio for the Miss USA pagent, Lander Ballard, C. Major and The DelReys, Wichita Linemen, The Wichita Song, Manilla Road, The Wichita Symphony Christmas Album, and many Christian artists. Also included are Pat McJimsey and Ranch House swing band/Asleep at the Wheel (collaborative), King Midas and the Muflers, Bob Hapgood, Jazz Work, in addition to many local musicians. Jon would often offer his services to college apprentices free of charge.
Bands that Jon E. Miller has played with or led include Terry Crane and the Blue Diamonds, Wichita Linemen, Timberline, Matfield Green, and The Weeds. With advertisements on clear channel radio KOMA, Jon toured a four-state area in the ’60s –his booking agent was 2005 KSMHOF inductee John Brown of Mid-Continent Entertainment.
_____Racy Grace – Olathe
Racy Grace formed in Olathe, Kansas in 1998. The group consisted of lead guitarist Dave Thomas, bassist Rod McCallop, keyboardist Katie Cole, guitarists Tony Johnson and Bob Thomas and drummer Gary Brann. Originally a cover band, they gained a fast following due to their free-style live shows, big sound and extensive set list that exploited the talents of five different vocalists. They became regulars at several KC bars and travelled extensively throughout the Midwest, building their reputation and a repertoire of personalized covers and originals.
RG then attracted the attention of local promoter/manager Chris Fritz who, along with producer Colin Mahoney, facilitated the recording of the band’s debut album Images. The record reflected the band’s diverse background and several songs, including “Fallen” and “Long Live Me”, enjoyed play on regional and college radio.
Over the next several years, RG played some of the most coveted venues and gigs in the region, opening for more than twenty national acts including the Wallflowers, Dennis DeYoung, Ted Nugent, Quiet Riot, Foghat and Bad Company. They played the 2003 Spirit Fest ahead of the Kansas City Civic Orchestra, performed the song “Movin’ On” as backing band for Ron West of Missouri, and even played for a sitting US president at a show in Philadelphia.
_____Ricky Dean Sinatra – Lawrence
Out of a lot of Kansas bands in the late 1980s, Ricky Dean Sinatra is one of the most original, popular, and enduring bands from that era. Alan Murphy (aka Ricky Dean) is not only a terrific front man but a great stream-of-conciousness type of unique poet/songwriter. Mark Roseberry (aka Dewey Mantini) is an original guitar player and Rock ‘n Roll poet in his own right. Shaw Wilson (aka Clovis Salvadore) is one of the most inventive drummers and went on to co-found the Country music group BR5-49. In the late 1980’s into the early 90’s, Ricky Dean Sinatra was the toast of Lawrence, with many newspaper articles, TV appearances, and huge crowds wherever they played. They were part of a recent documentary by Lawrence filmmaker Chris Snipes which was broadcast on Lawrence cable TV, and also on KC Public Television station KCPT. A 2010 CD release with 21 songs,“Galaxy of Love” documents the band’s heyday. Ricky Dean Sinatra is undoubtedly part of the great story of Kansas music.
_____The Rockin’ Continentals -Topeka
The Rockin’ Continentals made two 45s for the Kansas-based Casino label in 1962 or 1963. The group came from Topeka, Kansas. Members included Johnny Thompson on lead guitar and vocals, Melvin Ralston on rhythm guitar, Chuck Smith on bass, and Bob Stanley on drums. The Rockin’ Continentals’ first release was a great rockabilly song with fierce drumming and scorching guitar and piano breaks called “The 309”, written by Johnny Thompson. The singer has a strong southern accent that doesn’t appear on their other songs. The original A-side was “2-3-4,” written by Melvin Ralston, which in comparison is basic riffing on blues changes. Their next and last single was “Cobra 289” written by Ralph Sandmeyer in tribute to the Ford/Shelby AC Cobra sports car first manufactured in 1962. Bob says that “Ralph Sandmeyer was a songwriter and close friend of Johnny Thompson”. “Count Dracula” is mainly instrumental with a spooky reverbed riff. Like “The 309”, it was written by Johnny Thompson. The Rockin’ Continentals are well known to Rockabilly and Garage band collectors worldwide. Both of these records are considered highly sought after collectibles, and have appeared on multiple compilation CD’s over the years.
_____The Scamps – Kansas City
The origins of the Scamps go back to the late ’30s and a CCC camp in Parsons, KS. There, workers Earl Robinson (from Kansas City) and James Whitcomb (from Baxter Springs), along with two others, would entertain to pass the time. As time went on, the unremembered two would be replaced by brothers Wyatt and Torrence Griffin (two more KC residents). The personnel changed many times over the years, but this group continued to entertain with their enthusiastic style of jazz, a bluesy flow and swing that created great dance music regardless of the tempo. When the group lost its long-time front man “Lucky” Wesley, the group retired.
_____Mike Schmidt – Lawrence
Mike Schmidt began his career in radio in the early 1970s while a student of radio-tv-film at the University of Kansas, as a member of the on-air staff of both KUOK and KANU. During finals week May of 1972, Mike received a phone call from KLWN/Lawrence regarding an on-air position. He interviewed for the job and was hired. This entailed doing the evening to sign-off position for KLWN AM, the duties of which included feeding the cattle that station owner, Arden Booth had grazing on the land surrounding the radio tower.
After a few months, Mike was promoted to doing both AM Drive and PM Drive air shifts for KLWN-FM, as well as serving as program director for the contemporary hit station. On home KU football weekends, he also did air traffic reports from high above Lawrence as the “Baron Von Schmidt.” Over the ensuing months, KLWN- FM began gaining listeners as well as attracting commercial sponsors. Industry trade publications and record companies began to take notice as the station became known for helping break new records and being among the first in the nation to add new singles.
In the mid-70s, KLWN FM changed call letters to KLZR and its identity as “The LAZER”, bridging the gap between a traditional CHR (contemporary hit radio) and a Progressive album-oriented station. Together with the combined efforts of the record labels, local feedback from record stores in Lawrence and Kansas City and the Lawrence Opera House, emerging acts routed through Lawrence and gave area music fans more opportunities to see as well as hear new bands and established touring acts. Rock, blues, ska and reggae, new wave pop and progressive bands came to town. Lawrence was gaining attention as a hot spot for emerging music and talented regional musicians and bands and remains so today.
In 1979, Mike joined the staff of KBEQ, Kansas City as Music Director and on-air talent when the station sought to shed its “teeny-bopper” image and attract a larger share of the 18-35 demo. In 1981, Mike headed West and a position as Music Director and on-air talent for highly rated KPKE, Denver, an AOR station owned and operated by Doubleday Broadcasting. With a chain-wide format change, he left Denver and spent the balance of the 80s as Program Director of two different stations in Springfield, MO, the local legend “Rock99” and US97.
Mike is the recipient of several Gold and Platinum record awards from the record industry for being among the first programmers in the country to play them and make them hits. He remains a fan of live music and hearing more new music than oldies, even though he’s now one himself.
_____Mark Schultz – Colby
Mark Schultz is a contemporary Christian music artist from Colby, KS. A lot of artists talk about chasing their dreams, but for Mark, it’s never been about the chase. Instead, it’s been about following God’s call. Incidentally, this looks like what has led to any artist’s dream: two million records sold to date, ten number one singles, and a Dove Award (the Christian music equivilant of a Grammy) as well as multiple nominations. If you’ve encountered Christian music in the last eighteen years or so and heard the name Mark Schultz, you’ll probably begin humming your favorite Schultz hit. But even for accomplished artists, sometimes following God’s call might mean following it away from music, or, at least away from music as others see it. Mark Schultz is about to release his first full-length album in six years. Where has he been? Following a new call on his life, one that is arguably more challenging and fulfilling than releasing records and being a touring artist: fatherhood. Schultz and his wife now have three children, ages six, four, and two. His eagerly awaited live album “Follow” will be released on 8/17/22.
_____Greg Skaff – Wichita
Greg Skaff plumbs the depths of creative artistry and honest emotion in his guitar playing, showing himself to be among the leading proponents of jazz music anywhere. No exaggeration. The native Kansan, whose first professional job was a five-year stay in the band of saxophone giant Stanley Turrentine, has flourished as a first-call sideman in New York City since the 1980s. He’s played gigs and/or recorded with past masters Ruth Brown, Freddie Hubbard, and David “Fathead” Newman as well as notables Ron Carter, Ben Allison, Bruce Barth, Pat Bianchi, George Colligan, Orin Evans, Joe Farnsworth, David Hazeltine, Mike LeDonne, Victor Lewis, Gloria Lynne, Ralph Peterson Jr., Jim Rotondi, E. J. Strickland, Bobby Watson, Matt Wilson, and others. Fronting his acclaimed trio, Greg has commanded the attention of discriminating listeners in club and festival performances throughout the country, including gigs at Smalls Jazz Club, Mezzrow, the Bar Next Door, the 55 Bar, and the Iridium in Manhattan, at the Artists’ Quarter in St. Paul, and at the Umbria Jazz Festival in Italy. Greg’s five feature albums have been well-received by jazz fans everywhere. The latest is ‘Soulmation’, his fifth overall and fourth consecutive release on the high-profile ZOHO Music label. For more information on Greg, visit his website: www.gregskaff.com
_____Son Venezuela – Lawrence
Son Venezuela has been a Latin music ambassador in America’s heartland for over 26 years, and has been an important force in the development of the Latin Community in Kansas. Since 1994, the Lawrence-based band has continuously brought Latin culture, through music and dance, to clubs, festivals, concert halls, and private events in Kansas, all over the Midwest, and beyond. Kansas City’s entertainment journal The Pitch Weekly called Son Venezuela “The premier Latin grove ensemble in the area”, and their readers agree. Son Venezuela has been voted best Latin/World music act six times. During their tenure over several time-spans, they’ve been one of the biggest drawing bands of any type of music in Lawrence and Kansas City.
Throughout the 26 years that Son Venezuela has flourished, the band has undergone very few lineup changes. Their original bass player Stanley Sheldon (2012 KSMHoF inductee) was a member of Peter Frampton’s band, and current conga player Fernando Reynoso was formerly with pioneer Kansas Latin band Caribe (2017 KMHoF inductee).
In all of their performances, Son Venezuela has always remained true to what they do, playing Caribbean music: Salsa from Puerto Rico, Merengue from the Dominican Republic, Cumbia from Colombia, Tamborera from Venezuela, Afro-Cuban Rhythms, Murga from Panama, Calypso from the Antilles and more. Their “repegoire” is all dance-oriented music that compells the listener to dance and enjoy the experience as one, no matter who they are or from where they came.
Son Venezuela has released two CD’s: the self-titled “Son Venezuela” (1994), and “Don’t Stop Me Now” (2005).
_____Mark Toelkes -Topeka
Born in 1952, Mark Toelkes got his start in music playing saxophone with his grade school band. After hearing the Beatles on Ed Sullivan in 1963, he switched to guitar, and started playing school dances “with a couple of kid bands”. By high school, he was playing with professional bands in clubs around the Topeka area.
After high school Mark formed Bluebeard, which played all over Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri , Nebraska, and were regulars at Grandmothers in Topeka. Bluebeard were also regulars at The Waterhole and One Block West in KC, The Fireside in Hutchinson, The Lamplighter in Salina, and all of the other popular rooms throughout the 4 state area. Bluebeard opened for several national acts, including Missouri, Head East, Dr Hook and Rush. Bluebeard was a finalist in the first ever KY102 Rock Showdown. After Bluebeard split, Mark continued his career with Echo Cliff, another popular local band that played all over the area for the rest of the 70’s and into the 80’s. In 1981 Mark was a founding member of the band Patriarch. He left in 1982 to go back with his old bandmates from Bluebeard and join Alchemy, performing with them for the next 2 years.
In 1985, Toelkes formed Mark and The Sharks. Mark and The Sharks has opened for Steppenwolf, Dr. Hook, Leon Russell and Edgar Winter, Pat Travers, and the list goes on. They have been featured at The Spirit of Kansas Blues Festival and The Paxico Blues Festival. Mark and The Sharks still performs at a high level, and are regulars at Knuckleheads in KC. They are also featured at The Levee in KC every 4th Saturday. Mark and The Sharks has two KSMHoF members: Doug Renbarger and Rick Aubrey. Mark has written songs for and performed on albums by the Black Jackets, and was a contributor and performer on “Another Midnight” by The 800s, which can be heard on Amazon Music and Spotify.
Mark’s bands over the years include: The Heatherz, Purple Haze, The Father Time Band, Bluebeard, Echo Cliff, Patriarch, Alchemy, Mark and The Sharks, Black Jackets, The 800’s. Josh Vowell Band, Rod Peterson and The Assembly.
____The Upside Dawne – Lawrence
The Upside Dawne performed throughout the Midwest out of Lawrence in the mid/late ‘60s, playing a variety of rock, blues, and R&B music. In 1967 the band recorded an album at Audio House, Lawrence. The group went through several evolutions at times including psychedelic lights and horns. The Upside Dawne was a working group, and most importantly it was the starting point for a number of outstanding Kansas musicians who sharpened their skills playing in the group. Upside Dawne alumni who have already been recognized in the KSMHoF include Steve Hall, Jim Stringer, and Paul Miller (members of Tide), Garth Fundis, a major league Nashville record producer; and the late Scott Korchak, a member of the Grammy-nominated Blue Riddim Band.
_____Kelly Werts – Junction City
Kelly Werts has performed traditional and popular music throughout the Midwest for nearly thirty years. Kelly’s vocal and highly-individual guitar styles stem from a broad background of musical interests ranging from old-time folk music to blues and country. He has worked regionally with singers such as Connie Dover, Ann Zimmerman and Ashley Davis, as well as The Plaid Family, The Sons of Rayon, and more recently, Tiny Flowers. He has appeared at the Walnut Valley Festival several times with the Plaid Family and in a duo with his wife, accordion player Diana Werts. Kelly’s music has also been featured in movies and television, notably for the theme music to the KCPT-TV syndicated series on PBS, “Rare Visions and Roadside Revelations”. He placed twice in the National Fingerpicking Championship at Winfield, after winning the Kansas State Fingerpicking Championship. Kelly grew up in Junction City, has lived in Wichita, and currently lives in Fairway, part of the Kansas City metro area.
_____Larry Williams – Kansas City
Lawrence Lowell Williams is American record producer, composer, arranger, and multi-instrumentalist who was born in Kansas City KS and grew up in Overland Park. Williams studied at Indiana University School of Music, where he met Jerry Hey and Kim Hutchcroft, who would later become members of Seawind. He left Indiana University to work full-time with Seawind in Hawaii.
Soon after, he began regularly touring and recording with Al Jarreau. “He knows me inside and out” Jarreau said of Williams. “It was just natural for him to do (my) arrangements, because he knows where I’ve been, what I like doing, and how I am onstage”.
Williams burgeoning career as a session player had him playing tenor saxophone, flute and keyboards on Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” album. Among others he’s recorded with are Christopher Cross, David Crosby, Helen Reddy, Lee Ritenour, Lionel Richie, Mezzoforte, Michael Bolton, Michael Franks, Michael Jackson, Minnie Riperton, Natalie Cole, Olivia Newton-John, Pat Benatar, Patrice Rushen, Paul Young, Pink Floyd, Randy Crawford, Randy Newman, Ray Parker Jr., Richard Marx, Rick Astley, Roberta Flack, Sheena Easton, Simply Red and Stevie Nicks
For more info: Career Highlights – Larry Williams | Official Site
_____Annie Wilson – Wichita
Rancher, songwriter, and educator Annie Wilson is a founding member of the Tallgrass Express String Band formed in 2004. She has written and recorded nearly 60 songs in their 4-volume “Songs of the Kansas Flint Hills” CD series. In 2013, she was named the “Flint Hills Balladeer” by the State of Kansas. Her music has been featured in KANSAS! Magazine and on Sunflower Journeys. For the last seven years, her songs have been winners in the Winfield bluegrass festival song-writing contest. Annie was a recipient of the 2020 Friend of the Flint Hills award from the Flint Hills Discovery Center for her work creating resources for Flint Hills schools and Native Studies projects. Annie and her husband John operate the Five Oaks Ranch west of Cottonwood Falls.
_____Lee Wright – St. John
Lee Wright always sang as a child in central Kansas, but was inspired to learn an instrument after seeing Peter, Paul & Mary perform for the first time. He was a major force in the birth of a creative and vibrant folk community in northeast Kansas in the 60’s and 70’s, producing benefit concerts, hootenannies, and musical get-togethers in Topeka. He also taught a class on folk music at Washburn University. Lee’s CD, “Love to Love to Love” spans 37 years of his musical journey, and includes songs about family, hardship, hopes and dreams, summer days, and Christmas.