In August 1974, the long-time Kansas City rock n' roll group, The Chesmann, would play their last gig in a small club located in the River Quey named The Boiler Room. The Chesmann combined the musical talents of the three West brothers: Ron, Steve and Gary. Dave Huffines provided lead guitar for the first three years, and Jim McAllister joined the band in 1968 to fill Dave Huffines's spot in the line up.
The Chesmann's main claim to fame was that they looked, acted, sang and played exactly like the Beatles. The Chesmann performed all the new English Invasion music as soon as it hit the airways. The eldest brother, Ron, would tune into station KAAY out of Little Rock, Ark., with Clyde Clifford late at night and record on tape all the brand new English music before it ever got to Kansas City. Because of this, The Chesmann were able to perform the English version of songs off of The Beatles' Rubber Soul album months before the tunes were ever played in Kansas City. Throughout the '60s The Chesmann's performances would constantly evolve, changing right on time with new trends in music: Hendrix, Clapton, Stones, soul music, etc whatever people liked, The Chesmann played it all live, enjoying the music and their many fans. They also laid down a fair amount of great original music at studios around the Midwest, some of which can be heard on this web site. At the time of The Chesmann's recording sessions, the three brothers had not yet adopted the last name of "West" as a family stage name.
The Boiler Room show was the finale of 10 long years of solid bookings: The Chesmann played every conceivable gig from: Clarinda and Des Moines, Iowa; to small towns in Nebraska around Omaha; east to M.U. Frat Parties; Springfield, Poplar Bluff, and Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri; to Fayetteville, Little Rock and Fort Smith, Arkansas; and, out to the west to Lawrence, Topeka, Salina and Liberal, Kansas. The Chesmann were also well known for being the most popular warm up band for the big time rock shows to come to the Kansas City area during the sixties.
But that last night at The Boiler Room did not signal the end for the members of the band, but only a new beginning. Almost prophetically, Ron West and Gary West went outside on a break and there, playing for a street dance, was a newly formed band called Shooting Star. Gary West and Jim McAllister would soon move to New York where they would meet some of the major players in the national music industry and make valuable music business connections. Ron West would stay in Kansas City and join up with his sister Trisha in a group called Thrush.
Steve West would soon take off for Aspen, Colo., to gig with some local groups there and work in the home construction business. Ron West played with his sister's band a few more years before deciding to form his own group, Missouri.
While living in New York City working on album projects, Gary West met the owners of a management company named Golden Lion Productions. After a number of years and a few album projects in New York City, Gary West decided to return home to Kansas City and was almost immediately asked to join the group Shooting Star. Ron West had been writing and recording by himself on his four-track Tascam machine. He submitted his new material to Chris Fritz of Contemporary Productions.
The rest is Kansas City rock history. After joining Shooting Star, Gary West reconnected with Golden Lion Productions, which was instrumental in getting the band its first recording contract with Virgin Records. Ron's work landed him a recording budget from Chris Fritz's label, Panama Records. Ron's first album, entitled "Missouri," came out in August 1977, and Virgin Records released Shooting Star's first album in 1979.
As both brothers found themselves under recording contracts, Ron West and Gary West were off to an impressive start as they joined the fast paced world of the rock n' roll business. Only this time, instead of being in the same group together, they were now competitors in the music scene with Ron West writing and singing all the tunes for Missouri, and Gary West doing most of the writing and all the vocals for Shooting Star.
Gary West is no longer writing and singing for Shooting Star. Gary West assists his son, Wesley West, with album projects at Wes's analog 24-track studio, Studio West, which is located in Kansas City, Mo. Ron West grew tired of taking Missouri out on the road so he too spends most of his time in the studio.
Continue this story, go to Missouri 1
Do you remember any of these Kansas City bands?
Tom Blair and the Westcoasters, The Bygones, Roger Calkins and The Silvertones, The Fab Four, Alex Love, The Vibra-Tones, The Premiers, The Emeralds, The Original Chessmenn, The Jumpin Jacks, Jack Nead, Ozark Mountain Daredevils, The Classmenn, Johnny Dolan ????, Gary Mac and the Mac Truck, The Continentals, Little Willie and the Hideaways, The Fab Four, Danny Gregory, Ray Bagsby, Butch Smith, The Fabulous Flippers, White Clover, Kansas, Blue Beard, Orphan, The Rumbles, The Factory, Spyder and the Crabs, The Intruders, Morningstar, The Chontels, The Blue Things, Ice, The Young Raiders, Backwood Memory, Flash and the Inmates, Bobby Soul, Danny Cox, Stan Plesser, Chris Fritz, Dave McQuitty, J.T. Cook, The Cates Brothers, Stone Wall, The Purple Hill Mob, Stoned Circus, Mystic Number National Bank. We are only scratching the surface here... just to name a few.
We have found a great book that encompasses all these bands and more, with discographys, pictures, write-ups, and histories of 100's of well known Midwest Artists and Groups. ITS A GAS----and BILL LEE has done it all for us.
Bill Lee, P.O. Box 1176, Lawerence ,Ks., 66044