Wichita Public Library

Wichita has a long and proud history as a baseball town-- from club games in the 1870s, to serving as the home of the NBC Tournament since its beginning in 1935, to the national championship success of Wichita State University. But last month marked the anniversary of a lost piece of Wichita baseball history that almost seems too strange to be true: A game in 1925 between the Wichita Monrovians-- an all African-American professional team-- and the Wichita chapter of the Ku Klux Klan.

So my family went out of town for a week and Wichita had a whole lot of rain during that time. There was the usual indicator of too much moisture in Wichita yards: a mushrooming bumper crop of political yard signs.

The recent death of Tom Leahy Jr., better known as Major Astro to Kansas baby boomers, caused my mind to rocket into the past. The good major wore his astronaut jumpsuit while hosting a daily afterschool kiddie show on local TV from 1962 to 1973. Wally Gator, Touche Turtle and Felix the Cat cartoons were beamed earthward to all the little tykes watching their rabbit-eared TV sets. Many were, no doubt, clutching their membership cards to the Major Astro Club.

Had a garage sale the other day. Swore I’d never have another one 2 sales ago. But stuff just kept piling up and something had to be done. So my wife, my daughter and I spent a long 90-degree June day saying over and over, “Yes, we’ll take 50 cents instead of 75 cents for that.”

I was going to do another commentary today about British Petroleum’s oil massacre of the Gulf of Mexico. But when I sat down to write it and began thinking about the leak which is a mile below the surface of the water, my thoughts were interrupted by a BP official who burst into my brain and quickly waved me away from the scene.

“You can’t consider this at all,” he ordered. “This entire area of thought is off-limits to anyone except employees of BP. Cease all mental cogitation on this subject immediately.”

The amazing thing about the tragic BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico for me, is not that it happened. It’s not the gargantuan size of the spill itself. And it’s not that the three corporations involved are each blaming the other. What’s unbelievable about this disaster is the fact that the drilling industry had no plan for what to do in the event that such a spill took place. They seem to be scrambling and improvising in a way that reminds me of a three-year-old who shattered Mom’s favorite flower vase all over the kitchen floor while trying to get to the cookie jar.

There’s a local businessman who’s running for Representative Todd Tiahrt’s congressional seat.  This guy is apparently just nuts about me. He really really really wants to be my pal. I know this because he’s tried three times to “friend” me on Facebook. Each time I turn him down and it never hurts his feelings. He just comes back again with another request. He’s positively smitten with me, I can only surmise.

Spring is such a generous season. Without our having to lift a finger, nature showers us with spectacular abundance every April. It didn’t require a public vote on which trees would bud first. There was no legislation passed stipulating that by a certain date all tulips would burst open. The enthusiastic birdsong outside our kitchen windows every morning now does not have to be critiqued by a panel of celebrity judges.

My ego can beat up your ego. My team can beat your team. My political party can beat your political party. My country can beat your country. My planet can beat your planet. My galaxy can…well, we’re not quiet that far yet, but the time will come.

Bragging rights. We humans love ‘em. Gotta be the best, the biggest, the baddest. In a conversation with a friend recently I found myself saying this about the recent basketball season: “Thank goodness for the Emporia State women’s team! National Division II champs!”


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Commentary & Podcasts

Jordan Kirtley / KMUW

We've Entered A Language Penumbra | YSIW

This episode, we're back to words you might think you know, but that you just might be using incorrectly — brought to you by the letter "P".

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KMUW Music

Monday, May 27

The final Monday of every month, we present Global Village at the Savannah Music Festival, a monthly concert series showcasing top world music artists and groups who have appeared at the prestigious annual event that takes place each spring in Savannah, Georgia.

This time, in conjunction with the May Drum feature, it’s one of the world’s most accomplished percussionists and an artist who helped define modern tabla playing, Zakir Hussain. We’ll hear him with two equally accomplished and eclectic musicians, popular banjoist Bela Fleck and award-winning bassist Edgar Meyer, in a program that combines jazz, classical, Americana, and Indian music into one seamless and entrancing whole.

Tuesday, May 28

It’s a Soukous Special this time in the Global Village as we highlight the popular Latin-flavored, guitar-laced Congolese dance music. We’ll hear the legendary band leaders Franco and Tabu Ley Rochereau, Paris-based artists Kanda Bongo Man and the Four Stars, the ‘Queen of Soukous’ M’Bilia Bel, and a marvelous new Afro-Colombian project from Dizzy Mandjeku and Ale Kuma that revives the Latin/African style in a fresh new way.

Wednesday, May 29

It’s ‘Tea for Two’ this time in the Global Village with a show devoted to duos – twosomes from the same musical traditions, and also from different cultures who create an intriguing new blend of sounds. We’ll hear guitarists Ali Farka Toure and Ry Cooder, Talking Head David Byrne with Brazilian legend Caetano Veloso, kora player Ballake Sissoko with cellist Vincent Segal, cellist Matthieu Saglio with flamenco guitarist Jose ‘El Piru,’ singers June Tabor and Maddie Prior, the father and son duo of Toumani and Sidiki Diabate, and more.

Thursday, May 30

In conjunction with the May Drum Month feature, Global Village presents a special show to mark the birthday of legendary Latin jazz and Latin rock percussionist Armando Peraza. We’ll hear one of his earliest recordings with hep cat Slim Gaillard, along with work he did with Mongo Santamaria, Cal Tjader, Alice Coltrane, Santana (where he was a key part of the band for over two decades), and from the only album he did under his own name.

Friday, May 31

Global Village wraps up the May Drum Month feature with a birthday salute to widely-recorded Brazilian percussionist Paulinho da Costa with music he did with Bobby McFerrin (just named a 2020 NEA Jazz Master), Eliane Elias, the Crusaders, and Joe Pass.  We’ll also wrap up with music from drummers Steven Kroon, Tony Allen, Bobby Matos and John Santos.  Plus new music from Brazil’s Sociedade Recreativa, Brazilian-Portuguese duo Coladera, Brazilian guitarist Carlos Barbosa-Lima, and new generation French Afrobeat band Monkuti.

Aaron Bowen

A benefit concert in celebration of Wichita musician Jenny Wood is set for this weekend. 

Courtesy photo

Summer Daze, a one-night music festival at Wave, will feature eight bands from Kansas.

The bill is a collaborative effort between Trever Taylor of The Skeptics and Colton Cox of Afro Jim. Six other bands will perform at the 18-and-over concert, including Wichita's Fairweather Friends, In;Retrospect and Kapybara. Lawrence groups Stone Grower, The Dear Misses and Sweet Ascent will also join in.

The concert is Friday, May 24, at the Wave, 650 E. Second St. Taylor and Cox recently stopped by the KMUW studios to discuss the concert.

Album Cover Art

Sunday, May 26

 Hear new music from Lasperanza. The R&B band’s new album Seeds features updated versions of familiar soul tunes. Guest vocalist Kayleigh O’Neill brings a fresh, funky twist to Michael Jackson’s 1979 song “Working Day And Night.”

Album Cover Art

Wednesday, May 22

Keep On is the sophomore release from Memphis-based soul/blues/R&B group Southern Avenue. Featuring sisters Tikyra (drums, vocals) and Tierinii Jackson (vocals) as well as Israeli-born guitarist Ori Naftaly, the group (rounded out by keyboardist Jeremy Powell) moves beyond its city of origin on this new release, creating a series of songs that suggest the future of Southern music is alive and well but open to contemporary influences. Listen for selections from this latest release as well as music from Nils Lofgren’s Blue With Lou, featuring tunes he co-wrote with the late Lou Reed.

Thursday, May 23

Max Weinberg joined Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band in the 1970s and became an integral member of that group. In the 1990s he served as bandleader for Late Night with Conan O’Brien and, later, The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien we’ll hear some of the key performances from his career on this episode as well as selections from Some Girls, the 1978 LP from the Rolling Stones.

Friday, May 24 

We celebrate Bob Dylan’s 78th birthday with selections from throughout his career as well as covers from The Replacements, John Martyn, Shelby Lynn & Allison Moorer plus music from Robyn Hitchcock’s 2002 Dylan tribute, Robyn Sings.

Saturday, May 25

John Bonham is considered one of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll drummers of all time. When he died in 1980, at the age of 32, he left behind a relatively small body of work, the then-latest release, Led Zeppelin’s In Through The Out Door which demonstrated his finesse and power behind the kit. We’ll hear selections from that release on this episode as well as music featuring Bonham’s son, Jason.

Monday, May 27

Established as a holiday to remember persons who have died while in service to the United States military, Memorial Day is observed on the final Monday of May. On this episode of Strange Currency we’ll hear from musicians notable for their service in the military, including Jimi Hendrix and Mothers of Invention member Jimmy Carl Black.

Tuesday, May 28

Though known primarily as a guitarist, Kentucky-born musician Adrian Belew got his start on percussion. We’ll hear selections that feature him in both capacities as well as music from his former King Crimson bandmate Bill Bruford.

Thursday, May 30

Billy Ficca had played drums in a number of capacities, although perhaps nowhere as brilliantly as on the 1977 debut from the band Television, Marquee Moon. We’ll hear selections from that release as well as from the Lawrence, Kansas-based outfit The Ants.

Friday, May 31 

First known as The Bangs, The Bangles became one of the most notable pop groups of the 1980s, featuring drumming from Debbie Peterson. We’ll hear selections from that group as well as music from Bikini Kill, featuring Tobi Vail, who spray-painted the phrase “Kurt smells like Teen Spirit” (Teen Spirit was a deodorant) on her then-boyfriend Kurt Cobain’s bedroom wall in the 1990s, giving Nirvana the title of a song that became an anthem of a generation.

Sometimes helping is as easy as... shopping.



Carla Eckels/KMUW

Retiring After 28 Years, Transgender North High Teacher Looks Forward To Next Chapter

After nearly 30 years of teaching band, orchestra and jazz at Wichita’s North High School, Stephanie Byers plans to hang up her baton and retire this month. The longtime educator has seen many changes over the decades — including her own personal transition from male to female.

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