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Kix helps kick off Washington County Ag Expo & Fair

Kix helps kick off Washington County Ag Expo & Fair

Even after 40 years, members of Kix promise they still know how to put on a show.

Those who want to see the national band with local ties can do that at the Washington County Ag Expo and Fair, Washington County Agricultural Education Center, south of Hagerstown. The band, which achieved considerable popularity during the 1980s and has continued to record and tour nationally, is scheduled to play at 8 p.m. Saturday, July 15. The Ag Expo kicks off Saturday and continues through Saturday, July 22. 

“We are looking very forward to it. We haven’t done a show in Hagerstown for four or five years,” said Steve Whiteman, Kix lead vocalist, during a telephone interview from his Hagerstown home. “It’s going to be a lot of fun. Everybody I see says, ‘I’ll see you Saturday!’ I’m hoping it’s going to be a big ol’ crowd.”

Washington County Ag Expo and Fair is a much anticipated full week of fun every year for many residents of the region, featuring a carnival, musical entertainment, bull riding, truck and tractor pulls, a demolition derby, animal exhibits and more. See the sidebar for a highlight of the Ag Expo and Fair’s events. 

Emergence 

Whiteman was born and raised in Piedmont, W.Va. He remained there for 22 years until he became associated with Kix. Originally formed during 1977 in Hagerstown by Ronnie Younkins, Brian Forsythe and Donnie Purnell, the band was called Shooze, then eventually the Generators and then Kix.

Whiteman had been a drummer since he was a child and had played in bands around his hometown as a drummer and vocalist.

“I was the kid who locked himself in the bedroom and learned every song I could find. I would tape the Casey Kasem Top 40 every week and play along with it over and over. I loved music so much. I was so passionate about it,” Whiteman said.

He heard about a band that was looking for someone who could sing and play drums.

“Those guys knew I had been playing drums and doing a little bit of front work. They came to a gig in La Vale, (Md.), to check me out and they offered me the job,” he said. “They had aspirations like nobody else did. They talked about doing original songs and getting a record deal and it intrigued me. For me, it was stay in my little dinky town or take a chance. It was a no-brainer.”

The band played covers of acts like AC/DC, Aerosmith and Led Zeppelin while it worked on and introduced originals.

“When I moved to Hagerstown, these guys were dead serious. They were a whole new league. When we were not playing, we were practicing. It was not just a job, it was a lifestyle,” Whiteman said. “They had goals to get in front of as many people as possible and to get a record deal. We played relentlessly and that’s what we did.”

By 1981, Kix had signed a deal with Atlantic Records. They released their self-titled debut album, Kix, featuring “Atomic Bombs,” “Heartache,” “Contrary Mary” and other songs. But Whiteman said it took Atlantic four albums “to figure us out.”

“We thought the day we signed the record deal was the biggest day of our lives. But they didn’t really promote us, we were not getting on the radio. We played for the same fans over and over,” he said.

Finally, with the release of “Blow My Fuse” in 1988, the band hit a new level.

“They got behind that record. That was definitely the highlight of our career and it took us around the world,” he said.

The power ballad “Don’t Close Your Eyes” was the bands biggest song, peaking at No. 11 on Billboard Hot 100.

The grunge era followed shortly thereafter, leaving many hard rock bands behind, Whiteman said. Kix released two more records, but did not achieve the same success.

“The Seattle scene kicked us out of the party. It started to climb the charts and we fell off of them. Nirvana, Stone Temple Pilots came along. MTV didn’t want to play us. We smelled it, we felt it,” Whiteman said.

Kix moved to a smaller label hoping for more support, but the genre was “flushed,” he said.

“In 1995, we played our last show in Frederick, (Md.),” he said. “We didn’t play again until 2003.”

Whiteman continued to support his family through music, teaching vocals and playing gigs with a band called Funny Money.

“It kept me afloat,” he said.

Resurgence

During 2008, after Kix had been playing again regionally, Whiteman received a call from agent Sullivan Bigg.

“He gave me a call and said, ‘I’m a huge fan.’ He said to give him a try. Next thing I know he had us playing huge festivals,” Whiteman said.

Three-day Oklahoma music festival, Rocklahoma, was a success for Kix.

“It was our first time out of our comfort zone. We knew we could do well in the Baltimore, Washington area. I thought we might stay here, make a little extra money. I was happy with that,” he said. “But at Rocklahoma, we received recognition and ovation and it got us more and more gigs and it just kept going. I think we are playing 40 or 45 gigs this year.”

The Kix lineup, along with Whiteman, is Brian “Damage” Forsythe, Ronnie “10/10” Younkins, Jimmy “Chocolate” Chalfant, and Mark Schenker. The band will plays songs old and new, which Whiteman said loyal fans of the area will recognize.

Chambersburg, Pa.-based classic rock radio station 94.3 WQCM still plays songs from each Kix record, Whiteman said.

“Fans here are privy to just about everything we have played – stuff that was on MTV and the radio, and stuff from our newer 2014 album,” he said.

Whiteman attributes the ongoing success of the band to several factors.

“One thing is that everybody has taken pretty good care of themselves and still looks pretty good. They can put on a good performance onstage,” he said. “The music is good and catchy and as well-received today as it was 20 or 25 years ago.”

Perhaps the largest factor, he said, is that the band is fun.

“We are not out there with clenched fists trying to out cool anybody. We like to have fun, get people to sing along, tell a couple of dirty jokes, just do things that get their attention,” Whiteman said. “We have always been known as a fun live band. As long as people are still enjoying it, we are still enjoying it and doing it well, I see no reason to stop.”

If you go ...

WHAT: Kix concert
WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday, July 15 
WHERE: Washington County Agricultural Educational Center, 7303 Sharpsburg Pike, south of Hagerstown at the track
COST: $10 advance general admission; $40 pit tickets; $100 meet and greet and pit ticket
INFORMATION: Go to AgExpoandFair.org

 

Washington County Ag Expo and Fair schedule highlights 

Click here for the full schedule of events

Saturday, July 15
  • 8 a..m. to closing — $10 general admission $10 per person; free for ages 5 and younger free
  • 9 a.m. — 4-H/ FFA, open class longhorn show, AC&T Show arena
  • Noon — Open class home arts open to public, building 8
  • 12:30 to 3 p.m. — King Arthur Flour Baking Contest, building 8
  • 1, 3, 5, 7 and 8:30 p.m —  Su Wee Pig and Duck races 
  • 1 to 2 p.m. — Apron Contest entries, building 8
  • 1 to 4 p.m. — Rural Heritage Museum open 
  • 3 p.m. — Apron Contest and King Arthur Baking Contest awards; daily Ag on the Moo-ve, Ag Adventures tent
  • 4:30 p.m. — 4-H/FFA cake auction, AC&T arena
  • 5 p.m. — track grandstand open
  • 6 p.m. — Ag expo queen contest, AC& T arena
  • 8 p.m. — KIX concert, track  
Sunday, July 16
  • Noon to closing — $3 per person; free for ages 5 and younger free (bring a can of food item one per person and receive free general admission)
  • 5 to closing — $10 track per person; free for ages 5 and younger
  • 9 a.m. — Church service, Red Men Pavilion; daily Moo-Ve, Ag Adventures tent 
  • 11 a.m. — 4-H/FFA dairy steer show, AC&T Show arena
  • 1, 3, 5, 7 and 8:30 p.m —  Su Wee Pig and Duck races 
  • 1 to 4 p.m. — Rural Heritage Museum open 
  • 2 p.m. — 4-H/FFA Open Class Cat Show, band tent
  • 3 p.m. — 4-H/FFA Open Class Meat Goat Show, AC&T arena
  • 4 to 9 p.m. — Meet The Blaine Crusher Monster Truck, track
  • 5 to 7 p.m. — Fertile Soil, band tent
  • 7 p.m. — Stoney Roberts Demolition Derby, track
Monday, July 17
  • 9 a.m. - 4-H/FFA Swine Show, AC&T Show arena
  • 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. — Ag Literacy trailer
  • 11 am. — Model Horse Show, band tent
  • Noon to closing — $3 per person; free for ages 5 and younger free; $8 per person, unlimited carnival rides wristband
  • 1, 3, 5, 7 and 8:30 p.m —  Su Wee Pig and Duck races 
  • 5 p.m. — Track grandstand open
  • 6  p.m —Babies on Parade, AC&T Show arena; 4-H/FFA Rabbit and Cavy Show, rabbit tent; youth tractor pull, track
  • 6:30 p.m — Don Schwartz Memorial Farm Stock Tractor Pull, track
  • 6 and 8 p.m. — Amish Outlaws, band tent
Tuesday, July 18
  • 9 a.m — 4-H/FFA Horse and Pony English Show, horse auction
  • 9 a.m. — Dairy cattle showmanship, AC&T arena
  • 10 a.m. — 4-H/FFA and Open Class Dairy Cattle Show, AC&T show arena
  • 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. — Rural Heritage Museum open 
  • Noon to 5 p.m. — free general admission to those 65 and older, excludes carnival rides
  • Noon to closing — $3 per person; free for ages 5 and younger free
  • 1, 3, 5, 7 and 8:30 p.m —  Su Wee Pig and Duck races 
  • 3 p.m. Carnival rides and midway opens 
  • 3 to 9 p.m. — Chee Chee the Clown, strolling
  • 5 p.m. — 4H/FFA Beef showmanship and market steer show, AC&T show arena
  • 7 to 9 p.m. — Staff Infection, band tent 
Wednesday, July 19
  • 8 a.m. — 4-H/FFA Turkey, Waterfowl and Poultry Show, poultry tent
  • 9 a.m. — 4-H/FFA Tractor Operations Contest, lower field
  • Noon to closing — $3 per person; free 5 and younger;  $8 per person, unlimited carnival rides wristband; track, $10 per person, free for ages 5 and younger
  • Noon — carnival rides and midway open
  • Noon — 4-H/FFA Lamb and Sheep Showmanship, followed immediately open class breeding sheep show, AC&T show arena
  • 1, 3, 5, 7 and 8:30 p.m —  Su Wee Pig and Duck races 
  • 5 p.m. — 4-H/FFA market lamb show, AC&T show arena
  • 5 p.m. — track stand opens
  • 7 p.m. — Don and the Starlighters, band tent
  • 7:30 p.m. bull riding, track
Thursday, July 20
  • 9 a.m. — 4-H/FFA Horse and Pony Horsemanship Skillathon, MIHI Pavilion; 4-H/FFA/Open Diary Goat Showmanship and show, AC&T Show Arena
  • 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. — With Hands and Heart Antietam Fiber Artists rug hooking, building 9
  • Noon to closing — $5 per car for the car load; $8 for unlimited carnival rides
  • Noon — Showmanship Challenge
  • 1, 3, 5, 7 and 8:30 p.m —  Su Wee Pig and Duck races 
  • 3 p.m. to closing — carnival rides and midway open
  • 6 p.m. — 4-H/FFA Market Sale, AC&T Show Arena
Friday, July 21
  • 9 a.m. — 4-H/FFA Horse and Pony Western Show, horse arena
  • 10 a.m. — Dog show, dog show ring
  • Noon to closing — $3 per person; free 5 and younger;  $8 per person, unlimited carnival rides wristband
  • 1 p.m. — 4-H/FFA Beef Heifer Show, AC&T Show Arena
  • 1, 3, 5, 7 and 8:30 p.m —  Su Wee Pig and Duck races 
  • 3 p.m. — 4-H/FFA Fashion Show, band tent
  • 3 p.m. — carnival ride and midway open 
  • 5 p.m. — track opens; $5 per person, free for ages 5 and younger
  • 7 to 9 p.m. — Tall, Blond & Thirsty, band tent
  • 7:30 p.m. — Diesel Dirt Drag, track 
Saturday, July 22
  • Noon — $3 per person; free 5 and younger;  $8 per person, unlimited carnival rides wristband
  • 1 to 4 p.m. — Rural Heritage Museum Open
  • 2 p.m. — Barnyard Olympics, ages 3 to 9 p.m., AC&T Show Arena
  • 3 p.m. — Carnival rides and midway open
  • 3, 5, 7 and 8:30 p.m —  Su Wee Pig and Duck races 
  • 5 p.m. — track opens; $10 per person, free for ages 5 and younger 
  • 7 p.m. — Truck and tractor pull, track
  • 7 to 9 p.m. — Michael Christopher Band, band tent

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