Missouri Rocker has Kansas City Roots
(continued from previous page) With the first album release of Missouri, he adopted the name Ron West. Truly a Kansas City native, West was born in Alliance, Neb., on Dec. 4, 1944, near the air force base where his father served in the military. His parents returned “home” to live in Kansas City at the completion of World War II.
Ron West grew up in Kansas City, graduating from Center Senior High School in the early 1960s. His first musical influences were Elvis Presley, Rickie Nelson and Chuck Berry, among others. The popularity of sock hops, high school dances and music festivals had created a demand for performing musical groups. West quickly became a part of a growing music scene in Kansas City. At 17, he began playing guitar with The Vibratones; two years later, he joined The Premiers as lead singer. In 1964, West enlisted his brothers to perform with him. Along with Dave Huffines, and later Jim McAllister, the three West brothers formed the group, The Chesmann. The Chesmann combined the musical talents of the three West brothers: Ron, Stephen and Gary. The Chesmann's main claim to fame was that they looked, acted, sang and played like the Beatles and performed all the new English Invasion music as soon as it hit the airways. Through the sixties the band’s repertoire would change, keeping up with new trends in music: Hendrix, Clapton, the Stones, soul music, etc. Many from the Kansas City area will remember those times nostalgically. But it is Ron West’s song, Movin’ On, a traveling man’s anthem, that West is most famous for. The song is a music-poem recalling the ten years that West had spent traveling on the road with his brothers and performing as The Chesmann almost every weekend. The Beatles and John Fogarty (Creedance Clearwater Revival) were among many artists who influenced West’s vocal styling and songwriting. In 2001, West created a web site www.missouriband.com that provides fans access to music downloads of songs he performed with Missouri and The Chesmann.
Family Tree Branches Out Musically
After ten years of constant performing, in 1974, The Chesmann “brothers” disbanded, which paved the way for a number of subsequent rock ‘n’ roll careers. Members Gary West and Jim McAllister moved to New York City and settled in with major players and made industry connections. After completing a few album projects in New York City, Gary West returned to Kansas City and was almost immediately asked to join the group, Shooting Star. Stephen West relocated to Aspen, Colo., performed with some local groups there. Ron West stayed in Kansas City and joined talents with his sister, Trisha, performing with her group, Thrush. West converted his south Kansas City garage into a recording studio. In about a two-month period, he had written and recorded about 30 songs from his own material on a four-track Tascam recording machine. He submitted his original material to Chris Fritz of Contemporary Productions and was granted a recording budget. Both musical groups, Missouri and Shooting Star were formed in the Kansas City area and went on to achieve national recognition through the 1970s and beyond.
Missouri on the Road
Missouri’s debut album, “Missouri,” was released in August 1977. The album cover depicts the St. Louis’ Gateway Arch, “Gateway to the West,” superimposed over a scene of Monument Valley in northeastern Arizona, a concept that was West’s idea. The album cover won a first place award in 1977 for "Most Creative Album Cover” in the Midwest. One month after its release, the album was listed on “Billboard's Recommended Album” page. As the album received massive airplay on Midwest radio, Missouri embarked upon its first concert tour. Missouri performed across the nation and provided warm-up at large venue gigs, stadium shows and tours. In regions where the band was well known and had solid air play, Missouri would headline. Missouri toured with national acts such as Ted Nugent, Golden Earring, Scorpions, Blackfoot, Sammy Hagar, Nazareth, Molly Hatchet, REO Speedwagon, Blackfoot, Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, Van Halen, Jefferson Starship, just to name a few.
Missouri soon signed with Polydor records and released its second album entitled “Welcome to Missouri,” in 1979. The group continued touring until 1984. While the second album’s sales figures were impressive, the record industry and musical tastes had changed. Polydor Records did not renew Missouri’s option to record another album. VNR records later released and distributed “The Best of Missouri” CD.
Kansas Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
In 2005, Ron West and his brothers, as The Chesmann, were inducted into the Kansas Music Hall of Fame as its first inaugural class of honorees along with Big Joe Turner, Kansas, Mike Finnigan, Brewer & Shipley, the Blue Things, the Fabulous Flippers, Rodney & the Blazers and the Red Dogs. The Chesmann performed that evening with a line up that included Ron West, Gary West, Stephen West, Jim McAllister and Alan Blasco. It was a most memorable rock n’ roll reunion for friends and families.
The original members of Missouri never came together to do a formal Missouri reunion tour. However, over the years, West did put together a number of different groupings of musicians to perform the songs of Missouri for concert audiences. For these audiences, and for those performing, the shows were a nostalgic reminder of the earlier days when rock ‘n’ roll radio programming was more regionally based and local musicians could influence their airplay. With roots of success being traced to Kansas City, West could proudly state that his song, Movin’ On, still received radio airplay more than 30 years after its initial release in 1977.