Goin’ to Kansas City

Greetings everyone! I trust you are all doing good work and great play. Do you remember that song “Kansas City?” It was written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, the great R & B songwriters. Jerry Leiber was from my hometown of Baltimore. Neither had ever been to Kansas City when they wrote the song. It’s a great song about a great town. It has been recorded over three hundred times. Now that’s some mailbox money, cha-ching, cha-ching!

I’m going to Kansas City in September for a very special concert event, Saturday Night at Tom Benton’s, on September 23. Some of you may know about Tom Benton, but for those you who don’t, here are a few short paragraphs.

Thomas Hart Benton was an American painter, muralist and printmaker. Along with Grant Wood and John Steuart Curry, he was at the forefront of the Regionalist art movement. The fluid, sculpted figures in his paintings showed everyday people in scenes of life in the United States.

His work is strongly associated with the Midwestern United States, the region in which he was born and which he called home for most of his life.

Benton taught at the Art Students League of New York from 1926 to 1935 and at the Kansas City Art Institute from 1935 to 1941. His most famous student, Jackson Pollock, whom he mentored in the Art Students League, founded the Abstract Expressionist movement. Pollock often said that Benton’s traditional teachings gave him something to rebel against. (Wikipedia).

My wife, Sue, and I made a stop at Tom Benton’s Home and Studio in April, 2019 while on tour. The home is in the prestigious Roanoke neighborhood of midtown KC, and it was a hoot. We were given a tour by Katie Hastert who is a Historian and Resource Interpreter at the historic site, which is part of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. We had a lovely afternoon with Katie at Benton’s home.

While we were there we learned that Tom Benton played the harmonica and loved music. He would host Saturday night music gatherings at his home and even called them, Saturday Night at Tom Benton’s. https://open.spotify.com/artist/3don8m3v5QaVzpJTc0PLWv?si=CZ-y5Mg6T-6a9FNndaycIA

But now we’re just a month away from a concert event, and I wanted to let everyone know how excited I am. As some of you know, I was a bit obsessed with Jackson Pollock between 1991 and 1997. In 1991, I was in Los Angeles working on a record with Tommy Conwell & the Young Rumblers. There was a new and used book store across the street from our condo in North Hollywood, and I ducked in there one morning before we headed to the studio. There was a display that held a book called, Jackson Pollock-An American Saga, a 1989 biography about the abstract expressionist. I picked it up and read the book while we finished working on Tommy’s record. I was introduced to Tom Benton in that book. The book also inspired several songs that I co-wrote with Geoffrey Himes. I’ll be doing “Janesville” and “Springs” at the Benton Home concert. Here are two links for “Janesville” and two for “Springs.”

Billy with a Pollock painting…

The seating for the concert will be limited, but if you’re planning on a visit to Kansas City on the weekend of September 23-24, you can go here for tickets. I’ll be solo, missing my musical collaborators Sue Griffiths on banjo and Craig Eastman on fiddle, but in tow will be a few guitars, LoMo, Natty Boh and Eck and a banjo, Mildred the Mystic. I’ll be doing songs from my latest record, Onions, Old Movies & You which you can listen to here, as well as songs and stories from my back catalog.

I’ll also be doing a live concert on Thursday, September 21 at the Columbia Public Library in Columbia, Missouri from 7-8 pm for their music event programming. A special thank you to Sarah Howard, the Youth and Community Services Manager for the library. I performed for them virtually during the pandemic but am looking forward to an in-person visit with them in September. https://events.dbrl.org/event/9010558

Looking forward to seeing you in Kansas City and/or Columbia, Missouri in September.



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