Several Pittsburg State University alumni were recently honored for an unusual extracurricular activity: rocking out.
The Sensational Showmen, a rock and roll band based in Parsons and Pittsburg and active throughout Kansas in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, was inducted into the Kansas Music Hall of Fame on Saturday, March 7, in Lawrence.
“It’s very humbling for us, because it’s nothing we ever expected,” said Chris Cruz, who played trumpet and rhythm guitar in the band and graduated from PSU in 1974 with a degree in music education. “I thought we sounded good back then, but there are better and more well-known bands that haven’t got in, so we were very fortunate to be put in the first time we were put on the ballot.”
Cruz said the band became a popular regional performer thanks to representation from ABA bookings, a company also responsible for acts such as Ike and Tina Turner. Pittsburg became home base for the group when several members started their studies at Pitt State.
Cruz became interested in the Kansas Music Hall of Fame when he was asked to play trumpet with Spider and the Crabs at their induction ceremony.
“When I got on stage with them, I said, ‘My God, this is tremendous,’” Cruz said.
Feeling a rush of nostalgia, Cruz thought about his time with the Showmen and decided the time might be right for a reunion.
“I finally found all our members and invited them all to play,” Cruz said. “We decided that if the right opportunity came for us to unite, we would play a reunion concert.”
Cruz discovered that nearly all of the original members were still in the area. The ones that could make it reunited for a concert at JB’s Sports Bar and Grill in Pittsburg last April, playing a set with another band from the same era.
“Everybody that I talked to after the concert not only complimented the band, but also complimented every member of the band,” Cruz said.
Feeling good about playing music together again, Cruz decided to lobby for the induction of the Showmen into the Hall of Fame. To his surprise, they were accepted.
“We were very humbled and honored,” Cruz said. “If you look at the list and you look at the inductees, we’re the first from Parsons and the first from Pittsburg.”
Cruz said that the band is now back together and booking gigs, including the Katy Days in Parsons and a United Way benefit concert.
“We will ride this as long as we can and are able to simply because right now it’s a lot of fun,” Cruz said. “It’s been a great year for those band members to relive those experiences.”
Past and present members of the Sensational Showmen who attended PSU include Steve Hartman, drums and vocals; Tony Thiebaut, lead vocals; Tom Broadhurst, bass guitar; Mike Fitzmorris, lead guitar and vocals; Bob Golay, keyboards and vocals, and Chris Cruz, trumpet and rhythm guitar. Other members included Jeff Crane, lead vocals and trombone; Jerry Cruz, trumpet; and Bill Collins, bass guitar.
For more information on the Kansas Music Hall of Fame, visit http://ksmusichalloffame.org.
©2009 Pittsburg State University