In the used record bins of music stores in Missouri and parts of the Midwest, one can occasionally stumble upon a single album that still resonates with the dreams of several Kansas City-area musicians.
The black and white album cover features the Gateway Arch of St. Louis standing boldly among rocks and the desolation of a desert sight found in the Southwestern United States.
The group, named Missouri, did not fall into the commercial success of other hard rock bands emerging in the late 1970s, but over the years have developed a cult following of sorts and recently received a coveted honor from the music industry.
“I was born and raised in Liberal, Kansas, and my family moved to Johnson County, Kansas in 1970,” said Lane Turner, the band‘s lead guitarist. “A lot of us back then were inspired by bands like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. throughout middle school and high school.”
He continued, “We played gigs at a local youth center and participated in band competitions. After graduating in 1973, I worked a few odd jobs and continued to play with bands. local.”
One such band, Turner recalls, was Westport, whose drummer was Bill Larson. Groups, he added, often remained very fluid and when one broke up, a new one was formed with a composite of new members. Soon he and Bill Larson were playing with an up-and-coming singer and songwriter named Ron Hodgden.
“Ron had been in Chesmann Square with a few of his brothers and was a well-known musician in the Kansas City area,” Turner said. “He later changed his name to Ron West, sort of like a stage name, and started to form a new band around 1976 which he called Missouri.”
With Bill Larson hired as drummer for Missouri, West began writing more songs and planning to record an album. To achieve this goal, he sought out talented local musicians to complement the band’s sound.
Larson told West about his friend and Turner auditioned for Missouri. Soon he was hired as lead guitarist and once all the musicians were in place they worked to refine the songs West had written in addition to learning how to perform them live. Next came the process of finding a studio and record label to support West’s grand vision.
“Panama was an independent label owned by Chris Fritz, a music promoter and friend of Ron’s,” Turner explained. “They had worked together to get all the money to make an album and recorded it at Cavern Studios, which was a studio in one of the old limestone caves in Kansas City.”
Turner helped develop the guitar leads for many songs, incorporating his gritty riffs on such iconic tracks as “Movin’ On.” With the recording sessions completed in the early months of 1977, Ron West took the master tapes to the West Coast, devoting himself over the next few weeks to mastering and mixing the album.
When the band’s self-titled album was released in late summer 1977, it lacked the promotional support often available under the cushion of a larger record label. The songs did not receive the level of radio airplay necessary to introduce Missouri to large markets, and as a result album sales remained flat.
“I remember opening for many shows in Missouri, eastern Kansas, and parts of western Illinois,” Turner recalled. “We had the opportunity to open for bigger bands like Blue Oyster Cult, and those were memorable times.”
The album did not gain the momentum West had envisioned as Bill Larson and Turner opted out of the band.
“Ron decided to do a second album and got a new band together to record on the Polydor label,” Turner said. “Bill and I were gone by then, but they recorded the new album at a studio in Macon, Georgia. For the album, Ron wrote new songs but also re-recorded some of what we had performed on the first album.
Turner said the second album, titled “Welcome Two Missouri”, again did not receive much promotional support from the record company, and due to poor sales the band was dropped by the label.
Over the years, Turner married, raised a daughter, and remained in the Kansas City area. Although he continued to play music individually, he remained involved in the audiovisual industry and was for many years employed by a wholesale record distributor in the Kansas City area.
“I went to visit Ron West sometimes, but we didn’t see each other regularly,” he said. “Ron had a studio at his house and continued to record over the years.”
In 2019, around the time Turner and his wife moved to Colorado, he and two original bandmates from the first iteration of Missouri — Bill Larson and Ronald Platt — began discussions about reuniting the band. The following year, Ron West died.
“We had his family’s blessing to continue Missouri, but COVID hit and halted our progress,” Turner said. “But we played a few small shows in 2021 and did several last year.
Turner continued, “Now we have Frank Drummond on lead vocals and Dean Foltz on bass guitar and vocals, Bill on drums and Rusty Crewse, who shares lead and rhythm guitars with me. Also, Randall Platt, who featured on the second album and with the live band in the first gigs, recently joined us.”
Earlier this year, the Missouri band was inducted into the St. Louis Classic Rock Hall of Fame.
“None of us get rich playing music, but do it because we enjoy it,” Lane said. “It works for us because we are retired and flexible in our schedules.”
He added: “It’s also a way of paying homage to Ron West and the music he wrote, giving us the opportunity to continue an incredible legacy that began in the 1970s.”
Jeremy P. Ämick writes on behalf of the Silver Star Families of America.