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Ben Meade rekindles a burnt-out spirit inside Cosmic Cowboy Studios

Cosmic Cowboy Studios was built by Ben Meade in Kansas City’s east Crossroads district.
Cosmic Cowboy Studios was built by Ben Meade in Kansas City’s east Crossroads district. Deborah Wright

Three years ago, Ben Meade walked away from two careers.

For 33 years he’d been running a financial services business, and for 20 of those years he was also a film professor at Avila University.

“I was burned out,” he said. “I’d been doing it a long time, and it wasn’t working for me.”

Meade spent three years traveling and doing some “serious soul-searching” before deciding on the next chapter of his life. He made a film, bought and rehabbed a house in Kansas City, and traveled before deciding he wanted to open a studio devoted to two of his passions: documentary filmmaking and live music and studio recording.

In December he opened Cosmic Cowboy Studios in the Studio Inc. building at 17th and Campbell streets in the east Crossroads. He christened the music side with a First Friday live performance by his band, the Missouri Dirt Boys, a cover band that comprises Meade, Johnny Ricker, Joe Miquelon, Gary Miller and Brian Hicks. They have performed bimonthly on First Friday ever since.

“We get some crowds in here,” Meade said. “Two shows ago, somebody brought a 15-passenger van from St. Louis. They’d seen our previous show, which had a Johnny Cash/Merle Haggard theme, and they called ahead two months later and asked if we were doing another show. I said, ‘Yeah, but this one’s going to be different.’ They said, ‘OK, we’ll be there.’”

This Friday he has enlisted the first outside band to perform in the space. Shannon and the Rhythm King Band will play from 6 to 8 p.m. Admission is free. Beverages are provided by Torn Label Brewery, another tenant in the Studio Inc. building.

Cosmic Cowboy Studios provides the entire backline as well as the soundman, Beau Davidson, an audio engineer.

“All they have to do is walk in and plug in,” Meade said. “We provide the drums, keyboards, the P.A. — everything.”

Musicians also have at their disposal any of the 10 dozen guitars that hang from the walls or any of the other sundry vintage instruments and vintage tube amps Meade has collected over the years. Many of the instruments and some of the memorabilia are autographed (Johnny Cash, Les Paul and Frank Zappa are among the signees.) Meade admitted his instrument-collecting has gotten out of hand.

“I’m at the point where I’ve got to get rid of one when I get another one,” he said. “It’s that bad.”

The recording studio has been busy since its inception. Meade has recorded two artists, both to vinyl, and he has several remastering projects lined up. Another project is for Morningstar, a Kansas City band that was prominent in the mid- to late 1970s that wants to release an album’s worth of unreleased tracks on Meade’s record label.

“We have so much work to do. We’re maxed,” he said.

Meade also teaches classes in audio at Big Dude’s Music City and is involved in several film projects. He may have walked away from two careers in 2012, but he hasn’t exactly retired.

“I was so tired then, which is crazy, because now I work more than ever,” he said. “But I like what I’m doing.”

To reach Timothy Finn, call 816-234-4781 or send email to Follow the Back to Rockville blog on Twitter @kcstarrockville.