Legendary classic rockers Kansas are coming to the Snoqualmie Casino May 27th and Shellie Hart had the opportunity to interview their violinist David Ragsdale. Ragsdale recounts how he was inspired to join Kansas after hearing their song Can I Tell You as a teenager in high school.
A violinist since his Mom “forced” him to start playing when he was 3 or 4, he picked it back up and with a lot of hard work now gets to play hits like Dust in the Wind and Carry On Wayward Son on stage in front of thousands of fans. He even got to play at San Diego Comicon once, but you’ll have to listen to the interview for that story (or read the interview below)!
Shellie Hart: It’s Shellie Hart, and boy are we excited to have Kansas come to the Northwest. It’s going to be one heck of a party. And what an honor to be on the phone with you. Snoqualmie Casino, May 27th, is when they play, and we are speaking with violinist and guitarist of the legendary Kansas. It’s David Ragsdale.
David Ragsdale: Well, we’re looking forward to coming up there. We always enjoy it.
Shellie Hart: So the Kansas tour is off and running. In fact, you’re playing somewhere tonight.
David Ragsdale: We are. We’re in Ames, Iowa.
Shellie Hart: I know your schedule is jam packed, and you’re playing all your radio classics and the fan favorites and my favorites, some B-sides, and materials from your … is it the 15th studio album now from Kansas?
David Ragsdale: Oh gosh, something like that, but I’m going to say you got it right.
Shellie Hart: Yeah, 15, “The Prelude Implicit”. I want to get back to you, a violinist and guitarist. I want to dial in the whole violinist part, because I personally think that happens to be one of the sexiest instruments ever.
David Ragsdale: I think it is as well, in the right hands.
Shellie Hart: Thank you for clarifying that! And this happens to be your second go-around with Kansas, but I want to get back to you as a violinist, growing up with your classical and your Tulsa Philharmonic background, starting at what age?
David Ragsdale: That’s sort of subjective. My mom started me when I was really young, but I hated it. I mean, I really, really hated it. I think she started me when I was three or four, and I fought, screaming and kicking the whole time. It’s kind of interesting, because what had an awful lot to do with me going, “Hey, maybe this isn’t such a bad idea,” was the first time I heard “Can I Tell You”, the Kansas song “Can I Tell You”. I was in high school at the time, driving around in my car. I had the radio on, and all of a sudden, man, here’s this rock band with this rocking violin thing going on. I was like, “Hey, wait a minute. Wait a minute. That’s not such a bad idea.”
Shellie Hart: So then how did you transition and end up with Kansas?
David Ragsdale: Started practicing. I didn’t really start taking lessons again. I mean, I had learned against my will how to play, but I hadn’t played recently, and I’d lost most everything I had. I practiced up and managed to get myself accepted to … I was in Columbus, Georgia. It was Columbus College at the time, now it’s Columbus State University, and I studied and got to where I could play again. And then chased Kansas around for a couple of years while I was living in Nashville, and finally managed to talk them into adding me to the lineup.
Shellie Hart: And the rest is history.
David Ragsdale: The rest is pretty much history, yeah.
Shellie Hart: David Ragsdale with Kansas, who’s going to be hitting the Snoqualmie Casino May 27th, the radio classics and fan favorites. Let’s talk about some of those classics. One of my favorites is “Point of Know Return”, also “Play the Game Tonight” and “Carry On Wayward Son”. As I say this, I know people are going to have these songs, it’s going to be like the earworm. It’s going to be in their heads like, “Oh yeah.” And then, of course, “Dust in the Wind”.
David Ragsdale: Yeah, you might hear a couple of those. That’s possible. You know, I don’t want to give anything away.
Shellie Hart: Oh, you can give it all away if you want to. We’ll take all your secrets.
David Ragsdale: I don’t want to give up any of the surprises.
Shellie Hart: You know, I was reading, early on with Kansas … and I realized that you’d kind of joined them decades into it … but I read that they were considered a garage band sound. Now, in Seattle we think garage band and we think like Pearl Jam and Nirvana and things like that. What inspires Kansas songwriting today?
David Ragsdale: The sound is kind of a result of, someone will show up with a song, an idea, and present it, and the band will just kind of take that idea and run with it. What ends up happening is that it’s kind of amazing. It pops out sounding like a Kansas song. The original presentation typically does not, but by the time the band gets adding their two cents into the original idea, it pops out the other side of the line sounding very much like a Kansas song. It’s kind of amazing how it works.
Shellie Hart: You know, that Kansas sound, when you have a band that spans decades, and you get together to rehearse or talk about new music, what is that like? You guys just intuitively know what the other person’s going to do?
David Ragsdale: Well, there’s a song presented, and whoever presents the song is usually coming at the song from the perspective of their own instrument, from their strong point, which is appropriate, and everyone else takes it up from their perspective of their instrument. It kind of works that way. It’s hard to determine what would a violin player do here, but I know what a violin player would do here, and the same with guitars or keyboards, the people with more expertise on that instrument are going to gravitate more toward what would be appropriate. It all ends up working out really well.
Shellie Hart: A year ago July, I want to know if you were a part of this, if you were there, Kansas made a surprise appearance at Comic-Con, San Diego. What was that all about?
David Ragsdale: Oh yeah.
Shellie Hart: Did it have something to do with “Supernatural”?
David Ragsdale: Yeah, the “Supernatural” guys, we went out there and it was a surprise for the audience. They had no idea we were going to be there. And they rigged up this video that they showed before we came out, and it was them in a car, and one of them pulled out an 8-track Kansas tape …
Shellie Hart: I love that part.
David Ragsdale: … and popped it into the player, and that’s when we came out. It was such a … the audience just went nuts, and it was a really big crowd, a huge room, packed to the gills. You know, got to hang out with all the guys and everything. It was a lot of fun. And then we had to fly back, all the way across the country to another show the next day, so it was fun.
Shellie Hart: Yeah, life on the road. And to surprise those folks at Comic-Con, just to see the looks on their faces, that must have been super-fun. So I’m going to tap into that performing. Favorite moments on stage? What do you like to see?
David Ragsdale: Hoping that everyone is enjoying what you’re handing them.
Shellie Hart: Do you have a favorite fan story, any one that comes to mind? Something that happened after a show or before?
David Ragsdale: Ah, there’s a bunch of them. Every once in a while, you’ll be surprised by someone, the really young kid singing. Young people, and I guess a lot of that is a result of the “Supernatural” fan base gravitating to the band. We’ve got this whole new fan base that’s coming up behind the one that we already have, which we find incredibly encouraging, because that’s our future.
Shellie Hart: That’s when you say millennials have good taste, when they’re following Kansas around the country.
David Ragsdale: That’s right.
Shellie Hart: Kids or grandkids of yours, do they get what you’re a part of with Kansas?
David Ragsdale: I think they do. They seem to, at least they act like they do.
Shellie Hart: David Ragsdale of Kansas. Who is it that you listen to? What inspires you? What’s in your car? What’s in your phone?
David Ragsdale: Kevin Gilbert, who had Toy Matinee, he died. Fabulous songwriter, amazing talent. I like to listen to that guy a lot.
Shellie Hart: Do you have any offspring that play violin?
David Ragsdale: I have no offspring that I’ve been made aware of.
Shellie Hart: David Ragsdale of Kansas. We so look forward to you, and I’m pulling it up now. I want to repeat this, because I just think this is amazing, again, spanning decades, four or five at least, for Kansas. 15 studio albums, seven live albums, nine compilation albums, 26 singles, some of which I mentioned, with “Play the Game Tonight”, “Carry On Wayward Son”, “Dust in the Wind”. These are all the ones that you’re going to sing along to and dance and have fun, and David wants to see you doing that at the Snoqualmie Casino, May 27th. It has been such an honor to hang and chat with you, David.
David Ragsdale: Mine as well. Thank you so much.