Kansas Guitarist Says ’There’s No Money in Making Records Anymore,’ Recalls First Reaction to Hearing ’Carry on Wayward Son’

Although guitarist Rich Williams wasn’t the one who wrote Kansas’ “Carry on Wayward Son,” his recorded parts in the song are a huge part of rock music history. But, unfortunately, according to what Rich said in a recent interview with Radio Artifact, even a band of their caliber cannot really make any money from making new records.

The musician reflected on the matter while discussing Kansas’ albums and how they approach new music. Although admitting that “there’s a creative itch that always needs to be scratched,” Williams then went on to explain how things are much tougher these days and that there’s hardly any chance to make it financially viable. He offered (transcribed by Killer Guitar Rigs):

“Obviously, there’s no money in making records anymore. Hard product is not much of a market anymore. You have your audiophiles who like to collect the vinyl, but that’s not a major recoup, the money it costs just in making it.”

Kansas - Live in Omaha 1982 remaster [FULL SHOW]

“Mostly it’s all downloads, Spotify type of things. They have found a way of monetizing that to an extent, but it’s nothing like it was pre-internet.”

As Williams further adds, it’s not like it’s impossible to make full-length records these days. However, it’s only really worth it if you genuinely love music and just want to do it. He continued:

“I’d say, to make an album, you have to really want to do it, because there’s no payoff in doing it, other than, again, scratching the creative itch and remaining relevant to your fans, those are very important things.”

Kansas - Live in Atlanta 2002 - Full Concert HD

And, as he also adds, it’s the joy of playing your original music to the wider audiences and witnessing their reaction first-hand that’s the real pay-off here:

“But you’re also taking yourself out of the market, and the fun part, which is being on the road and performing. That’s the joy of it all, that’s the payoff. The recording process is… sometimes it’s long, and painful, and boring, and all of that. Whereas, again, live is where it’s always been at.”

KANSAS 50th Anniversary show opening. Indianapolis July 8, 2023

During the same interview, Rich Williams also reflected on the band’s most successful song to date, “Carry on Wayward Son” from the band’s 1976 record “Leftoverture.” Written by the founder and the former lead guitarist of the band, Kerry Livgren, it went on to become one of the most important rock anthems of all time.

While discussing the band’s work, Williams was asked to weigh in on how he feels about playing the song today after all these years. He replied by recalling his first reaction to the song’s early version:

“Well, when Kerry brought that into rehearsal, it was basically the last day of rehearsals before we went in to record ‘Leftoverture’. So we’d been working on material for a while now every day.”

Kansas - Carry on Wayward Son (Official Video)

And despite working hard the whole day, Kerry still had one song on mind. The band wasn’t happy to hear that after a long day:

“And here he comes, ‘I’ve done another song’, and everybody’s going… *frustrated sigh* He had a little bit of it recorded, and he’s showing this and that.”

However, when he played them the early recording, the band members were completely blown away by it:

“‘Wow, there’s a lot of promise here.’ Things like the acapella vocals, the harmony, structure, all this — middle sections.”

Kansas - Carry On Wayward Son, Live 2009 (FULL HD)

Recalling what this initial version was like, Rich revealed that it had just the basic parts and that it evolved into the piece we know today a bit later on. He continued:

“It was just basically the opening riff, a bit of the middle and the verses. It wasn’t until we got to the studio… Again, now you’re in this assembly line process where you’re going for the entire album, you’re doing basic tracks, the drum week, and you’re getting all the drum tracks done, and trying to get all the bass tracks with that.”

After working on other stuff, they finally realized that they really have to go back to this amazing piece:

“So we’re probably in the second week of recording and said, ‘well, we need to start working on that new song because we haven’t.’ We didn’t have the arrangement beyond a sketch.”

Kansas - Carry On Wayward Son [Live - 1977]

“We worked on it in the studio, and then we started recording, so that really the version on the record is, you know, okay, take 10, or whatever it was the first time we played it correctly.”

“And then we started learning all the things on top of it, then, you know, ‘Let’s put acapella, the chorus at the beginning, it’d be really cool’.”

But, as Williams add, despite a long process, it all came naturally. And the moment they had the full thing, they immediately knew its potential:

“So it all was very organic in how it all came together, and then sit back, listen, and go, ‘This could be a game changer for us here, this could actually open the door, to get us from an opening act, and build an audience to actually kicking the door down.'”

Kansas - Carry on Wayward Son - Performance at 2017 San Diego Comic Con - Supernatural Season 13 .

Photo: Gage Skidmore (Rich Williams (36113095311))


  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor.