Locus Focus

No.20 Kansas from Kansas

If I were naming my British prog rock band after a county I think I’d plump for ‘Cumbria’, ‘Anglesey’ or ‘Angus’. Locations steeped in historical isolation would seem to fit. Strange, then, that thus far no legendary band has hijacked a remote tract of land as their moniker. Not so in the USA. Step forward Kansas, from Kansas. The garage band with British prog rock beginnings were formed in Topeka, the state’s capital city. Topeka also supplied a fair proportion of the extensive road crew required to keep these rockers on tour in a career dating back to the early 70s. In 2011, former students of Topeka West High School, Phil Ehart, Dave Hope, Kerry Livgren and Richard Williams were inducted into the school’s Hall Of Fame in recognition of their global success in Kansas. They’d endeared themselves locally by once playing a gig at a school assembly. Unsurprisingly, when searching for an image to adorn the cover of their debut album, Kansas settled on something close to home. The band chose a section of the vast mural titled ‘Tragic Prelude’ in the Kansas Statehouse (The Kansas State Capitol) in Topeka for the cover of their 1974 eponymous release. The dramatic image depicts the abolitionist and liberal John Brown in a work by local artist John Steuart Curry. The mural can be found in the rotunda second floor, east wing.

The Topeka mural and West High School where the band were born are locations 283 and 284 in Rock Atlas USA, published by Red Planet, price £22.00.