Kansas’ Rich Williams Feared Steve Morse’s Arrival
Kansas co-founder Rich Williams recalled his trepidation when fellow guitarist Steve Morse joined the band in 1986.
But he added that he went on to enjoy the experience and said he learned an important lesson from Morse before his departure three years later.
In a new interview with Guitar World, Williams told of the moment Kansas started work on Power, the first of two albums featuring the future Deep Purple guitarist. “I was sitting down with Steve, and he had just been awarded the best guitar player ever for the third year in a row,” Williams said. “And here I am in a room with him and we’re creating material together. For me, that was a terrifying experience, until I got to know what Steve was like. He’s the least threatening and intimidating guy you could ever meet. He’s a guitar wizard.”
He noted that he learned something “very valuable” from Morse one night after they had completed a Kansas show and returned to their hotel. “There was this crappy band playing in the lounge,” he said. “I was about to make a joke about it when Steve turned to me and said, ‘Did you see what the guitar player just did there?’ It was something that the player did with his toggle switch. Steve said he had never seen anybody do it that way before.
"I thought, ‘He is the best guitar player in the world, and he is still always learning.’ He was looking for something that was different like this kid did in that band. And I thought that, as a guitar player, it was such a great mind-set to have.”
Williams also reflected on how Kansas became influenced by prog music. “Dave Hope and I had played together previously in a band,” he said. “And we were playing the rock hits of the days and because none of us were trained, we didn’t understand a delicate approach to anything. Phil [Ehart] would beat the crap out of the drums, while Dave was an aggressive bass player and for me, it was, ‘Crank it up and play it aggressively!’ That was our approach to it.
“We had grown up with Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels and bands like that – American blue-eyed soul, rock ’n’ roll. So those were our roots. But the progressive movement coming out of Europe and England was very eye-opening to us. And what we learned from that was to think outside of the box.”