21st Century Sound Movement

21st Century Sound Movement didn’t quite live up to their futuristic name, but their pile-driving interpretations of the hits of the day did anticipate the hard rock sound that hadn’t yet reached Kansas City shores. An unearthly thunk brought eight-year-old Bill O’Malley to the mouth of a garage on White Street in the Hickman Mills area of South K.C. He talked his way into the drum seat for a few songs, and turned out to be more proficient than the group’s drummer. Brothers Terry (11) and Jack (12) Viles handling bass and guitar duties, respectively, and Ray Bahr took second guitar. They paid their dues in the garage for another few years before coining their long, heady name and running through the usual assortment of talent shows, band battles, and sock hops.

In 1968, when O’Malley was just entering Ruskin High School, the half-decade old group had upgraded to gigs at NCO clubs and other military base recreational stages, wearing matching outfits like their British Invasion idols and toting a slickly rehearsed set of covers. The following year, they took their hard-won Uncle Sam proceeds into Damon Studios on 14th Street and cut a full-length LP of their repertoire, running through it quickly under the bewildered eye of engineer Vic Damon. The slapdash results did manage to preserve the energy and enthusiasm of a 21st Century performance. The material style-hopped from Gerry & the Pacemakers to The Animals to Iron Butterfly to, of course, The Beatles, with everything filtered through their punk-anticipating approach. Shortly after the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art cover photo shoot took place, Jerry Lemberger took over Jack Viles’ guitar slot. Another session commenced in 1970, this time at Cavern, and generated only enough material to issue on two sides of a Cave 45, and only enough room, apparently, to list a truncated version of their name, “21st Century Sound.” Tragedy struck in 1971, when O’Malley was a senior in high school. He was hit by a car on the way home from school and spent nearly a month in a coma. The band drifted apart and eventually moved on to families, vocations, and other 20th century concerns.

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