We continue our journey through the Rock and Roll alphabet with a brief stop at the letter "K." This morning I'll be sharing a couple of my favorite performers.
The first is a female singer/songwriter who made one of the best and most classic albums of my teenage years. Her real name is Carol Joan Klein. You know her better as Carole King.
Carole was born on February 9, 1942, in New York City. She grew up in the Bronx section of the city. Her mother, Eugenia, was a schoolteacher and her father, Sidney, was a firefighter. Carol learned to play the piano at age four and has been playing ever since.
During Carole's high school years Carole changed her name to Carole King and was friends with Paul Simon with whom she made demo records at $25.00 a session.
Carole attended Queens College where she met her first husband, Gerry Goffin. Gerry became Carole's songwriting partner. They wrote songs for Dimension Records owned by Don Kirshner. Their songwriting credits include "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" recorded by the Shirelles; "Chains" covered by the Beatles; "Loco-Motion" recorded by Little Eva; "Up On the Roof" recorded by the Drifters; and "I'm Into Something Good" covered by Herman's Hermits. King and Goffin divorced in 1968.
Carole had her greatest success as a performer in the 1970's. She released one of the most classic albums of the era in 1971 - Tapestry. This was her breakthrough record. Afterwards she released a series of gold records; "Carole King Music (1972), Rhymes and Reasons (1972), Fantasy (1973), and "Wrap Around Joy (1974). During this time she became acquainted with James Taylor and Joni Mitchell. They often played on each other's records and supplied backing vocals. Carole wrote James Taylor's hit "You've Got a Friend."
Carole has been recognized as one of the best songwriters of her generation and has received many accolades throughout her career.
My "K" band is the midwest's contribution to Rock and Roll history Kansas. Kansas originated in the 1970's in Topeka, KS, far away from the music industry's centers of activity in New York or Los Angeles. The band is a mish mash of members from progressive rock bands that were playing in the area at the time, specifically,"The Reasons Why" and "White Clover."
Kansas went through three iterations of the band before they hit upon a combination that produced their unique sound. This third iteration that lasted from 1973-1982 consisted of Phil Ehart, Drums; Dave Hope, Bass Guitar/Vocals; Kerry Livgren, Guitars/ Keyboards/Synthesizers/Vocals; Robby Steinhardt, Violin/Vocals; Steve Walsh, Keyboards/Synthesizers/Percussion/Vocals; and Rich Williams, Guitars.
It was during this time that the band was signed by Don Kirshner. It was during this time that the band released, in my humble opinion, its two best albums "LEFTOVERTURE" and "POINT OF KNOW RETURN." These two albums produced their best selling single hits "Carry On My Wayward Son" and "Dust in the Wind."
The band went on the road touring with such bands as Queen and Aerosmith. They perfected their craft by touring and opening for these bands, and others. They rose to headline their own tours in the largest venues available.
Songwriting duties were shared by Kerry Livgren and Steve Walsh with Livgren doing the lion's share of the songwriting. Livgren wrote "Dust in the Wind" almost by accident. He was at home and doing some guitar fingerpicking exercises when his wife walked by and told him that what he was playing sounded nice and would make a wonderful hit song. As it turned out, she was right.
As with most successful bands, people left for one reason or another. Other people replaced them and so the cycle continued. Kansas was not immune to this cycle. At one point they disbanded and later reformed. Some iteration of Kansas is still playing these days with Phil Ehart and Rich Williams, the longest tenured members of the group.
Their music was as unique as it was great!