From a record shop on the corner of 125th Street and 8th Avenue in Harlem in New York City, came a record about the corner of 12th Street and Vine in Kansas City, Missouri. The record shop was run by producer Bobby Robinson, a native of South Carolina, and the the record was recorded by North Carolina's own, Wilbert Harrison. The producer met the singer on Fury Records, and songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller met via this song, entitled Kansas City.
Wilbert Harrison was born in 1929 and began recording in the early 1950s to no real success. While he was getting his feet wet, two other things where happening that would lead to this release. The first was the continued growth of Bobby Robinson's 'Bobby's Record Shop'. It was so successful that he partnered with his brother Danny to form the R'n'B label Red Robin, a fore-runner of Fury. The second was Lieber and Stoller writing Kansas City, a song that saw its first relesae under the title K.C. Lovin' in 1952 by Little Willie Littlefield.
It wasn't until 1959 that it all came together. Wilbert Harrison moved from Rockin' Records, to Deluxe, Chart and Savoy. Bobby established Whirlin' Disc Records, Fury, Everlast Records, and Fire Records. Lieber and Stoller scored hit after hit with the likes of Smokey Joe's Cafe, Riot in Cell Block #9, Elvis' hit Hound Dog originally recorded by Big Mama Thornton on Peacock. Spending just under US$40, Bobby produced it, Mike and Jerry wrote it, and Wilbert revived Kansas City. With a rolling piano sound and a brilliant guitar solo from Wild Jimmy Spruill, it went on to be named one of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.
Kansas City stormed up the charts in May of 1959, hitting number one as Fury 1023. Unfortunately someone forgot to tell Wilbert that he was still signed to Savoy, a fact caused him some grief. It was picked up by Toronto's Barrel Records, and hit number one on the CHUM charts. A release on Top Rank (catalogue number JAR 132) in the UK didn't chart.
Little Richard was known to combine it with his own composition Hey Hey Hey Hey. It is this version that the Beatles recorded for release on Beatles For Sale in the UK and Beatles VI in the USA and Canada, although someone forgot to tell them to credit Little Richard for his contribution, something that would cause them grief.
Wilbert would not hit again 1969 with Let's Work Together. He passed away in 1994, back home in North Carolina. But he brought coolness to the midwest town of KC and to 78s