Music
2:24 pm
Thu August 1, 2013

5 Things You Should Know About Bob Walkenhorst And The Rainmakers

5. In The Beginning, There Was Steve, Bob and Rich:

Steve Phillips, Bob Walkenhorst, and Rich Ruth first came together in 1983, performing under their first names. The trio gained a faithful following in the Midwest, released one album, Balls, added a fourth member, Pat Tomek (drums), and by 1986 had become The Rainmakers. Some of the band’s best-loved material, including “Let My People Go-Go” and “Big Fat Blonde” come from the Steve, Bob, and Rich era.

The quartet signed with Mercury records and released three albums in its initial iteration, including Tornado (1987) and The Good News and The Bad News (1987).

The band broke up in 1990, reunited in 1994, broke up again in 1998, and reunited, most recently, in 2011. That year, the group issued a new studio album, 25 On, and found itself inducted into the Kansas Music Hall of Fame.

4. There has always been Wichita, but now there’s Oslo

Early on The Rainmakers gained a loyal following in Wichita, just three hours down the road from the group’s home base in Kansas City. The band gigged at venues such as the legendary Coyote Club and, eventually, The Cotillion. Remarkably, one of the band’s other strongholds is Norway. This inspired the title of the 1990 album Oslo-Wichita LIVE.

3. An unlikely but very famous fan

Author and Rainmakers fan Stephen King twice quoted the band’s lyrics in his novels The Tommyknockers (1987) and Gerald’s Game (1992).

2. Some mistook The Rainmakers for a Christian band

In the late ‘80s Bob Walkenhorst frequently found himself talking to some far-flung corners of the press, including Christian-based publications. Remarkably, considering that the singer didn’t consider himself a Christian. The source of this? The biblical references that kept cropping up in songs such as “Wages Of Sin” and, of course, “Let My People Go-Go.”

1. An unlikely pairing: How Steve, Bob, and Rich (and Pat) met Geddy, Alex and Neil

In early 1988 the legendary Canadian rock band Rush suddenly found itself without an opening act. Tommy Shaw, an old friend of the band from his days in Styx, had found himself in the unenviable position of opening for the prog rock giants and, by all reports, things were not going well. “Tommy Shaw is a respected musician,” Walkenhorst says, “and he was getting creamed opening for Rush.”

Since The Rainmakers happened to be on the same label as the Canadian trio, it seemed like a logical pairing. Walkenhorst remembers that his band’s booking agent was a Rush fan and offered some simple but important advice: Don’t do it.

The band shrugged off the advice. The five dates made sense: Omaha and Kansas City were familiar territory. The Rainmakers practically owned those towns. The booking agent held his ground but the band went ahead anyway. The result?

The first night, Rush lovers in Omaha welcomed The Rainmakers with snuff cans, toilet paper, and, maybe, an unkind word or two. “After that night, we circled the wagons and the next four shows went much better,” Walkenhorst says. “The guys in Rush were as nice as could be. They knew the opening act was in a tough situation. We carried on!”