Missouri keyboardist continues legacy of music from late 1970s

Randall Platt is a musician whose life has been defined by "edges" -- he was raised on the eastern edge of Kansas, introduced cutting-edge music recording technology to the Kansas City area and was an original member of the edgy classic rock band Missouri.

This latter association has recently led to a reunion with other band members and a tour that continues to promote the legacy of the band's founder.

Born in 1952, Platt was raised in a farm community situated between two small Kansas towns. His father, a carpenter, died unexpectedly from a heart attack while building an addition on their local church. His death became a moment when his mother demonstrated her dedication to her children.

"I was about 10 when my father died, and my mom decided to go back to college," Platt said. "The next few years, I took on a lot of odd jobs like mowing to help out. My mom graduated from Ottawa University (Kansas) and was eventually hired as the registrar there," he added.

While coming of age, he learned to play the trumpet and recalls performing at church and other local events. While in high school, he was asked to sit in with a local band that needed someone to play a combo organ for a Beach Boys song they wanted to perform.

"This was probably around the ninth grade, and I pretty much taught myself," he said. "Back then, there were quite a few places to play around Ottawa, so we were able to stay pretty busy."

In his high school years, he had opportunities to perform with several different bands, even spending a few months touring in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. He also developed an interest in jazz music, soon discovering the musical style was not at the time experiencing its high point in Kansas City.

After graduating from high school, he attended Ottawa University for two years, focusing his studies in the fine arts. Continuing to "bounce around" between bands in the Kansas City area, he was introduced to the members of Chesmann Square -- a popular local group led by Ron West.

"Alan Cohen was the bass player in a local rock band and told me that Ron West was working on some songs that were really good," Platt said. "He had formed the group Missouri, and they had recorded an album on the Panama label."

Hearing some of the songs West had written, Platt realized the band could certainly achieve widespread airplay. Through Platt's association with Cohen, he was brought into Missouri to play keyboards and piano, beginning rehearsals to prepare for the recording of the band's second album.

"When we were leaving Kansas City to record the second album at a studio in Macon, Georgia, I saw one of the signs that said, 'Welcome to Missouri,'" Platt recalled. "I said that I thought it would be neat if we used a sign like that on the album cover, but put 'two' instead of 'too' to represent our second album."

He continued, "The second album was done on the Polydor label, and they put quite a bit of money into it. I got to play a 9-foot Steinway that had been brought from Carnegie Hall and a guy that came into the studio to tune it first thing in morning and again in the evenings."

For a young Platt, it was an experience of a lifetime to make music with a professional record label. When the album was released in 1979, the band began a heavy tour schedule to promote it.

The songs, though catchy and engaging, never received the airplay they had anticipated and they were dropped from the label. With several of the band members, including Ron West, dedicated to spending time with their families, the decision was made to quit touring and Missouri dissolved.

Platt went to work for music stores in the Kansas City area, including the former K.C. Music and Pro Audio and another called Sound Music. In this capacity, he shared his knowledge and experience as a musician in the retail sales and customer support of professional musical instruments.

During this period, he began to learn about computer recording equipment and was the first person in the Midwest to participate in Apple Computer's Value Added Reseller program. From training and his own experimentation, he learned to install and design systems consisting of Macintosh computers, software, peripherals and music hardware.

"We had a meeting about getting Missouri back together about three years ago, but I blew out my shoulder and needed surgery," he said. "Then COVID hit and a bunch of shows were cancelled. But this past year, they were able to start touring again."

He continued, "While I was recovering, other band members left me an open invitation to come play whenever I was ready. I finally got to a good point in my recovery, and we did some rehearsals to make sure we got it right."

Recently, the band has played several shows and recognizes that the music pays homage to Missouri's founder, Ron West, who died in 2020.

"Ron was the reason we all were part of Missouri ... and what we do pays tribute to him," Platt said. "And now when we do a show, it's like there's a whole new generation of fans who love the music."

Smiling, he concluded, "Missouri is a great group of guys, and nobody in the band has any ego issues or is looking for fame. For us, it's about the music and playing those songs again feels so right."

Jeremy P. Ämick writes on behalf of the Silver Star Families of America.