Steve Walsh - vocals; Tim Gehrt - drums; Billy Greer - bass; Mike Slamer - guitar
Every single day, in cities around the globe, the voice of Steve Walsh singing "Carry On My Wayward Son" or "Dust In The Wind" comes blaring out of car radios and boom boxes. Best known as the frontman, keyboardist and singer for mid-Western superstars Kansas, Walsh (and more, his distinctive voice) has become a staple of FM radio. This recording, made for the King Biscuit Flower Hour, features Streets, a band Walsh assembled after departing from Kansas in 1981. Recorded in 1983, it shows a distinctly different musical side of the person who helped pioneer progressive pop-rock.
Born in St. Joseph, Missouri, Walsh began playing classical piano at the age of twelve. He had a music teacher who encouraged him to write original compositions, and by the age of thirteen was playing keyboards in garage bands. As a teenager, he played in Top 40 bands, and after high school, immediately hit the road. "I was interested in groups like the Yardbirds, Cream, Vanilla Fudge, King Crimson and other groups that had a colorful way of playing. Soon, I really wanted to start playing my own stuff." Walsh left the Top 40 circuit to play with a band called White Clover, who, in 1974, renamed themselves Kansas. Rock impresario Don Kirshner signed them to his own label, and in seven years the band racked up eight gold and platinum albums.
While still very much at the helm of Kansas, Walsh wrote and recorded his only solo album in 1979. Titled Schemer Dreamer, it was a disjointed effort that portrayed Walsh as a singer/songwriter caught between the need for personal artistic freedom and the easy lure of duplicating the sound he had made famous with Kansas. Although it featured some critically acclaimed material, Schemer Dreamer was ultimately not as successful as Walsh had hoped. To accomplish what he wanted artistically, Walsh felt he had to leave Kansas, which he did in 1981, after several platinum albums and 10 years with the band. "I was getting stale," admits Walsh. "I was becoming real predictable. So, while I knew it was risky, it was an artistic necessity. If you've defined where you are within one band, then you should move on. And I knew I wasn't done defining myself through music at all."
For the band Streets, Walsh recruited drummer Tim Gehrt (who had also worked on his solo effort), bassist Billy Greer and guitarist Mike Slamer. Slamer had been with the British cult act City Boy, and Greer and Gehrt were regional players who had seen success with bands in Atlanta and Tennessee, respectively. Gehrt was actually working with ex-Deep Purple bassist Glenn Hughes when Walsh recruited him for the solo album. Walsh had noticed him when one of Gehrt's earlier bands had opened for Kansas. The two became friends and eventually began speaking of forming a band together. Slamer had never met Walsh until he showed up for the audition. "I decided that I wanted to move to America," says Slamer. "The kind of music that I wanted to make wasn't being played at all in England, so I came here."
Streets made their debut performance at Charlie Daniels' annual Volunteer Jam in January 1983, before 10,000 eager fans. The debut LP was released later that year in Atlantic Records. The band played on another band's equipment, and for just four songs. "Starting over was very humbling," says Walsh, who initially toured with Streets in large clubs and small halls. "But we got a lot of good feedback to the album. We were playing live every night and being onstage (was) very renewing for us…" He adds, "I couldn't have done (that project) alone. I needed the help of every musician involved. We were all of equal importance in the creation of the final song."
The group had only a limited lifespan during the early 1980s, but managed to release a solid album of songs and musical performances entitled simply 1st. The songs from this powerful live performance were culled from a memorable King Biscuit show taped during the band's initial promotional tour. Tracks like "If Love Should Go," "Move On" and "Cold Hearted Woman" never became radio hits, but gave the band the musical vehicle they needed to win audiences over.
The band later recorded their second album, 4 Crimes in Mind. Soon after, Streets disbanded. Three years later, in 1988, Walsh rejoined Kansas, who had tried, unsuccessfully, to attain commercial success with a different vocalist after Walsh's departure. Walsh remains in his role as Kansas' frontman to this day - singing, writing and performing with his old band in its new incarnation. The members of Streets haven't worked together in over two decades. They never truly achieved the artistic and commercial success that their many fans thought they deserved. However, this King Biscuit Flower Hour recording remains a testament to the vital and timely rock 'n' roll they made.