Missouri has long boasted of being the home of two of America’s greatest artists, Mark Twain and Chuck Berry. However, it wasn’t until The Rainmakers thundered into the national music spotlight in 1986, had anyone combined the guitar power of Berry with the social wit of Twain into a unique brand of Missouri rock n’ roll.
Originally formed in 1983 as a three-piece bar band known as Steve, Bob & Rich, these Kansas City rockers became an instant favorite throughout the Midwest. Soon, fans were standing in line to see this trio they described as “energetic,” “intense,” but most importantly “fun.” Within months of finishing their first independent release, Steve, Bob & Rich” had signed a multi-album contract with Mercury/Polygram Records, added a fourth member, and had changed their name to The Rainmakers.
Heralded as “America’s Great Next Band” by Newsday, The Rainmakers were soon drenched in critical acclaim. Feature articles in Newsweek, Rolling Stone, CMJ, USA Today and others poured in singing the praises of this hard working Midwest band who provided new life to a traditional rock format.
Critics particularly enjoyed the unique writing style of Bob Walkenhorst, whose talent for choosing unusual and sometimes controversial subjects provided an eye-opening perspective of life, sprinkled with sarcastic humor. The Rainmakers received notoriety for their songs’ lyrical content, including Music Connection’s award for Lyric Line of the Year: “The generation that would change the world is still looking for its car keys,” and in the unlikely source of author Stephen King, who twice quoted lyrics from Rainmakers songs in his best seller The Tommyknockers and again in his 1991 novel Gerald’s Game.
But success did not stop at the U.S. borders, as European countries supported the band increasingly with each new release. The song “Let My People Go-Go” gave the Rainmakers their first Top-20 single on the British charts. Critics abroad sang the band’s praises, with feature articles in New Musical Express, Kerrang, Rock Power, etc. Frequently, The Rainmakers could be spotted on European television with live appearances on Top Of The Pops, The Tube, and video play on MTV Europe.
European concert dates grew in number each year, with The Rainmakers often enjoying headline status on festival bills. Their reputation as an electrifying concert act eventually led to the recording of a live album at a sold-out show in Oslo, Norway for release solely in Scandinavian markets.
In 1990, after four albums, five videos, 500,000+ records sold, and concert dates too numerous to count, The Rainmakers put band business on hold to allow time for their personal lives and agendas. In 1994, the band returned to the studio to record a new album, entitled Flirting With The Universe – an album which achieved GOLD certification in Norway within two months of release.
Overwhelmed by the response to Flirting…, The Rainmakers reemerged from the studio in 1996 with Skin, an album taking aim at pornography and its societal impact. Until Skin, all albums had the same personnel: Bob Walkenhorst (vocals, guitar), Steve Phillips (guitar, vocals), Rich Ruth (bass, vocals), and Pat Tomek (drums). However for this album and the subsequent tour Rich was replaced by Michael Bliss (bass, vocals).
In 2010, after returning to his old stomping grounds in Norway with the duo project Walkenhorst & Porter, Bob Walkenhorst saw that his music hadn’t been forgotten by the old fans. 2011 would mark the 25th anniversary of The Rainmakers’ debut album, and Bob saw the possibility of making it a special celebration with a reunion of the band.
Original member Steve Phillips was too busy with his band The Elders, so new member Jeff Porter took over on guitar/vocals and the occasional piano for the new album 25 On, recorded in January 2011. On March 5, 2011 The Rainmakers were inducted into the Kansas Music Hall of Fame. A spring tour in Norway followed and the band continues to play around the US in their old stomping grounds in the center of the country. The Rainmakers returned to Norway in January–February 2012 and the band is currently booking festival dates for late June, as well as more Midwestern dates. Some things are too much fun to quit.