Shooting Star’s Van McLain Dies After Long Illness

Van McClain, guitarist with Shooting Star, has died after a three-year battle against the West Nile virus. Confirming the news on Facebook, band spokesman Randy Raley said: “It is with a very broken heart that I announce the passing of one of my all-time favorite people, Van McLain. I love him as a brother and I will miss him desperately. Van has been sick a long time, and I’m glad he’s finally free. Peace and Godspeed to his friends and family.” McClain contracted the virus in 2015, at one point requiring ICU attention including the fitting of feeding and breathing tubes. By last year he had recovered somewhat, but his medical insurers refused to continue his rehab funding, a fundraising page reported. Another fundraising event page reported: “Van is now at a point where he needs intense therapy, transportation and high-tech equipment so he can get stronger like we have been told he can … After over two years of trying to recover, he is now at a point where rehab can help him walk again.” McClain’s first interaction with the music industry was unfortunate – signed in 1968 by Clive Davis in England at the age of 18, he recorded his track “Take The Money and Run” with the expectation of a release. “Two months after we went in the studio, Steve Miller came out with a different (and soon to be much more famous) song named ‘Take the Money and Run,’” McClain told Goldmine in 2013. “There was no way my song was going to get released, so the record deal fell apart, and I moved back to Kansas City.” Formed in 1978, Shooting Star’s first run took them to 1987 before they split, after having been the victims of industry woes which meant they couldn’t take advantage of their AOR radio hit “Last Chance.” In a later interview McLain said: “We’d been slugging away at this for ten years, through about five different record deals, four sets of managers, three crooked lawyers, two turtledoves and a partridge in a pear tree. I’d had enough.” They reconvened in 1989, putting out Best of Shooting Star, which included the previously unreleased track “Touch Me Tonight.” The song became their biggest hit, reaching No. 67 on the Hot 100 and receiving ample play on MTV. The group remained working, with a run of lineup changes, and a total of nine studio albums, the last of which was 2015’s Into the Night. McClain noted: “I just still love getting out there and doing this. Maybe I didn’t get the whole pie, but we still got a slice, and that’s good enough.” Current Kansas frontman Ronnie Platt was a member of Shooting Star from 2007 to 2011. In previously unpublished comments from 2016, Platt told UCR: “Through a mutual friend, I got hooked up with Shooting Star. I met Van and we hit it off.” His only regret with the band, he said, was: “I wish we would have played a lot more.” He added: “What a talented band. They really, really should have been a lot bigger than they were. I know in Chicago, boy, Shooting Star really got a lot of airplay. … It’s funny, all of my friends around Chicago and stuff, ‘Who’s Shooting Star? I’ve never heard of Shooting Star,’ and I would always say, ‘Yes, you did.’ I would play them a montage of their songs and they’d be like, ‘I know that song, I know that song, I know that song.’” He name-checked the tracks “Last Chance,” “Hang On For Your Life,” “Breakout” and “Flesh and Blood.”

And, how about “Tonight” or “Straight Ahead?”  There were so many great songs!  I was devastated to learn of Van’s passing.  Had no idea he was ill.  I have many fond memories of seeing Shooting Star in concert back when I was in high school in St. Louis.  The band’s “spokesperson,” Randy Raley, was a dj back in the’80s and early ’90s for St. Louis’ legendary rock radio station KSHE 95.  Back then, their music was always on KSHE.  If for some reason you don’t who Shooting Star is, they’re like a cross between Journey and Kansas, and were the first band to sign with Virgin records.  Just Google “Shooting Star Band” and you’ll find em.  Or, better, go to eBay and search “Shooting Star” and get a cd or two, while you still can.  A few years ago Van mailed me a cd of a solo project he was working on.  The man never gave up, and went through several singers after Gary threw in the towel and decided to open an asbestos removal business in KC.  He kept the faith, and kept Shooting Star together for decades.  With his passing, Shooting Star is probably no more. Our prayers go to Van’s family  Thanks for all the great tunes, Van.  R.I.P.

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