Shooting Star is a rock band from Kansas City, Missouri.
The band formed in the late 1970s. After gaining popularity in the Kansas City area, Shooting Star became the first American group to sign with Virgin Records. They recorded their 1979 debut album in England with producer Gus Dudgeon, best known for his work with Elton John and David Bowie. The band gained national exposure when a number of songs garnered moderate air-play on album-oriented rock radio stations in the US.
The initial lineup was: Van McLain on guitar and vocals; Charles Waltz on violin, keyboards and vocals; Bill Guffey on keyboards; Gary West on guitar and vocals; Ron Verlin on bass, and Steve Thomas on drums.
In 1976 the band persuaded fellow musician Gary West (born Gary Hodgden) to join them as a singer and songwriting partner for Van. Gary, with his brother Ron West, had been a member of the premier Kansas City rock band of the '60s, The Chesmann Square. After The Chesmann dissolved in 1974, Ron West formed the band Missouri and Gary West moved with the Chesmann's lead guitarist Jim McAllister to New York City. There they formed the group The Beckies with songwriter Michael Brown, formerly of the group The Left Banke, and former Kansas Citian Scott Trusty. The Beckies released one album on Sire Records. Upon Gary's return to Kansas City, he and Van began songwriting in earnest.
In 1977, they shortened their name to Shooting Star. And with Ron Verlin on bass, they added Steve Thomas on drums, Bill Guffey on keyboards and Charles Waltz on violin, keyboards and vocals. They started recording demos in Gary's garage, all the while playing gigs around the Midwest. After saving enough money and putting a press kit together, they tried to secure another record deal in New York City. Through connections that Gary had made while a member of The Beckies, the band booked a showcase at the now infamous punk rock club CBGB's. The representative for a New York management firm was in the crowd that night and offered them a contract. With a management deal, Shooting Star returned to Kansas City to continue writing new material.
Six months later, in 1978, the band's management arranged for them to play another showcase at the famous New York club Tracks. Three record companies,Atlantic Records, Virgin Records and A&M Records, made offers to sign the band. Virgin, then a small British record label, prevailed. The label was looking for a rock group to break into the US market, and Shooting Star became the first American band on their roster.
In May 1979 the band returned to London to record their eponymous debut album with producer Gus Dudgeon of Elton John fame. The album Shooting Star was released in January 1980, and the band embarked on a national tour opening for Robin Trower and Triumph. With their debut the band gained popularity with the songs "You Got What I Need," "Tonight," "Bring It On" and "Last Chance." "Wild In the Streets", a B-side release, was a staple of live show encores; the song was eventually released on CD as a bonus track.
With radio success, Shooting Star returned to the studio in 1981 to record Hang on for Your Life with producer Dennis McKay. The album generated FM airplay with the songs "Flesh and Blood," "Breakout," and the title track. "Hollywood" was released on a 45 and climbed the Billboard Hot 100. Meanwhile, the album logged a surprising 30 weeks on Billboard's album chart and sold a respectable 200,000 US copies. In support the album, the band toured extensively with ZZ Top, Cheap Trick, Todd Rundgren, Jefferson Starship and Journey. They appeared on the radio shows Rock Line, King Biscuit Flower Hour (KBFH), The Sourceand Westwood One. They also began headlining showcase clubs across the United States, setting attendance records as they went.
In 1982 the band began recording their third album, III Wishes, at the legendary Caribou Ranch studio near Boulder, Colorado. At the helm was Journey producer Kevin Elson. Without missing a beat, they returned to touring with such acts as REO Speedwagon, John Mellencamp, Jefferson Starship, Kansas and others.
1983 saw their continued collaboration with Kevin Elson on their fourth album, Burning. This record produced radio hits "Straight Ahead," "Winner" and "Train Rolls On." After touring in support of this record, the band experienced the departure of bassist Ron Verlin, who had become disenchanted with the music industry.
In 1984 bassist Norm Dahlor was recruited to take over for Ron, and the band began to record their fifth album, Silent Scream, with producer Ron Nevison. It was released in 1985 and produced the radio hit "Summer Sun." The band's accompanying music video was popular on MTV and other video channels. After completing this record, the band was asked to record two songs for the movie soundtrack Up the Creek. The songs were "Get Ready Boy" and "Take It." Van, Norm and Steve were also the backing band on Ian Hunter's single "Great Expectations." The band then toured with Heart, Bryan Adams and ZZ Top.
In July 1989, V&R Records, the band's own label, acquired the rights to release The Best of Shooting Star. This release marked the first time that any Shooting Star record appeared on CD and included two previously unreleased songs, "Christmas Together," a 1985 single which had been played on Kansas City radio, and "Touch Me Tonight," a new song by Van which peaked on the Billboard Hot 100 at #67.
With the success of The Best Of and fans' desire for new material, Shooting Star was offered a new recording contract with Enigma Records. Returning to the group were original members Ron Verlin, Van McLain, and Steve Thomas. The other members were Dennis Laffoon on keyboards and vocalist Keith Mitchell. Charles Waltz was originally slated to rejoin but had moved to California and was busy with another band, Toledo Waltz, while Gary West had left the music business entirely. Thomas played drums on "Touch Me Tonight" but departed shortly afterwards as he was unable to commit to music full-time, and he was subsequently replaced by Rod Lincoln. In Los Angeles, the band made a video for "Touch Me Tonight." It received extensive airplay on MTV, making their request chart, and rose to #67 on the Billboard Hot 100. This was the highest charting single of the band's career. The song also appeared in the Dolph Lundgrenmovie I Come in Peace.
In 1991 the band released their sixth effort, It's Not Over. During the recording of this project, Enigma Records went bankrupt and the group decided to finish it on their own. Released on their own V & R label, the album received critical acclaim throughout Europe and helped broaden the Shooting Star audience.