Rich Williams

Guitarist with Kansas

Rich Williams is one of the best-kept secrets in rock n’ roll.  While he may have never graced the cover of Teen Beat magazine, guitarists are well aware of the one-eyed virtuoso.  Williams unique tandem licks with violinists Robby Steinhardt or David Ragsdale helped define the Kansas sound.

Reared in Topeka, Kansas, Williams attended Topeka West High School.  His love of music overshadowed his love of school, as guitar became his favorite extracurricular activity.  Rich found himself in the band White Clover with Kansas alum Phil Ehart, Dave Hope, Steve Walsh and Robby Steinhardt.  They recorded a demo that ended up in the hands of music mogul Don Kirshner.  Once they had a record deal they invited Kerry Livgren to join as he had the one thing White Clover was missing:  Songs.  The group changed their name to Kansas and by the mid 1970’s they were one of the most successful rock bands on the planet.

Williams preferred to remain out of the spotlight.  It was not until Livgren left the band in the early 1980’s that Williams was forced to step out front.  Kansas plays complex music and Williams is the band’s only full time guitar player.  The demands on Rich are great every time Kansas takes the stage, as he must perform with great skill and precision every night, during every song.  Williams responds to this pressure by effortlessly transitioning from rhythm to lead and from electric to acoustic, sometimes all in the same song using his stand-mounted acoustic guitar.

Williams has become what is known in the music industry as a “Guitar Players Guitar Player.”  One of the most talented men in the history of the instrument, and former Kansas band mate, Steve Morse, told journalist Dave Ling this about the big man, “I always felt comfortable with Rich because all he cares about is getting the song right. Rich doesn’t talk much but when he does say something, it’s always worth listening to.”

“The TightDrive has some great features on it, but the most important thing, the only thing really, is it had to sound good. IT SOUNDS GREAT!!!”  –Rich Williams.

Recently Rich recorded this demo of using the PressuRizer compressor with his acoustic to help the chords ring out better: