No. 99: Kansas, ‘Carry On Wayward Son’ – Top 100 Classic Rock Songs
The now-familiar a capella intro for ‘Carry On Wayward Son’ was the sonic hook that would help Kansas score their first major hit, a feat that was a long time coming for the band.
Like many groups in the time period, Kansas toured and recorded relentlessly, supporting three albums that sold modestly despite their growing live following. Taking a short breather to record what would become their fourth album, 1976’s ‘Leftoverture,’ frontman Steve Walsh ran into writer’s block.
Luckily, guitarist Kerry Livgren was overflowing creatively with ideas and he still had one song that he hadn’t shared with the band. Once the members heard the initial idea for ‘Carry On Wayward Son,’ they knew the songwriting gold that they had on hand and went straight into the recording studio without even pausing to rehearse the track.
Next to some of the proggier moments on ‘Leftoverture,’ ‘Carry On Wayward Son’ feels comparatively restrained and compact, even though it stretches out across nearly five and a half minutes.
Livgren’s engaging storyline of a man embattled with the voices and visions in his head is driven forward by guitar riffing, organ swells and solos from nearly every member in the band. The story might be slightly turbulent, but the music certainly jams.
Nearly 40 years later, ‘Carry On Wayward Son’ is one of those tracks that clearly belongs on any list of the Top 100 Classic Rock Songs and still demands just a little bit of extra volume every time that you hear it.
Watch Kansas Perform ‘Carry On Wayward Son’
Subscribe to Ultimate Classic Rock on