Former trucker fulfills dream as Kansas lead singer; band brings 40th anniversary tour to Amarillo on Sept. 22
By Chip Chandler — Digital Content Producer
"It's still surreal to me."
That's how Kansas lead singer Ronnie Platt describes the idea of performing the band's epic Leftoverture album in its entirety nearly nightly on the band's current tour, which arrives in Amarillo on Sept. 22.
But "surreal" is an equally apropos description of Platt's place in the band in general.
Platt joined the iconic rock band in 2014, following the retirement of former lead singer Steve Walsh.
"My first month or two being in the band, there was that fear," Platt recalled. "I finally came down to reality and realized ... I'm taking Steve Walsh's place? Why don't I just grab these sand bags and jump into the deep end of the pool? Am I nuts?
"I'm a Steve Walsh die-hard fan. How am I going to replace him?"
His new bandmates and — somewhat to his surprise — their fans made the transition easy.
"It's really tough to accept a new person into something you love so much, but for me, the Kansas fans were just so welcoming and made me feel so welcome," Platt said. "It was really great that any anxiety I had about that very quickly melted away. Thank 'em all for me, would you?"
Platt's journey to Kansas took him from making a tri-state route as a trucker to fronting a band he was a fan of since he was a young man.
"When I discovered Kansas, I think it really hit the progressive rock bug in me," Platt said. "I loved other bands — especially the singers — and I picked some pretty intense guys to model myself on, like Steve Walsh and Steve Perry.
"But I really got swept away with progressive music and got into Kansas and Genesis and Yes and Rush," he said. "The emotional rollercoaster of the music is the appealing thing ... for me."
He loved the music so much that he joined a classic rock cover band in Chicago, performing the band's hits like "Dust in the Wind," then joined rock band Shooting Star, which found great regional success in the 1980s and '90s. He opened for Kansas several times through the years, with longtime drummer Phil Ehart and guitarist Rich Williams taking note.
When Walsh announced his retirement, Platt sent a Facebook message to Williams, asking him to "give me some consideration" as the band looked for a new lead singer. Days later, he was hired.
"It was all a matter of four or five days. After they revived me, put the paddles on my chest, I got to work," Platt said.
The band's current tour includes an 8 p.m. Sept. 22 performance in the Amarillo Civic Center Complex Auditorium, 401 S. Buchanan St.; tickets are $35.50 to $95.50, plus fees. The band's celebrating the 40th anniversary of its biggest hit, Leftoverture (which includes "Carry On Wayward Son"), by performing the album in its entirety, as well as songs from the band's other albums, including its latest, The Prelude Implicit.
"I remember buying (Leftoverture) and playing it on my sister's stereo, a Panasonic with a tuner, 8-track and turntable on the top — pass the Geritol, please," Platt said. "I loved every song. I was flipping the vinyl constantly. I engrained it in my brain back then.
"To be performing it now, in its entirety, in sequence ... it's surreal to me," he said. "It's a gas."
"Carry On Wayward Son" live at Comic-Con 2017