''We were dropped like a hot potato, man'': MeTV sits down with KANSAS bassist Billy Greer, part 2
The grunge scene nearly killed KANSAS, but devoted fans kept them going through the lean times.
Photo courtesy of David Carstens
As America's preeminent progressive rock band embarks on its 50 landmark performances, MeTV had the privilege to interview KANSAS' Billy Greer and Rich Williams, bassist and guitar player, respectively. The "Another Fork in the Road" Tour celebrates 50 incredible years of indelible music, highlighting crowd favorites like "Carry On, Wayward Son," and "Dust in the Wind."
Billy Greer has been the bassist for KANSAS since 1985. Prior to the tour's stop at the Chicago Theater, Billy answered our questions about his favorite stops around the United States.
Atlanta’s been an important home base. Are any restaurants in Atlanta must-visit for you to this day?
Well, they’ve all closed. It’s been- I lived there for about 15 years and there was some great food-- cheap places, really nice places to play. Fat Matt’s Rib Shack is a good place to go, they have blues and they have barbecue, so I can recommend that, I think it’s still around.
There are just so many good places that I used to eat that have closed now.
It’s a shame, I feel the same way, every place that I’ve loved… it’s not there anymore!
Yeah, it’s sad. But, I live in Savannah now. So, I’m in a good restaurant city, if you will. There are so many good restaurants.
Got a nice front porch down there in Savannah, Billy?
I do! I’m overlooking a house that was built in 1780, I think, that’s now a museum. I’m in the Historical District of Savannah. Have you ever been to Savannah?
No, I haven’t been lucky enough yet.
It’s like stuck in time. It was a planned community, planned by John Oglethorpe– and it’s a planned community, laid out in a checkerboard style with squares and parks and everything, it’s just a beautiful city. And it was spared during the Civil war, it wasn’t burned to the ground like Atlanta was. It maintains all its old, original architecture from the 1700s, so it’s so cool.
My house that I’m living in now, actually, is one of three row houses. It was built in 1894, I think it was. Obviously, it’s been refurbished a few times. So it’s an old house– nice though. Right in the middle of the historical district. There’s carriages that go by with guided tours every now and then, bus load of people that come to the city… It’s really a big tourist town, but there’s some great food.
I’ll have to add it to my list. I wanted to ask you, what’s your favorite city to have some downtime in, when you’re touring?
Let me think about that for a second… Seattle’s nice. My sister has a couple of sisters out there, so it’s nice having some family that can actually take you to places that you might not otherwise know about. Every time I go out one of my sisters-in-law will take me to a wine tasting at some vineyards or something like that. What a beautiful city it is, too. I love Seattle.
Absolutely, and it’s good to have a tour guide. Are the Seattle fans particularly raucous at a KANSAS show?
They’re pretty spoiled up there. We’ve done well up there over the years. We have such a great base of fans. It really warms the heart knowing we have so many people that have stuck with us through the lean times into the good times, and still remain there today. That’s why we’re doing a 50th Anniversary Tour. We’re still able to go out and play and make a living. And the fans still come, so it’s a blessing.
Billy, I’m surprised to hear you say you like Seattle as much as you do. In my research, I was reading about how when the album “In the Spirit of Things” came out, that Seattle sound kept it from getting a lot of the commercial play it would’ve gotten otherwise.
It did more than kept it-- it killed it! The grunge scene came on with Nirvana and Stone Temple Pilots and all those other bands out of the Seattle area, and we were dropped like a hot potato, man. The record company dropped us and the promoter said “We’re sorry, we can’t book you anymore.” Our manager quit– he actually went to a much better job, though. He started working for Oliver Stone as his musical director. So we couldn’t actually hold any grudges against Bud for doing that! Phil took over as our manager.
I was just looking over pictures someone sent me from 1993, and we were playing in, I think, Rochester, New York, because we’re in front of the Kodak Building. 1993, and it just took me back– I had a flashback to those times when we would go out for five or six weeks at a time, traveling around on a little bus, pulling our equipment in a trailer. It was a tough life, staying in cheaper hotels, and not making a lot of money. But we were still making music, and we still had fans who would come see us play.
So, regardless of what was going on nationally, or what the trend was, we’ve had that good base of fans that would support us, and come out to see the band.
Whereas a lot of people who were grunge fans… Those bands aren’t still standing! It’s remarkable to see KANSAS weather has many storms as KANSAS has, and you still put on great shows. Whereas… Where are those grunge bands, you know?
Dave’s still around. Dave Grohl. We ran into those guys in Salt Lake City in one of those SkyClubs there. I guess we both fly Delta a lot. But, we were traveling and just happened to end up in the same SkyClub there. We were talking to those guys.
My son went to see them at one of the– Bonnaroo Festival, I think it was? He was so excited to tell me that during their set, they did “Carry On, Wayward Son,” or part of it.
They were playing around with a couple different things. “Stairway to Heaven,” they played a snippet, of this and that… Of other popular songs. Then Dave [Grohl] says “We’re no effing cover band! But if we were, this is what we’d play!” and then they go into “Carry On..” with the [hums guitar riff].
So I guess he must’ve been a fan or he likes that particular song or something.
Stay tuned for the continuation of MeTV's interviews as KANSAS looks back on 50 years of the band.