It doesn't get much more middle-of-the-country than flat, plain-y, Topeka-ey Kansas. The land of... Ummm... Well, the Wizard of Oz I guess started there, and they've had a serial killer. They have a band named after them, who, oddly enough, actually ARE from Kansas, so maybe there is something here for the music fan...
Before you get TOO excited by the music treasures found here in the heart of the heartland, Kansas' nombe de band IS going to make the list. I kind of don't have much of a choice. There's SOME talent here, but not much...
You know, I'm not sure why I feel the need to polish this turd. Kansas, like 75% of the states in the union has a fair to middling modern music scene at best. That's nothing to be ashamed of, and certainly nothing that needs to be played up as grand and important. By pretending Kansas is something that it's not, all I'm doing is implying that there's something wrong with what Kansas IS. It's OK Kansas, you're good enough, you're smart enough, and dog gone it, people... umm... appreciate you for your wheat?
Alright, I'm convinced that's enough of an intro, on to the state wiki-facts:
- Kansas is named for the Kansa tribe, the indigenous residents of the area. Kansa is said to mean 'people of the wind'.
- I'm sure colloquialisms differ in Native American cultures, but I'm pretty sure I wouldn't want to be stuck in an elevator with 'people of the wind'.
- Residents of Kansa are called Kansans, so I don't want to here anybody going around calling them Kansadians or Kansish, or Kansanites, or Southern Nebraskans, got it? Good.
- During the opening battles of the civil war, both northern abolitionists and southern pro-slavery settlers flocked to the new state of Kansas to add additional territory to their side's cause. Due to the heavy fighting experienced during this time the state was known as 'bleeding Kansas'
- Actually, that's just the wikipedia map highlighting Kansas. It's pretty easy to tell because it's a modern map including Alaska and Hawaii as part of the United States. You really need to stop believing everything I say... Still, it WAS called bleeding Kansas, but I have no Civil War era map to reflect that.
- I do however have a picture of Manimal.
- Thankfully, Manimal has not beat Parker Lewis in the 'available on DVD' race, but the Greatest American Hero has.
- You can keep the DVD's... I just want the free cape...
- William Katt, THE Greatest American Hero is from Los Angeles. If he really cared, he would have been from Kansas, and therefore given me some shred of relevance. I guess I'm just going to have to accept that William Katt hates me.
- Before you ask, TV's Manimal, Simon MacCorkindale is from England... I KNOW... I NEVER would have guessed with a name like Simon MacCorkindale...
- You know who WAS from Kansas? Vivian 'Ethel Mertz' Vance of televisions I Love Lucy and The Lucy Show... That's right... Kansas is now officially better than you. Kansas KNOWS people.
- Kansas was the first state to adopt the prohibition of alcohol, predating the constitutional amendment, and the last state to repeal the prohibition of alcohol, a fill fifteen years after the repeal amendment at the federal level. So the next time you're sloppy-drunk on a grade school playground, finding yourself needing to urinate while staring at one of those big US maps drawn on the blacktop, make sure you aim for Kansas.
- Missouri and Oklahoma will understand. It's tough to wizz accurately when you're blind drunk.
- Or so I've heard.
- Kansas is one of the slowest growing states in the nation. I find this incredibly shocking... Why wouldn't more Americans be flocking to Kansas? Doesn't everyone want to be a 'person of the wind' residing in any one of twenty nine STILL dry counties? Kansas has SOOOOO much to offer! Won't you come and not drink with them?
- As a result of the mass migration out of rural Kansas, there are now over 6,000 ghost towns dotting the state's great plains.
- The Specials tried to warn the people of Kansas, and Scooby Doo and the gang would be happy to investigate where all the people went, but odds are it was just old man Caruthers killing and burying folks to make off with their social security checks.
- He would have gotten away with it too if it wasn't for those meddling kids and the noxious odors coming from under his floor boards...
- Kansas ranks 8th in US natural gas production. I'm trying my best to drop the 'people of the wind' jokes, but Kansas keeps lobbing fat pitches over the heart of the plate. It would be rude not to swing...
- Speaking of sports, Kansas has itself a major league soccer team, the Kansas City (Kansas) Wizards.
- Yes, there IS still a professional soccer league in the US. I believe it is now called David Beckham and the MLS.
- Fictional character Mary Ann Summers of Gilligan's Island was from Kansas... Well, she was actually from the deepest reaches of Sherwood Schwartz's brain, a place even darker and scarier than Kansas...
- Superman was raised by the Kent family in Kansas, but does not qualify as a musician from Kansas. His critically acclaimed rap/opera fusion recordings will have to wait for the blog entry on Krypton.
- Krypton is not a state, mostly because it's not real. The US government would likely make an exception to the 'places have to be real to be made states' clause if Krypton had oil instead of a red sun. You can't run a Chrysler on a red sun.
- Know who else is from Kansas? Walter Chrysler. Yup, I just BS'ed my way into something relevant. I knew it had to happen one of these days...
Fine, we'll move on to the musical selections. Whatever you say...
No, I get it, I'm rambling and you don't what to hear it anymore. That's just fine... After all, I'm only here for your amusement, so I should just dance like the organ-grinder's monkey that I am is that it?
If you know what's good for you, do NOT click on the pic of the monkey to enlarge. That thing is creepy...
Solo Artist: Melissa Etheridge
I could go on and on about how much I dig the music of Melissa Etheridge. OK, no I can't. I like a couple of songs, and I think she's a refreshingly do-it-yourself artist who's more about the songs than the style in which she performs them, and my personal opinion is that's the way music should be. She also reached her highest levels of success in the 90's, making her an obvious choice. She's also from Kansas and nobody else is.
Melissa has a greatest hits collection out, and there's a good chance I'd enjoy it. Great, another thing to add to the 'things to buy' list. Also interesting, Etheridge was born in 1961, the same year as Kim Deal. Keep that in mind when we eventually make our way to Massachusetts.
Yeah, you're right, that's really not that interesting. I'm just shotgunning my way through this post, hoping something hits a vital organ...
Kansas does not have a long extensive catalog of songs I enjoy. I am not an owner of any of their albums, and I do not celebrate any of their album tracks, but that does NOT mean I do not consider them a vital part of my music listening experience. You see, Kansas is responsible for not one, but TWO songs that I totally dig when I'm heavily intoxicated.
You know, if I gave Kansas a chance while sober, I'd probably dig their 70's prog-rock goodness as much as I do Genesis or Yes or their post-contemporaries Dream Theater. The question is, is my hair long enough to add yet another prog-rock band to my musical repertoire? I think I'll stick with the drunken classics.
Honorable Mention: Joe Walsh
With the selection of Joe Walsh, a definite theme has emerged for the state of Kansas, and I feel it is an apt one, especially considering their above mentioned opinion of alcohol consumption.
Kansas is the physical embodiment of a long night of drinking.
You see, it all starts with Joe Walsh. You pop on an Eagles album, crack a beer, and begin slowly working your way to the full on stupor, listening to Joe pound away on Witchy Woman you start to think that this could be a night unlike all the OTHER nights you've had one too many. This time, you're going to be the coolest drunk at the party, and every body's going to laugh when you jump up on the kitchen counter and take a leak in the sink. This HAS to be the night...
Then you dig into Joe's solo work and you've officially gotten to stage one drunkenness. You've spent the last half hour sitting on the couch downing alternating Pabst Blue Ribbons and shots of Rumple Minze. You lose count after three of each, but you don't care because 'LIFE'S BEEEEEN GOOOOD TO ME SOOO FAAAAAAR!!!'
It is at this point in which you attempt to stand up and come to the realization that your feet are a hell of a lot further away than you remembered them being. This understanding comes in tandem with the failed belief that alcohol has given you the ability to sing in perfect harmony with either of the above mentioned Kansas drunken classics. You down whatever beverage the guy you don't know but is now your 'best friend' put in your hand to officially reach stage 2 drunkenness, and you go to town on either Wayward Son, Dust in the Wind, or attempt to combine both into one song.
You're too drunk to notice that the rest of the party has gotten eerily quiet around you... The music even stopped, but you're still singing... Actually, you're lying on the floor, repeating 'Carry on THE WIND!!! All we Carry is the wind!! There'll be peace when we carry the wind my son! IIIIIIIII'm SAILINNNNNNG AWAYYYYYY!!! Oh fuck, that's Styx.' You then pass out, but you THINK you're still singing in perfect tempo, and that you've grown a bitchin' 1976 Kansas-beard.
The next thing you know, you are no longer at the party. You're face down on the cold tile floor of yours, or someone else's bathroom. It doesn't really matter, all that matters is there is a toilet within reach...
After two or three technicolor yells into the unforgiving bowl, you realize that you're still drunk, and you totally know the pain of being an outsider. This realization of cosmic loneliness leads you to cry like a baby, like you did the first time you saw Dead Poets Society. As you clench your fists and scream Carpe Diem!! at the sky, you accept that there is only one thing that will make you feel better.
As you work your way through stage three drunkenness on your inevitable trek down hangover way you feel like you're trapped in that sanatorium with poor young Juliette Lewis which totally makes you want to watch Natural Born Killers, signifying that the healing has begun.
So there you have it, the cautionary tale that is the music of Kansas. Keep the The Sunflower State in mind the next time you think to yourself 'Oh, it's just ONE MORE drink.'
In the mean time, here's Joe Walsh doing the guitar wank classic Rocky Mountain Way.
Next time we take a completely serious and sober tour through Kentucky... Oh wait, they make Jim Beam there... Alright, we're in for another long one...