Summer concerts return to park
Krazy Kats to open annual series Friday
Basehor Community Library's Summer Concerts in the Park are back, beginning Friday evening, July 6.
Starting at 6:30 p.m., Basehor City Park will be rocking with the familiar tunes of the 1950s and '60s played by the Krazy Kats.
The three members of the band were intrigued by music from the start. While drummer and vocalist Fred Fletcher was banging on pots and pans and practicing on his first drum set, future keyboardist and vocalist Willie Craig was learning the ropes from his mother, a concert violinist and piano teacher. Lee Dresser, guitarist and vocalist, bought his first guitar and taught himself to play immediately after seeing Elvis Presley perform on television.
That early interest in music inspired the trio of Moberly, Mo., natives to form their own band as teens in the 1950s. The Moberly High School cafeteria full of their peers was the scene of the band's first gig Feb. 14, 1957 at the Future Homemakers of America Sweetheart dance.
"We were scared, but we did all right," Dresser said. "Now we go out there and don't think a thing about it."
The Krazy Kats enjoyed increased popularity throughout their college days in Columbia, Mo., until 1965 when Craig was drafted into the Army. Dresser was drafted about a year later, and Fletcher got married, prompting the band's 15-year split. The three followed their own paths until their reunion in 1980.
Now celebrating their 50th year together, the Krazy Kats have created five CDs and earned the title "Best Band in Kansas City" in 1991 as well as a spot in the Rockabilly Hall of Fame in 1999. All three men are full time Krazy Kats and will be returning to the Basehor Community Library's Summer Concert Series for the third time this year.
"I always say it's nice to be asked back, and it is," Dresser said. "We're looking forward to it. We like what we do."
Jenne Laytham, assistant director of the library, said the audience can count on a quality performance from the Krazy Kats.
"They are real performers and they perform all the time," she said. "The highlight act is the Elvis impersonation by Lee."
While Dresser confirmed his full-costume Elvis act, he said the group credits its popularity to a longtime following and good word of mouth. He said people often say they perform "the good stuff."
"I've seen '50s groups, and they sort of parody it, overdo it, make a comic thing out of it," Dresser said. "We do have a little showbiz stuff that we do, but we don't make fun of the songs. We play them right, the way rock and roll should be. That's the only way we know how to do it."
Basehor residents and their guests can also look forward to two other performances this summer: the Motion band, Friday, July 20 and the Butterfly Brass Band, Friday, Aug. 3. The five-piece Motion band is said to offer a little something for everyone with sounds that range from classic rock to retro and country. The 13-piece Butterfly Brass Band plays songs from the 1930s, '40s and '50s and in an East Coast swing style.
"All the bands that come just love playing in our park," Laytham said. "It's just a great venue."
And, the bands and the audience may also have the opportunity to enjoy an added bonus to the venue this year.
Construction on the new performance pavilion in the park is complete and city superintendent Gene Myracle said the only thing left to finish is the installation of water and electrical lines. He said those should be done in the next couple of weeks, weather permitting. Laytham said she hopes at least the Butterfly Brass Band will be able to utilize the pavilion. Until then, bands will be using the park's gazebo.
All of the free concerts are from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Basehor City Park, 158th Street and Leavenworth Road. Guests are encouraged to bring their blankets and lawn chairs and come early to enjoy concessions provided by the Basehor Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 11499.
"It's just always a good time," Laytham said. "We shoot for about 100 people and typically we have over that. It's nice free entertainment and we're glad to do it."