A Record Performance at CommunityAmerica Ballpark

06/04/2007 10:56 AM -

There might be, as the Lovin’ Spoonful song reports, thirteen hundred and fifty-two guitar pickers in Nashville.

But that doesn’t hold a candle to the number of pickers who unpacked their guitars in Kansas City, Kan., on Sunday morning to launch an assault on a Guinness world record.

The idea, hatched by Tanna Guthrie, a morning show host on radio station KYYS (99.7 FM), was to assemble as many guitarists as possible at CommunityAmerica Ballpark to play Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water.” They needed 1,323 to beat the Guinness record for guitarists playing a song simultaneously, which was set in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 1994.

If preliminary numbers hold up, they didn’t just break the record, they demolished it.

More than 1,680 pickers turned out to blast five minutes worth of the song’s memorable guitar riff.

The musical army ranged from kindergartners to senior citizens, with some from as far away as California and Germany.

Basking in sunshine and brandishing both electric and acoustic guitars, they launched into their gig about 15 minutes after noon, accompanied by KY’s Hippo House Band. They played for five minutes, some of them swaying and stomping to the beat and others studiously eyeing their instruments.

“I thought it was going to be kind of cheesy,” said Hannah Koch, a Prairie Village guitar player who came dressed in an elf costume. “But after I got here I got caught up in the excitement of it.”

Guthrie said the organizers had counted 1,683 participants. The station will send participant sign-up lists, photos, videos and copies of media coverage to the Guinness organization to seek official recognition for a record.

“You never know if you can pull something like this off,” Guthrie said.

“Smoke on the Water,” with its iconic chord progression, is a track off Deep Purple’s “Machine Head” album that came out in the early 1970s. Guthrie chose it because it’s one of the first songs guitarists learn.

The event triggered a reunion between Leavenworth resident Jim Stewart and his son, 17-year-old Zach, who lives in Jeffersonville, Ind.

Stewart said he hadn’t seen Zach in two years: “Last year he had stuff to do with his friends. It looked like it was going to be the same this year.”

But Zach agreed to come to Kansas City with his electric guitar when Stewart told him about the “Smoke on the Water” extravaganza.

“It was incredible,” Zach said after the performance. “All these guitarists coming together in one place. It was just magic out there.”

“He’s going to look back on this and know he participated in a world record, but he’ll also remember that he got to see his dad,” Stewart said.

John Cardona, from Hanford, Calif., brought felt-tip pens so people could sign his guitar.

“It was the guitar I learned on,” said Cardona, 41. “It was very dispensable on the way here, but very valuable to me now.”

Tony Garcia of Lee’s Summit said he participated in Sunday’s event to help break the record and show his appreciation for KYYS.

“They were my baby sitter when I was growing up,” said the 40-year-old Garcia. “It was through their station that I became the music fanatic I am today.”

Those in attendance included Kansas City Mayor Pro Tem Bill Skaggs.

“It really showed a lot of enthusiasm for music here in Kansas City,” he said afterward. “People were excited about it. It was a wonderful crowd.”


The Star’s James A. Fussell contributed to this report. To reach Julius A. Karash, call 816-234-4918 or send e-mail to jkarash@kcstar.com.

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