Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

Help support this site! Consider clicking an ad from time to time. Thanks!


Kansas City

First recorded (as “K.C. Lovin’) by Little Willie Littlefield (1952, reissued/retitled 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), Rocky Olson (US #60 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).

“The battle and the noise is on!” Billboard highlighting the almost-simultaneous releases of five versions of “Kansas City” the same week in March, 1959.

From the wiki: “First recorded by Little Willie Littlefield the same year, ‘Kansas City’ later became a #1 hit when retitled and 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 – including five separate singles released the same week in 1959, four of which charted on the Billboard Hot 100.

“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.

“In 1959, after several years of performing Littlefield’s ‘K. C. Lovin” on stage, Wilbert Harrison decided to record the song. In March 1959 Harrison, with a trio that included guitarist Wild Jimmy Spruill, recorded it in a New York studio for producer Bobby Robinson of Fury Records.

“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, Rocky Olson, Rockin’ Ronald & the Rebels (identified as Ronnie Hawkins by Mystery Train author Greil Marcus), and a reissue of Littlefield’s original 1952 recording.

“A week later, Billboard announced the release of a version by Little Richard: 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 single turned out to be a runaway hit, reaching #1 in both the R&B and the Hot 100 charts, where it remained for seven weeks, and became one of the top-selling records of 1959.

“In 1964, The Beatles’ recorded Little Richard’s medley of ‘Kansas City’ and ‘Hey, Hey, Hey, Hey’, a song they began performing during their early Hamburg touring days. It was issued as the B-side to their ‘Boys’ single, and released on the album Beatles for Sale. James Brown recorded a version of ‘Kansas City’ in 1967, released as a single from James Brown Sings Raw Soul, which charted #21 R&B and #55 on the Billboard Hot 100.

“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.”

Wilbert Harrison, “Kansas City” (1959):

Hank Ballard & the Midnighters, “Kansas City” (1959):

Rocky Olson, “Kansas City” (1959):

Rockin’ Ronald & the Rebels, “Kansas City” (1959):

Little Richard, “Kansas City/Hey, Hey, Hey, Hey” (1959):

The Beatles, “Kansas City/Hey, Hey, Hey, Hey” (1964):

James Brown, “Kansas City” (1967):

Comments are closed.