When was it recorded? Dec. 4, 1964
When was it first released, and on which album? Oct. 18, 1964 on “Beatles for Sale”
Who wrote it? Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller / Richard Penniman
Have I heard this song before? No
What my research dug up:
I love mash-ups, so this should be fun. Let’s talk about each individual song first.
Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller wrote “Kansas City” in 1952; both men were 19-year-old Los Angeles natives, and neither had been to Kansas City. According to Wikipedia, “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.” The duo wrote a number of hit single together, but “Kansas City” is their most recorded song, with over 300 known cover versions.
American R&B artist Little Willie Littlefield was the first musician to record “Kansas City,” albeit released with the title “K. C. Lovin’,” which is weird but “hipper.” Littlefield recorded the song in 1952. Quoth Wikipedia, “Littlefield’s record had some success in parts of the U.S., but it did not reach the national chart.”
Another American R&B musician, Wilbert Harrison, performed “K. C. Lovin’” for a number of years in his live performances. In 1959, he decided to professionally record his own version. Released as a single (and reverted to the original “Kansas City” name), Harrison’s version was a hit. It was #1 on the American R&B and the American Pop Music Charts for seven weeks and was eventually certified Gold by the RIAA.
Harrison’s version inspired a number of imitators, one of whom was American musician Little Richard.
In 1958, Little Richard released his now classic single “Good Golly, Miss Molly.” The B-side to that song was another original composition of his – “Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey!”
During his live performances, Little Richard would combine his song with “Kansas City.” (You can find videos of this on YouTube, but for brevity’s sake I’ll skip ahead.) Quoth the Beatles Bible, “The Beatles saw Little Richard perform the medley in concert, and adopted it for their own set in 1962. They performed twice with him in England in October that year, and became friends with him during a two-week stint at Hamburg’s Star-Club in November.” In fact, here’s the Beatles’ version from “Live at the Star Club.”
According to the Beatles Bible, “The Beatles had mostly dropped ‘Kansas City/Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey!’ from their live set by 1963, although they were performed for a BBC radio session that year on 16 July, first broadcast on 6 August. Recorded for Pop Go The Beatles, this version was released in 1994 on the ‘Live At The BBC’ collection.”
The Beatles performed the medley again for “From Us to You” on May 1, 1964 (aired May 18) and for “From Us to You” on Jul. 17 (aired Aug. 3). They also performed “Kansas City/Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey!” during their American tour, specifically in Kansas City on Sept. 17, 1964. Quoth the Beatles Bible, “It was rapturously received by the crowd, leading the group to consider recording it in the studio.”
They did so one month later, nailing the cover in one take.
The Beatles did record a second take, but it wasn’t used and wasn’t heard until its inclusion on “Anthology 1.”
The Beatles recorded “Kansas City/Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey!” one last time for BBC Radio’s “Saturday Club” on Nov. 25, 1964 (aired Dec. 26). This version appeared on “On Air – Live at the BBC Vol. 2.”
(Five videos later, let’s reflect on how much of a lie “for brevity’s sake” was like ten paragrahs ago.)
This did not disappoint, although I’m hard pressed to play favorites here. I liked both songs individually, and I liked the medley a lot, too, artists of each regardless. Classic.