Kansas singer still living a dream

Members of Kansas are (from left) Richard Williams, Billy Greer, David Ragsdale, Ronnie Platt, Phil Ehart, and David Manion. Photo by Marti Griffin

By Joseph Slacian

Ronnie Platt is living a dream life.

Eighteen months ago Platt was a lead singer and keyboard player in the band, Shooting Star. After Steve Walsh, lead singer for the rock band Kansas announced his retirement, Platt received a call from drummer Phil Ehart, asking him to come to talk to the band about replacing its former singer.

That was in July 2014, and he performed his first concert with the band in September of that year. Platt and Kansas will be returning to the Honeywell Center’s Ford Theater on Thursday, April 21, for a concert.

“It’s a dream come true. How could it go any better?” Platt told The Paper of Wabash County during a recent telephone interview. “Getting the job was just surreal and exciting in itself. Then doing the gigs and getting to play in front of all these people. Then have the opportunity to record with the band and sign with a label and do a new record. It’s unbelievable to me.”

Eighteen months into the job, he still at times finds it hard to believe.

“It’s still very surreal,” Platt said. “When I’m at home and hanging out with my friends and everything seems like normal. My friends are like, ‘You know, you are the singer of Kansas now.’ Really? It is a trip.

“I’m in fear that I’m going to wake up and be behind the wheel of my Kenworth, dragging my 53-foot trailer through the streets of Chicago. I only did that for 25 years.”

With about two months between the time he joined the band until he performed his first concert with it, Platt and the band spent the time rehearsing over and over.

“My Lord, it really was (intense rehearsing),” he said. “I do have to say I had a head start because in so many of my cover bands through the years, we did a lot of Kansas. Not only was I always a huge Kansas fan, but so were a lot of my band mates, so we did a lot of Kansas. Being a huge Kansas fan, I had a pretty good start on all the music.”

But there’s a difference between being a fan and actually performing the band’s numbers.

“There’s a difference between a listening level and a performance level,” Platt said. “You know, you start dissecting parts and learning them. It’s intense to bring it up to that level, a high standard in quality in the music, so you have to be on top of your game. The two months before the show I was Kansas 24-7. I think I was memorizing lyrics in my sleep.”

Platt’s life has been a whirlwind of touring with the band, as well as writing songs and recording its newest album, “The Prelude Implicit.”

Kansas performed 95 concerts in 2015, and has more than 70 planned for the first part of 2016.

“I look at the schedule now and it becomes more intense by the day,” Platt said of the band’s touring plans. “Here we are in April we’re doing 15 shows in 15 different cities just this month. It’s pretty much following suit every month after this.

“It’s funny, when I joined the band, some of them said to me we’ll slow down in December, January, February, for obvious reasons – it’s the winter time, traveling is a little more difficult. It’s never happened since I’ve been in the band. It’s been pedal to the metal ever since.

“I’m loving every minute of it.”

Kansas is performing its second concert at the Ford Theater. It first appeared at the venue in July 1995.

“You’re going to hear the traditional stuff,” Platt said of the upcoming show. “We’re not going to be playing anything off the new record, quite yet. I think Kansas fans come expecting musicianship and a great show.

“Hopefully we will have entertained them enough to help them forget about they’re problems for a day. Let everybody have an out of body experience. Have a good time and everyone be entertained.”

Working on “The Prelude Implicit” was something Platt had little experience with.

“It’s one gift to be able to perform with the band live, but to be in the studio with these guys is beyond surreal for me,” he sad of the experience. “Just to experience everybody’s musicianship and the work ethic of this band, it’s just amazing. Everyone brings not a little bit to the table. Everyone brings a lot to the table. It’s just a great working environment.”

Platt was thrust into another new area with the new album, that of songwriter.

“Again, it’s the gift that keeps on giving,” he said. “To sing live with the band, then to be able to record and also have the opportunity to write; I just fell into that duty as a fluke.

“Phil gave me a song and said, ‘Hey, write lyrics to this and see what you come up with.’ Of course, it’s a collective effort. I wrote lyrics for one song and Phil and Rich (Williams, guitarist) looked at it and they said, ‘Hey, this is really good. Try another one.’

“One song turned into two and two songs turned into four, four turned into six. It’s quite flattering to get their approval on my lyric writing.

“Being a musician my entire life, being in bands, I wrote songs and about what I was feeling. But now, when you’re in the studio, you’re writing songs for Kansas. The same band the legendary Kerry Livgren wrote for. Talk about setting the bar pretty high. It was something I took seriously and something I took very much to heart. I only pray people like it as much as we do.”

The new album, the band’s 15th studio recording, is expected to release in mid-September on InsideOut music.

Tickets for the Kansa show are $35, $45 and $75 and are available at the Honeywell Center box office.

Posted on 2016 Apr 12