Mancow: How the Hyatt Disaster & Bob Walkenhorst Derailed KC’s Rainmakers

In 1986 "Rockin’ at the T-Dance" by Kansas City’s Rainmakers was forbidden @ my former station Q104 back when it was a hit music station.

The song dared to blame the Hyatt Corporation for the Hyatt Regency Skywalks disaster. Too young to remember? Look it up. It’s a filthy, dark mark in Kansas City history that many "suits" would like the Cowtown to forget.

Shoddy, cheap work lead to a massacre.

My parents lost friends at that Tea Dance while the band played Duke Ellington‘s "Satin Doll" on a hot July evening. It impacted my family & haunted me with nightmares for years .

Why did Q104 ban the Rainmakers song?

They didn’t want to offend a big corporation is what my memory whispers. That big corporation didn’t like that song and its ad agency probably didn’t like it much either. So the ad agency let that be known and that it represented lots of other corporations and lots of other ad dollars.

So it rippled through our frequency.

Give the people what they want? Not hardly!

Mercury Record’s Bill Rusch (one of the people most responsible for ME) fought hard for those Rainmaker boys, but that song was a political hot potato. It tested through the roof with our audiences but still didn’t get significant air time. And it was also at a critical moment in the band’s build to the top.

That song was the first track kicking off the Rainmakers big label debut but it set a tone many powerful Kansas City suits found not to their liking.

They let it be known they didn’t want  these makers of rain (and music) to hit. 

Now here’s a "what if moment." 

What if KC had ACTUALLY backed these local heroes? Jersey backed its Boss. Indy backed it’s Cougar.

It was Kansas City’s big chance and we blew it!

Even now when you watch the Rainmakers live in concert (as I did last year for a 25th anniversary concert at the quirky, wonderful Knuckleheads), you ask yourself " How did the world miss out on this?"

Listen to that song now or "Wages of Sin" or "Another Guitar" and tell me those aren’t hit records!

When I interviewed author Stephen King years ago all he wanted to talk about was The Rainmakers once he found that KC was the origin of my spawning. Music lovers that hear the band fall in love with it. I just wish that more lucky souls had been exposed to them.

Every true Kansas City human coming of age in the Mid-1980’s still has The Rainmakers playing somewhere in the far recesses of their minds.

"Big Fat Blonde" was prophecy. I mean, take a look around.

" No Romance " has the brilliant line: "You’ll see lines not Valentines written all over my face" that echoed through my last Sweetest Day. Ugh.

"Government Cheese" is in my head when I see welfare dollars exchanged for booze or cash for crack. YOUR tax dollars at work . "Decline and fall"….Sure feels like 2012 America to me.

The Worlds end? "Reckoning Day" LIVE it’s just kick ass, old-fashioned rock at first listen. Repeated listens reveal so much more. " I cannot tell a Kennedy from a John Wilkes Booth."

Umph!

"To the Hum" is simply beautiful music. Beautiful? Rainmakers? Yes. Enya would even dig on that track.

"Go Down Swinging" off their latest cd is autobiographical . That’s EXACTLY what they are doing right now.

Is lead singer Bob Walkenhorst bitter? Hard to tell .

He’s always seemed that way to me even going back to the early 1980’s. He’s a surly fellow with an attitude that certainly hasn’t helped the band. He’s also a brilliant lyricist and the lead singer of the best band to ever come out of Missouri, so I have no other choice but to forgive and love him.

I remember hearing about a push from some at their label wanting them to go from Steve, Bob, & Rich (the bands original name) to "The Missouri Mules." They fought and stayed with the  Rainmakers name. Although , as I scour the Internet for band memorabilia sifting through a mess of Burt Lancaster as "The Rainmaker" movie paraphernalia the other name would have been fine. The other name might actually call up the mule mascot I bought for my alma mater CMSU (now known as UCM) a few years ago.

No other band has captured all that is Missouri – its hopes, fears, dreams, isolation, yearning, anger, and divine confusion. A KC soul sounds like them when it cries out to Christ.

The Rainmakers will play Knuckleheads Saloon at 10 pm Saturday and Mancow will be in attendence.

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20 Responses to Mancow: How the Hyatt Disaster & Bob Walkenhorst Derailed KC’s Rainmakers

  1. Mark X says:

    … Mancow — the MAN!
    Hope to see a lot of you here!!!!

  2. smartman says:

    Geez!
    Toss up between Urich and Muller on which one doesn’t belong.

  3. rkcal says:

    chirping crickets….
    that’s the sound that represents all that is Missouri.

  4. the dude says:

    Correction:
    best thing to come out of Missouri musically was one man by the name of Charles Edward Anderson Berry.

    I am pretty sure everyone else would agree.

  5. Hearne says:

    Dude!
    Did you forget Rush Limbaugh and Walt Disney?

  6. smartman says:

    @ the dude
    Nice call on Chuck Berry, who called God an Indian Giver. While we are on that side of the state don’t forget Head East. Unfortunately for us Mancow has had a mancrush on Bob Walkenhorst forever. The Rainmakers were never gonna be REM in terms of popularity or hipness. Comparing the Rainmakers to Springsteen or Johnny Cougar from SEYMOUR Indiana is a real fucking stretch.They were who they were and are who they are today. Life ain’t fair and the music business is unfairer. I could rattle off names for hours of local bands and musicians that shoulda, but didn’t. But it’s never too late and there ain’t no fat lady singing.

  7. randyraley says:

    Erich from Raytown
    Love ya brother.
    Want to respectfully disagree. It’s my competitive nature.
    While I was NOT here for the Rainmakers (I moved to StL in 85), I played “Big Fat Blonde” to open the show from late 82 ( I think), on something historically known as a cart.
    We had the boys to our summer Olympics in 83. KY played them. A lot.
    I know I backed them a lot, along with Shooting Star.

    Chuck Berry to win, Alex and I’ll put a couple of bones on the Daredevils, too
    But, I get the crux of your piece.

  8. Duke says:

    Even Better
    Missouri was pretty hot there for awhile. Movin’ On will always be a classic.

  9. Orphan of the Road says:

    Gonna have to ride that camel through the eye
    Through a phonograph needle someday.

    Why don’t you ask Bob yourself? You did seem to think they should just drop what they were doing and regroup for your birthday a few years back. I think the comment made about that request was to remind you of your on-air effort to have the band banned. Sound familiar?

    Every young performer makes that silent prayer, please let me be successful. Bob says he should have prayed harder and then smiles broadly.

    Two dreams make the world go round
    The one you’ve lost and the one you claim you’ve found

  10. Ellen K. says:

    Bob W. one of the kindest people I know
    Bob Walkenhorst, “a surly fellow”? I’ve no doubt Bob can sometimes come across that way, but anyone who thinks that’s what he’s generally like is pretty clueless about him. Bob Walkenhorst is one of the kindest people I know.

    Regarding the Chuck Berry comments, has the article been changed? It says the Rainmakers are the best BAND to come out of Missouri, and Chuck Berry, though of course a rock-n-roll great, is not a band.

  11. Rainbow Man says:

    OMD
    Ozark Mountain Daredevils is probbaly the best “band” to come out of Missouri.

  12. Hearne says:

    Hey, Randy…
    Don’t think your timeline on the Rainmakers is accurate as the band”s first album wasn’t released until 1986. Before that they were a bar band that went by Steve, Bob and Rich (as I’m sure you know).

    As for Walkenhorst’s temperament, while age and the realities of not becoming a huge rock star have likely taken much of his edge off, I do recall a part of his persona from the past.

    I was running the Pitch in the early days of its transition from record store rag to alternative newsweekly when the first Rainmakers album came out. And there in the Pitch’s very first non Pennylane office came the call from a highly-agitated Bob who was on tour down in Oklahoma. That in response to a David Cantwell penned review of the band’s first album that had come out in the Pitch that fine day.

    OMG, the butt-chewing I took from Walkenhorst on Cantwell’s behalf.

    Bob had no idea who I was in those very early days of the Pitch, just some dude who took the call and was in the right place at the wrong time. In fairness (I guess), Cantwell had been merciless. Hey, that’s what rock critics sometimes do. And of course, the rest of the Kansas City media had bestowed nothing but plaudits and blowjobs on the Rainmakers.

    But still…

  13. Ellen K. says:

    Randy’s timeline
    Hey, Hearne, Randy Raley’s timeline is just fine. It’s the Steve Bob and Rich version of Big Fat Blonde, a live recording from 1983 that KY102 played. (And since he put “(I think)” there’s no reason to quibble over one year.) He does not say it was the Rainmakers recording of it that they played, and even indicates that 1985 was pre-Rainmakers.

  14. Hearne says:

    Always nice to…
    Hear from Randy’s attorney (joking, OK?)

  15. PB says:

    The Bottle Rockets
    I have nothing but love for Bob and the Rainmakers and actually agree that they should have been bigger (although it’s not like they weren’t promoted heavily during the time of their debut record), but the Bottle Rockets out of Festus, MO have been doing it longer (continuously) and better than the Rainmakers, putting out high quality albums since their inception and not getting near enough credit for being one of the forerunners of the alt-county movement in the early 90s. They still tour constantly with same core group since the mid-2000s and have recently spent time as the backing band of sorts for Marshall Crenshaw, unlike the Rainmakers, a true 80s icon. And oh btw, they’ll also be playing Knuckleheads next month and if you look past the huge crowd of Mancow and others wanting to relive their coke-addled 80s heydays, guaranteed the Rockets show will be superior as they bring 20 years of material to their concert table.

  16. the dude says:

    John “Cougar”
    Concentration Camp and Bruce “Screw’s Loose” Springsteen are not bands either and the author compared his favorite band in all of Missouri to them. Band, person, whatever- Berry is heads and shoulders above some local band most people have never heard of.

  17. Orphan of the Road says:

    Information’s got my number too
    To Mancow, had my facts crosslinked on you and Bob and the “ban”. My apology for misrepresenting what happened. Must have kept you frothing at the mouth, liking music but being prohibited from playing it.

    Someone seemed to get a little agitated when the band played Like Dogs, don’t know why the person was all up in the Mancow’s face.

    If the little birdy had told me sooner, I’d have apologized in person.

    BTW, Big Joe Turner kicks all their arses when it comes to having a musical impact.

  18. kcfred says:

    ellen k.
    Ellen, Hearne’s had it out for Randy for years.
    Randy wouldn’t get any credit from Hearne if he found a cure for cancer.
    Not sure where it started but Hearne has been dissing him for years.
    I guess Randy wasn’t “edgy” enough for Hearne.

  19. Highlander says:

    Love the Rainmakers
    Well, I must comment, even if too late, just found this. The RAINMAKERS were the best band to come out of Missouri. They sang songs of small towns, and the Mid-West. The felt the pulse, and they wrote it. Passion was in all of Walkenhorst’s lyrics. “Long Gong Lone” was a song that will always ring with me about a certain summer long gone long. And “Small Circles” so many meanings, and so many memories. They should’ve been bigger. They should’ve been HUGE, but alas, I think they were too good and as often people do they dismissed them for that. Fortunately they did exist, they did play and Walkenhorst and the band were true poets, and the spoke and sang Truth!

  20. Skrappy says:

    Midwest Experience
    I, too, realize my post is late but I wanted to say a few words about The Rainmakers. I grew up in Iowa so I’ll leave the best Missouri band to the natives. I remember hearing “Let My People Go-Go” while driving through Nebraska and being immediately “transfixed”. These guys didn’t sound like all the other music on the radio and I was fascinated by that sound. I picked up every cassette or album/CD I could find over the years. Walkenhorst wrote about life in the “heartland” and he did like no one else. I still “feel’ those lyrics when I listen to the older stuff and I smile at the turn of a phrase from Bob W.’s pen. The Rainmakers bring me “home” with their music. They’re like a friend who you may not see for a while but you both know the bond will always be strong. Thanks for letting an old man ramble.

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