What really happened when Steve Walsh left Kansas
After 16 years and the loss of their iconic lead singer, it looked like the end of the road for Kansas. But now the unthinkable has happened: the wayward sons are carrying on
For a band that released seven captivating albums in a six-year period during the 70s, a gap of 16 years between studio releases seems absurd. But there were substantial reasons behind that hiatus since 2000, not least the fact that singer Steve Walsh was suffering from vocal problems that eventually became the catalyst for him to leave the band in 2014. Add the fact that he apparently had little interest in recording again and the likelihood of Kansas ever releasing new studio albums appeared remote. But now they’re finally back with a new album and singer, as their guitarist and founding member Richard Williams explains.
“Steve was really struggling and it wasn’t like we wanted to get him out of the band,” he says. “You can’t go in and make a record if not everyone wants to. He felt, ‘Why are we doing this? I don’t have any songs written, it’s going to cost money and nobody is going to give a shit.’ When that’s the attitude, you really can’t force people. Steve had been struggling for years with his voice, but besides that, he just wasn’t enjoying it any more.”
It was the deterioration in Walsh’s voice, coupled with that apparent lack of fulfilment within Kansas, that would lead to the singer’s departure.
“I remember Steve, Phil [Ehart, drummer] and I were having one of our yearly meetings and Steve was very morose,” explains Williams. “I just said to him point blank, ‘God, Steve. As much as I love doing this, you hate it an equal amount. I can’t imagine how miserable this must be for you. You clearly hate it.’ I really felt for him and eventually Steve said, ‘I’ve had enough.’
“We are a new creative entity that’s out there kicking butt. This isn’t just one album, the last gasp of a bunch of old farts taking one more lap around the track.”