The Dennis Giangreco Westport Trucker Collection comprises a comprehensive run of the underground newspaper published in Kansas City from 1970 to 1976. The Westport Trucker was a voice for local counterculture, social activism, tongue-in-cheek commentary and rock music reviews. Housed in LaBudde Special Collections at the UMKC University Libraries, the collection is the result of multiple gifts starting in June 2019, primarily from its editor and publisher Dennis Giangreco. Other donors include Janet Moss Awaken, Tom Barlow, Mallory Edson, Joe Heyen, Kenan Houston, Marion Huet-Derrossett, Rick Ivonavitch, Robert John LaRoe, Paul Peterson, Kate Needham Tremblay, and Bob Zarker.
Preview a handful of issues below or look through the entire collection (if the page has issues loading, simply refresh the page).
Kansas City’s largest and longest-running ‘‘underground’’ newspaper, the Westport Trucker began its life as The Screw — ‘‘A twisted devise for holding things together’’ — on January 1, 1969, and continued in regular production into the spring of 1974 with its last sporadic editions appearing in 1976.
The paper carried several different names over the years. Starting in the late summer of 1969 it was Vortex when the Kansas City staff of The Screw briefly merged with the staff of Reconstruction published in nearby Lawrence, Kansas, and the first five editions of that paper are included in the numbering system of the Trucker.
When publication resumed as a solely Kansas City paper again in the spring of 1970, the paper’s name was changed to ‘‘something less open to misinterpretation’’ — The Westport Trucker — which dovetailed on cartoonist Robert Crumb’s famous catchphrase “Keep on Truckin’. Where’s there’s dope, there’s hope,’’ implied action and forward momentum, plus associated the paper with the burgeoning community of Kansas City’s historic Westport District.
Better and more aggressively managed than all but a very few similar ‘‘undergrounds’’ around the country, the Westport Trucker grew rapidly and attracted a wide range of contributors — particularly from New York’s East Village Other and New York Ace after those papers ceased publication. By 1973 a ‘‘New York staff’’ had coalesced around these artists and writers. Key members of the Trucker staff also organized and presented the weekly Sunday concert series at Volker (Theis) Park from 1969 to 1974 and were instrumental in the opening and continued operation of Cowtown Ballroom.
In the summer and fall of 1973 the great success of the Westport Trucker’s new magazine-format editions — and particularly its ‘‘Special LEGALIZE COCAINE Issue’’ produced in conjunction with the New York staff (frequently referred to as the ‘‘High Times precursor editions’’) — prompted the decision to reorganize the monthly magazine. It was announced that the Trucker would morph into two publications, a magazine based out of New York while the original publication in Kansas City transitioned into more frequent production as the Weekly Westport Trucker in November 1973. The weekly ceased publication in May 1974, though individual editions were sporadically released through May 1976. Certain staff members from Kansas City had moved to New York in 1973 and 1974 and the magazine edition reemerged as a new publication, High Times, in June 1974.
In all, some 94 editions were released between January 1, 1969, and May 10, 1976, with many of the same people who launched the paper in 1969 still trucking away in 1974 after producing 90-plus issues — more than 2,000 pages. At a time when most underground / alternative papers’ lifespans rarely exceeded a few months to, at best, a year or so, the Westport Trucker’s longevity has been characterized as ‘‘more than 100 in underground newspaper dog years.’’
By Dennis Giangreco (author D. M. Giangreco)