Passings: Van McLain of Shooting Star

Source: Facebook, Alex Elrod
by VVN Music

Van McLain, the guitarist for Shooting Star, has died after a three year battle with West Nile Virus.

A spokesperson for the band, wrote:

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.

Team Shooting Star: Randy Raley
Tim Ivy

McLain, born Van McElvain, formed a band with childhood friend Ron Verlin outside of Kansas City. They played the music of the Beatles locally but broke up when McLain moved to a different school district.

In 1971, the two met up again and began playing the music of the 50's as the Shooting Stars, moving outside of Kansas City and playing throughout the midwest. Three years later, they started performing original compositions and were signed to Arista, recording the single "Take the Money and Run"; however, Steve Miller beat them to market with the song and Arista released them from their agreement.

Throughout the rest of the 70's, the Shooting Stars continued to play shows around the mid-U.S. until, in 1978, the reworked the lineup, and made their way to a show at New York's CBGB which led to their getting a management deal. Within six months, they were signed as the first rock act on the new Virgin Records.

Between 1980 and 1983, the group released four albums with Ill Wishes (1982 / #82) being the highest charting but Hang On to Your Life (1981 / #92) being the longest lasting, sticking on the charts for 30 weeks. 

Verlin left the group in 1984 and the band signed with Geffen Records.  Silent Scream, their fifth album, started out like gangbusters but the record company got into a conflict with the radio promo group who walked away from the album which was dropped from numerous stations across the country.

The group played a farewell show on December 27, 1986 but reformed at the end of the decade with a new contract with Enigma Records. They went into the studio to record their sixth album, It's Not Over, but Enigma went bankrupt so the band released the LP on their own label.

Shooting Star went into semi-retirement in 1993 but they got together to play just a few shows every year. In 1998, McLain was diagnosed with esophageal cancer and, after recovering, was reinvigorated. The band released their seventh album, Leap of Faith, in 2000. They have since followed with Circles (2006) and Into the Night (2015).

In September 2015, McLain started experiencing flu-like symptoms on a regular basis, ending up in the hospital for eight months fighting of only the second case of West Nile Virus ever diagnosed in Kansas along with peripheral problems from the disease. A special benefit concert was held for him on September 24, 2017.

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