William Trowbridge, an emeritus professor of English who spent 27 years teaching at Northwest Missouri State University, and Northwest alumnus Bob Walkenhorst, lead singer for The Rainmakers, will present an evening of music and poetry at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 11, at the Ron Houston Center for the Performing Arts.
Trowbridge, who lives in Lee’s Summit, was appointed last year by Gov. Jay Nixon to serve as Missouri’s third poet laureate. Now halfway through his two-year term, he is traveling around the state speaking and reading poetry at workshops and gatherings hosted by writers groups and colleges.
Walkenhorst, a noted songwriter and painter, was a founding member of the Maryville bar band that would later become The Rainmakers, a Kansas City-based group that produced a string of hits in the late 1980s and early 1990s in the United States and Europe.
The Rainmakers' self-titled 1986 debut album was hailed by Newsweek magazine as "the most auspicious debut album of the year" and reached No. 87 on the U.S. Billboard album chart.
One of the group's more famous fans was horror novelist Stephen King, who quoted lyrics from Rainmakers songs in two of his books, "The Tommyknockers" and "Gerald's Game."
The Northwest performance will feature Trowbridge reading selected poems from his 2011 collection, "Ship of Fool," which consists of poems about the literary archetype of the fool, a recurrent motif dating at least to the Middle Ages and embodied in the work of such performers as Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, Woody Allen and Steve Martin.
Walkenhorst, a former student of Trowbridge's, will orchestrate the readings with an assortment of sound effects, original songs and cover tunes.
"Bob’s a great musician," Trowbridge said. "He's sort of riffing in the background while I’m reading, and then he comes in with a relevant song."
"I'm enjoying it," Missouri's poet laureate said of his ongoing travels. "I was worried it would take up a lot of time, and I wouldn’t be able to write. But that hasn’t been the case. I enjoy visiting various parts of the state and parts of the country, and I have a good time giving readings and workshops."
Walkenhorst and Trowbridge teamed up after encountering each other at a church where the guitarist was performing. Walkenhorst had read Ship of Fool and suggested that the two artists collaborate. They did a live performance and then recorded a CD, "Ship of Fool: The Musical.”
It's the latest in a long list of writings and recordings by both men. Trowbridge’s output over the years includes more than 340 poems and eight published collections. The Rainmakers continue to tour and record. Their most recent CD is 2011's "25 On."
The Trowbridge/Walkenhorst performance is the concluding presentation of this year's Encore performing arts series. Tickets are available at the Student Services Center on the first floor of the Administration Building from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Order tickets online at www.nwmissouri.edu/campusactivities/encore.htm.