It doesn’t take much searching to find out that at one time, Kansas City was on the proverbial map as one of the top Midwest cities churning out a revolving cast of quality powerpop and early punk. To get a glimpse of what was happening in the late ’70s, look no further than the iconic Titan! Records, whose catalog contains releases from a handful of Midwestern underground sensations including Gary Charlson, The Boys, J.P. McClain and The Gems, to name but a few. Kansas City Star writer Tim Finn posted an extensive feature on the label that included interviews with former artists and owners on his Back to Rockville blog around the time the label received its due documentation from Chicago’s Numero Group in the form of a two-disc compilation chronicling the label’s entire output. These days, the owners of Titan! can be seen hosting an occasional pop-up record store, a single-day event at which they sell off thousands of records they have accumulated over the years for only a few dollars a piece.
Looking beyond artists that were released by a legitimate label, you may uncover KC’s The Leopards, a band known for self-releasing their own records years before it was ever a preference. The band that released the extent of their discography on their own Moon Records (not to be confused with longtime ska label Moon/Moon Ska), encapsulated a sound that was not only punk, or powerpop, or even new wave, but pulled in influences from an amalgamation of artists that often preceded the band by decades. The Leopards released three singles prior to their debut LP, 1977’s Kansas City Slickers, which is said to have only received a pressing of 1,000 copies, and there is no authority on how many of those have survived. The band went on to try their luck at fame outside of the metro area, further releasing their own Kinks-flavored combination of pop, punk, garage, and psych well into the ’80s, even getting a fair amount of radio play in the larger markets. But likely none of their output will ever match the locally groundbreaking sounds present on Slickers.
Enter NYC-based re-issue label Sing Sing Records, already with a remarkable roster of releases from both the sadly forgotten and those that have experienced their own late-blooming glory with the ever-growing KBD-hungry sea of collectors around the world. The label has plans to re-issue Kansas City Slickers this July, with a cover that has only been slightly retouched and features the Sing Sing catalog number in place of Moon’s. I will attempt to post an update when the pre-orders go live, but unless you are one of the lucky few who can find the original for under $50, you can plan on spending in the lower three digits if you are attempting to track down the Moon-released version. With the re-issue on the horizon, I will not post a link to download the album directly, but you can find it across the many mod, powerpop and early punk blogs that are out there.