Kansas Heart is a band with a strong bluegrass and Winfield tradition, combining some of the best bluegrass talents from Kansas. Their music is warm and lively, as the band members' musical prowess on traditional acoustic bluegrass instruments is blended with original material and modern vocal arrangements.
The band features Midwestern banjo man, Mike Theobald. In the early 60's Mike and his father Jack helped introduce bluegrass music to Kansas, and they are proud to have formed Kansas' first bluegrass band. They produced several albums, appeared at major bluegrass festivals in the Midwest, including the first Walnut Valley Festival in 1972. They became regulars on the Winfield lineup for several years in the 70's and 80's. In more recent years, Mike and his wife, Vickie Lynn, have made Winfield appearances as part of the group Blue Plate Special, and again in 2001 as part of Kansas Heart. Mike has appeared on many radio & TV programs, including the Nashville Network.
Mike is joined by his wife, Vickie Lynn Theobald, who plays mandolin and sings. She is responsible for many of the vocal arrangements and helps Mike produce the Kansas Heart CDs. She provides solid mandolin playing and warm clear vocals. Vickie Lynn was inspired and motivated by her Dad, Sam Branstetter, a fine singer and songwriter. Vickie has eclectic musical tastes and followed groups like Metallica, Guns'n'Roses, The Eagles, The Marshall Tucker Band and others. Vickie was motivated to start playing the mandolin by her grandmother, who loved tunes like Cripple Creek and Great Speckled Bird. Following her grandmother's funeral, Vickie was inspired to learn the mandolin and pursue traditional music.
Chris Biggs is a recent addition to the band. Chris is known for his powerful guitar playing and rich baritone voice. He placed third on three occasions at the National Flatpick Guitar Championship held each year at the Walnut Valley Festival. He has been a first place winner on both guitar and banjo at the Kansas Picking and Fiddling contest held in Lawrence, Kansas. He was formerly a county prosecutor for 14 years, a candidate for Kansas Attorney General in 2002, and presently serves as the State Securities Commissioner. Chris' recent CD release is entitled "Blue Flannel Friday". It features Chris' multidimensional guitar playing, singing and song writing, and has become a favorite with the Walnut Valley staff. The band performs many of his songs.
Mike, Vickie and Chris and joined by Rick Desko, Overland Park, Kansas, on bass. Rick is a multi-talented musician and a veteran of many Kansas City area bluegrass bands. He performed with Chris and their long-time friend Scott Tichenor for many years. He complements the band with his smooth and solid bass performance. He is also a Winfield veteran, having played banjo with Bluegrass Attack in 1978.
Also joining the band is Bob Atchison of Manhattan, Kansas. Bob adds his talents to the stage on the old-time fiddle. Bob has been playing for about 25 years and was the winner of the 1984 Arkansas State Old Time Fiddle Championship. He enjoys playing a variety of fiddle styles with a preference for Appalachian and Missouri fiddling. Bob has previously been featured as a regular at the Ozark Folk Center in Mountain View, Arkansas and has performed at the Walnut Valley Festival with Ron Wall in 1981 and with Dave Para & Cathy Barton in 1982.
Together, this group presents quality music that is rich, warm, fun and unpretentious: Kansas Heart.*
* Caution: 4 of these band members have been seen playing the banjo!