"Balls" recalls a great bar band


By Barry Gilbert
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

May 9, 2006

The Rainmakers
Grade: B

"Well, we're rounding St. Louis and heading for the coast/
When we pick up Chuck Berry in a little rowboat/
With one oar in the water and one in the air/
A lightning rod for a white guitar"

(from "The Rainmakers," 1986)

Kansas City's Rainmakers were a bar band with something to say -- and better than most.

For about 10 years, Bob Walkenhorst and his mates turned out three major label albums and four more indies, scored one U.S. hit ("Let My People Go-Go") and became household names in Europe. They also hit local nightspots, including Mississippi Nights and Blueberry Hill.

"Balls" is a reissue of the band's first record from 1984, which was released when it was a trio called Steve (Phillips) Bob and Rich (Ruth), with future frontman Walkenhorst on drums and many lead vocals. Four songs that would later show up on their Mercury debut -- "Let My People Go-Go," "Nobody Knows," "Big Fat Blonde" and "Information" -- are unveiled here among other originals that already boast Rainmaker trademarks: tight, rocking arrangements; tough, witty lyrics; and lots of attitude and energy.

Proving how great a bar band these guys were, "Balls" includes seven tracks recorded live at the Blue Note in Columbia, Mo., in 1985, featuring covers of Bob Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues," the Who's "Rough Boys," John Fogerty's "Rockin' All Over the World" and Link Wray's "Switchblade."