Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Let it rain!

Time to praise what is probably the finest Rock band Kansas City has ever produced, The Rainmakers.  They were all excellent musicians and this band was blessed a brilliant songwriter, plus they were an outstanding live act, to boot.  They started off as the trio Steve, Bob & Rich (Steve Phillips—lead guitar; Bob Walkenhorst—vocals and snare drum; Rich Ruth—bass), but when they signed with Mercury Records in the mid-'80s, they added drummer Pat Tomek (that's him wearing the specs in this photo, along with Steve, Bob and Rich, left to right, naturally), and frontman Walkenhorst switched to rhythm guitar.

I often compare this band to R.E.M. because these guys SHOULD have been every bit as big as R.E.M. is, and they appealed to more or less the same audience as R.E.M. does.  Sadly, Mercury/Polygram failed to support this band at all, thus they never attained the heights that their Georgia rivals did, despite that fact that The Rainmakers would blow R.E.M. off ANY stage, and Bob Walkenhorst is a far more prolific songwriter than the overly-serious Michael Stipe.  BW's writing style is steeped more in humor, yet with a social conscience, all the same, and these guys were a bit edgier than the rather wimpy band that was recently inducted into the Rock 'N' Roll Hall of Fame.  Sorry to break this to you, R.E.M. fans—Da Rainmakers are a helluva lot more fun to listen to!

Their most famous song is arguably "Let My People Go-Go", off their first album in 1986, which even garnered some airplay on MTV back in the day, as did "Downstream" from the same LP.  Trust me, there's much much more to this band, and here's just a brief sampling of Bob Walkenhorst's witty and insightful lyrics:

—"If heaven is guilt, no sex and no show, then I'm not sure that I really wanna go..." (from "The Wages Of Sin")
—"You can still see the ghosts, but you can't see the sense--why they let the monkey go, and blamed the monkey wrench..." (from "Rockin' At The T-Dance")
—"...and if you've ever seen that L.A. scene, man, you know it ain't no Jan & Dean..." (from "Snakedance")
—"...we make love to people that we don't even like..." (from "Small Circles")
—"Well, we picked up Harry Truman floatin' down from Independence...we said 'What about The Bomb--are you sorry that you did it?'...he said, 'pass me that bottle and mind yer own bidness..." (from "Downstream")

And my personal favorite:—"The generation that would change the world is still looking for its car keys..." (from "Drinkin' On The Job")

One little oddity about this band was/is their popularity in Scandinavia, of all places.  There was a time during the '90s when my good friend The Swedish Chef had easier access to Rainmakers CDs than yours truly did right here in the ol' heartland!  Their live CD Oslo-Wichita was partially recorded in the capital of Norway, too.

My top five Rainmakers tunes:
1) "Big Fat Blonde" (1986)  It's sexist as all get-out, but I love it, anyway!
2) "Tornado of Love" (1987)  I haven't been in one of these in about eight years, but I'm itching to do it again...
3) "Rockin' At The T-Dance" (1986)  Thinly-veiled tune about the 1981 K.C. Hyatt Hotel skywalks tragedy.
4) "Reckoning Day" (1989)  All-purpose rant song about most anything that chafes your hiney...
5) "Snakedance" (1987)  "Show these folks a good time," indeed!


Long live Steve, Bob & Rich (& Pat), and screw R.E.M.!

4 comments:

Randy Raley said...

I had a band in the years from 86-88. The Traffic Jam opened for the Rainmakers at Mississippi Nights in downtown St. Louis. It was one of the best gigs ever. These guys are just another example of the injustice that is the music business. The songs are tight, timely and just down right good. "Nobody Knows" happens to be my favorite but it's all good with them.

Ken Dillon said...

I agree...and we played the SHIT outta these guys until the took away my little radio funhouses in Clinton (KLRQ) and Sedalia (KPOW) for either full-tilt Christianity, and full-tilt stupidity...or both.

Walkenhorst is STILL cool, and we e-mail every so often.

Brian...I've been trying to reach you somehow. Seems we have a lot of the same interests. I found you thru Raley's site, as we are close, too. I live in Lee's Summit, and somehow am still hanging on to a radio career. I'd LOVE to chat with ya sometime...

My e-mail: kdillon977@earthlink.net

Ken Dillon

Cap said...

So right. I saw the Rainmakers in Kalamazoo, MI around 1989. Seen dozens and dozens of bands, but these guys were my favorite. Since then have all their music. You can still download free Walkenhorst music from archive.org.

Brian Holland said...

No need to download here, as I'm covered on the Rainmakers, CD-wise, but thanks for the tip all the same...