“On August 14, 1978, while returning home from a Kansas concert, John Hoffert, a 14-year-old from El Paso, Texas was involved in a car accident that cost him his sight. Being that Kansas was the last visual experience that John will ever have – we dedicate this album to him.”
That dedication can be found inside the platinum live album “Two for The Show” by legendary rock band Kansas, which is returning to El Paso for a show at the Plaza Theatre on Sunday, July 21 – almost 41 years after that fateful night.
Hoffert now lives in Ohio but still keeps in touch with the band.
“We still see John occasionally,” bassist Billy Greer told El Paso Inc. by phone before a show in Grand Rapids. “Every now and then he’ll make it out to a show. He’s a nice guy and he remains a part of the Kansas family.”
Kansas skyrocketed to the top of the rock ‘n’ roll mountain in the 1970s on the back of iconic hit singles such as “Carry On Wayward Son” (which has had a resurgence in popularity through the hit CW show, “Supernatural”) alongside their unique, classically-influenced take on progressive rock.
Now, 46 years since their formation, Kansas is in the middle of a creative and commercial renaissance.
Longtime keyboardist and frontman Steve Walsh retired in 2014 due to vocal issues, allowing the band to regroup, expand and strengthen with the additions of leather-lunged singer Ronnie Platt, keyboardist Tom Brislin and second guitarist Zak Rizvi.
According to Greer, Rizvi’s addition was actually a moment of serendipity almost 20 years in the making.
“Zak was always a big fan of the band. He somehow got Phil’s (Ehart, drums) fax number and asked if he could send him some music he’d liked for him to listen to and said, ‘I need to be a part of your band,’” Greer said with a laugh.
“Kind of a ballsy move, but 20 years later, it worked because Zak came along and we actually used some of those songs that he sent Phil on our album.”
The album, “The Prelude Implicit,” is Kansas’ first album of new material in 16 years and has been hailed by some critics and fans to be some of their best material in decades.
Greer attributes the band’s artistic rebirth to lack of pressure from their record label.
“In the 80s, to keep up with the times, we contractually had to deliver at least two songs which they considered to be commercially viable,” he said.
“With the label we’re on now, Inside Out, we’re not bound by those constrictions to have to write to be on the radio and that’s a wonderful feeling.”
Despite constantly looking to the future, Kansas owes most of its success to its legacy – and songs like “Dust in the Wind” still resonate to this day.
“I’ll never get sick of playing that song. In every country we’ve ever gone to – everybody, whether they speak English or not, sings along.”