Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Tagged: Wilbert Harrison

Kansas City

First recorded (as “K.C. Lovin’) by Little Willie Littlefield (1952, reissued 1959).
Hit versions by Little Richard (as “Kansas City/Hey, Hey, Hey” US #95/R&B #26 1959), Hank Ballard & the Midnighters (US #72/R&B #16 1959), Wilbert Harrison (US #1/R&B #1 1959), James Brown (US #55/R&B #21 1967).
Also recorded (as “Kansas City/Hey, Hey, Hey, Hey”) by The Beatles (1964).

From the wiki: “First recorded by Little Willie Littlefield the same year, ‘Kansas City’ later became a #1 hit when it was recorded by Wilbert Harrison (‘Let’s Work Together‘) in 1959 and, then, went on to become one of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller’s most recorded tunes, with more than three hundred versions, with several appearing on the R&B and pop record charts.

“Through a connection to producer Ralph Bass, Leiber and Stoller wrote ‘Kansas City’ specifically for West Coast blues/R&B artist Little Willie Littlefield. Littlefield recorded the song in Los Angeles in 1952, during his first recording session for Federal Records. Federal’s Ralph Bass changed the title to ‘K. C. Lovin”, saying he considered it ‘hipper’ than ‘Kansas City’. Littlefield’s record had some success in parts of the U.S., but it did not reach the national chart.

Let’s Work Together

Written (as “Let’s Stick Together”) and originally recorded by Wilbert Harrison (1962).
Hit versions by Wilbert Harrison (US #32 1969), Canned Heat (US #26/UK #2 1970) and Bryan Ferry (UK #4 1976).

From the wiki: “Wilbert Harrison recorded ‘Let’s Stick Together’ in 1962 but the song failed to appear in the charts. However, a 1969 re-recording, as ‘Let’s Work Together’, for Sue Records, the reached #32 in the Billboard Hot 100 in 1970, making it Harrison’s first chart appearance since his #1 1959 hit ‘Kansas City‘. Unlike the 1962 version, ‘Let’s Work Together’ was a solo performance – with Harrison (credited as ‘Wilbert Harrison One Man Band’) providing the vocal, harmonica, guitar, and percussion.

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