Kansas City (Leiber and Stoller song)
|Single by Wilbert Harrison|
|B-side||"Listen, My Darling"|
|Format||7" 45 rpm record|
|Genre||R&B, Rock and roll|
|Label||Fury (Cat. no. 1023)|
|Writer(s)||Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller|
|Wilbert Harrison singles chronology|
"Kansas City" is a rhythm and blues song written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller in 1952. First recorded by Little Willie Littlefield the same year, the song later became a #1 hit when it was recorded by Wilbert Harrison in 1959. "Kansas City" became one of Leiber and Stoller's "most recorded tunes, with more than three hundred versions," with several appearing in the R&B and pop record charts.
"Kansas City" was written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, two nineteen year-old rhythm and blues fans from Los Angeles, who had their first success writing Charles Brown's #7 R&B chart hit "Hard Times". Neither had been to Kansas City, but were inspired by Big Joe Turner records.
- I'm goin' to Kansas City, Kansas City here I come (2x)
- They got a crazy way of lovin' there, and I'm gonna get me some
- I'm gonna be standing on the corner, of Twelfth Street and Vine (2x)
- With my Kansas City baby, and a bottle of Kansas City wine...
Through a connection to producer Ralph Bass, they wrote "Kansas City" specifically for West Coast blues/R&B artist Little Willie Littlefield. There was an initial disagreement between the two writers over the song's melody: Leiber (who wrote the lyrics) preferred a traditional blues song, while Stoller wanted a more distinctive vocal line; Stoller ultimately prevailed. They taught the song to Littlefield at Maxwell Davis' house, who arranged and provided the tenor sax for the song. Littlefield recorded the song in Los Angeles in 1952, during his first recording session for Federal Records, a King Records subsidiary. Federal's Ralph Bass changed the title to "K. C. Lovin'", which he reportedly considered to sound "hipper" than "Kansas City". Littlefield's record had some success in parts of the U.S., but it did not reach the national chart.
Wilbert Harrison version
In 1959, after several years of performing Littlefield's "K. C. Lovin'", Wilbert Harrison decided to record the song. In March 1959 Harrison, with a trio including guitarist Wild Jimmy Spruill, recorded it in a New York studio for producer Bobby Robinson of Fury Records. "Kansas City" was released on a single by Fury, catalog number 1023, later that year.
Although the song's arrangement varied little from Littlefield's, it "struck such a solid shuffle groove that it was unforgettable", with inspired rhythm and solo guitar work by Spruill. Harrison's song was issued with Leiber and Stoller's original name, "Kansas City", but changed the refrain to "They got some crazy little women there, and I'm gonna get me one" and dropped one twelve-bar section.
Shortly after the song's release, several other versions appeared. Billboard magazine's pop song pick of the week for March 30, 1959 listed five different releases of "Kansas City": Harrison's and versions by Hank Ballard and The Midnighters (King 5195), Rocky Olson (Chess 1723), Rockin' Ronald & the Rebels (End 1043), and a reissue by Littlefield (Federal 12351). A week later, the magazine announced the release of a version by Little Richard (Specialty 664), which was a medley of "Kansas City" with some new lyrics and an earlier Richard song "Hey, Hey, Hey, Hey". Although Ballard's and Richard's versions both appeared in the lower reaches of the Billboard charts, Harrison's was a runaway hit, reaching number one in both the R&B and pop charts, where it remained for seven weeks, and became one of the top selling records of 1959.
The Beatles version
|"Medley: "Kansas City"/"Hey, Hey, Hey, Hey""|
|Song by The Beatles from the album Beatles for Sale|
|Released||December 4, 1964(mono and stereo)|
|Recorded||October 18, 1964|
|Genre||Rock and roll|
|Length||2:33 (mono version)
2:38 (stereo version)
|Writer||Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller/Richard Penniman|
|Beatles for Sale track listing|
|Single by James Brown|
|Genre||Rhythm and blues|
|James Brown charting singles chronology|
In 1964, The Beatles' recorded Little Richard's medley of "Kansas City" and "Hey, Hey, Hey, Hey", a song they began performing in their early Hamburg days. Their version, which uses somewhat different lyrics, appears on the albums Beatles for Sale (UK) and Beatles VI (US) and was the B-side of the October 1965 single "Boys" as part of Capitol Records' Star Line series. Piano on the track was played by George Martin. A live version, recorded in Hamburg in 1962, was released on Live! at the Star-Club in Hamburg, Germany; 1962. Other live versions appear on the album Live at the BBC and in the film Let It Be. The Beatles were also seen on the American television program Shindig! performing the medley live in October 1964.
James Brown version
James Brown recorded a version of "Kansas City" in 1967 which charted #21 R&B and #55 Pop. Brown recorded live performances of the song for his albums Live at the Apollo, Volume II (1968) and Say It Live and Loud (1998; recorded 1968), and in his concert films James Brown: Man to Man and Live at the Boston Garden.
"Kansas City" has been recorded by hundreds of performers, including Bill Haley & His Comets from the album Bill Haley and His Comets (1960), Brenda Lee from All the Way (1961), Peggy Lee from Blues Cross Country (1962) and Miss Peggy Lee Sings the Blues (1988), Trini Lopez as a #23 pop chart single (1963), Jay and the Americans from At the Cafe Wha? (1963), Fats Domino as a single (1964), Sammy Davis Jr. from Sammy Davis, Jr. Sings the Big Ones for Young Lovers (1964), The Everly Brothers from Rock & Soul (1965), Tom Jones from From the Heart (1966) and Muddy Waters from Muddy "Mississippi" Waters – Live (1979). Ten versions of the song are featured on the 1994 album, The Best of Kansas City. In 1995, it was included in Smokey Joe's Cafe, the musical revue about the songs of Leiber and Stoller.
Recognition and influence
In 2001, Harrison's "Kansas City" received a Grammy Hall of Fame Award  and it is included on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's list of the "500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll." In 2005, Kansas City adopted "Kansas City" as its official song, dedicating "Goin' to Kansas City Plaza" in the historic 18th and Vine Jazz district. Due to redevelopment, the "12th Street and Vine" intersection mentioned in the song no longer exists, but a park roughly in the shape of a grand piano and with a path in the shape of a treble clef exists at the former location, marked by a commemorative plaque.
- One author suggests that the 1927 blues song "Jim Jackson's Kansas City Blues" is a "remote cousin". Herzhaft, Gerard (1992). Encyclopedia of the Blues. University of Arkansas Press. p. 456. ISBN 1-55728-252-8.
- Leiber, Jerry; Stoller, Mike; Ritz, David (2009). Hound Dog: The Leiber and Stoller Autobiography. Simon & Schuster. p. 59. ISBN 978-1-4165-5938-2.
- Marsh, Dave (1999). The Heart of Rock & Soul: The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made. Da Capo Press. pp. 125–27. ISBN 978-0-306-80901-9.
- Bronson, Fred (2003). The Billboard Book of Number 1 Hits. Billboard Books. p. 53. ISBN 978-0-8230-7677-2.
- Wilbert Harrison
- Forte, Dan (1990). Legends of Guitar – Rock, The 50s Vol. 1 (liner notes). Rhino Records. pp. 5–6. R2 70719.
- Originally recorded by Little Richard as "Kansas City" in 1955; he recorded the Leiber and Stoller lyrics on two other occasions.
- Whitburn, Joel (1988). Top R&B Singles 1942–1988. Record Research, Inc. p. 183. ISBN 0-89820-068-7.
- Whitburn 1988, p. 600.
- White, Cliff (1991). "Discography". In Star Time (pp. 54–59) [CD booklet]. New York: PolyGram Records.
- Smith, R.J. (2012). The One: The Life and Music of James Brown, 379. New York: Gotham Books.
- Several different versions of Haley's "Kansas City" exist, some featuring vocals by Haley and others sung by his saxophone player, Rudy Pompilli; all use Leiber & Stoller's original lyrics.
- "Grammy Hall of Fame Awards". The Recording Academy. 2001. Retrieved June 25, 2011.
- "500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll". Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. 1995. Retrieved June 25, 2011.
- Cole, Suzanne P.; Engle, Tim; Winkler, Eric (April 23, 2012). "50 things every Kansas Citian should know". Kansas City Star. Retrieved April 23, 2012.
- "12th Street and Vine, Kansas City - Google Maps". Maps.google.com. Retrieved 2011-01-08.
- "Plastic Sax: May 2010". Plasticsax.blogspot.com. Retrieved 2011-01-08.