The answer to the question “Who Sang Kansas City?” may surprise you. The song was originally written and performed by Wilbert Harrison in 1952.
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The Beginnings of Rock and Roll in Kansas City
Kansas City has always been a hotbed of musical talent and a major crossroads for touring musicians. In the early 1950s, a new type of music was beginning to emerge that would change the course of popular music forever. This new type of music was called rock and roll.
Kansas City’s contributions to the development of rock and roll
The city of Kansas City, Missouri was a major player in the development of rock and roll music in the 1950s and 1960s. The city was home to several influential rock and roll bands and musicians, including Bob Sykes, Big Joe Turner, Lester Young, and Dick Hugg. Kansas City also played host to a number of important rock and roll concerts and festivals, including the infamous 1964 Kansas City Rock and Roll Rendezvous.
The first rock and roll records made in Kansas City
In the summer of 1951, teens flocked to a new type of music called “rock and roll” played by African American musicians. This new sound was a combination of rhythm and blues with jazz. The first rock and roll records were made in Kansas City by these artists. Some of the most famous include:
-Chuck Berry: “Maybellene” and “Roll Over Beethoven”
-Little Richard: “Tutti Frutti” and “Long Tall Sally”
-Fats Domino: “Ain’t That a Shame” and “Blueberry Hill”
These records were made at Universal Recording Studio on 18th and Vine streets in Kansas City. They were released on the Chess Records label. The studio was owned by brothers Leonard and Phil Chess, who were originally from Poland. They started out as club owners and then got into the record business. The Chess brothers discovered many famous rock and roll musicians, including Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Etta James, and Muddy Waters.
The First Wave of Kansas City Rock and Rollers
The first wave of Kansas City rock and rollers were a group of childhood friends who bonded over a shared love of music. This group included Chuck Berry, Little Richard, James Brown, and Ray Charles. They were all united by their love of rhythm and blues and their desire to make music that would get people moving.
The Midnighters were a rhythm and blues group from Kansas City, Missouri. The group was originally called The Royals, and they first rose to prominence in the early 1950s with their hit song, “Work with Me, Annie.” The Midnighters continued to release successful singles throughout the 1950s and 1960s, including “Sexy Ways” and “The Honeydripper.”
The Midnighters were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012.
The Phillips Brothers
The Phillips Brothers were a doo-wop duo from Kansas City, Missouri, United States, who were active in the 1950s. The group consisted of brothers Harold “Hal” Phillipsn (lead vocals) and Bernard “Bernie” Phillips (baritone/bass). They were also known as The Kool Gents.
The Phillips Brothers began their musical careers as a part of the Kansas City gospel music scene in the early 1950s. They later transitioned to secular music and became one of the first wave of Kansas City rock and rollers. The group is best known for their cover of Hank Ballard’s “Kansas City”, which reached number two on the US Billboard R&B chart in 1959.
The group disbanded in the early 1960s but reformed in the late 1970s. They continued to perform together until Harold’s death in 2006.
Little Willie Littlefield
Though he was born in Texas and raised in California, singer and pianist Little Willie Littlefield is considered one of the first wave of Kansas City rock and rollers. Littlefield’s version of “Kansas City” was a nationwide hit in 1952, reached #2 on the R&B chart, and is now considered a classic of the genre. Littlefield continued to perform and record throughout his career, serving as an influence on generations of musicians.
The Second Wave of Kansas City Rock and Rollers
The first wave of Kansas City rock and rollers played an important role in the development of the genre, but it was the second wave of musicians that brought the sound to a national audience. The second wave of Kansas City rock and rollers began to gain prominence in the mid-1950s.
While the first wave of Kansas City rock and rollers focused on cover songs, the second wave began to write and perform their own material. One of the most famous second-wave musicians was Chuck Berry, who wrote and recorded several hits including “Maybellene” and “Johnny B. Goode.” Berry’s distinctive guitar style influenced many subsequent rock and rollers, including the Beatles.
James Brown was born in Barnwell, South Carolina on May 3, 1933. Brown and his band, the Famous Flames, were one of the most important and influential groups in the history of rock and roll. They were also one of the first groups to cross over from the R&B charts to the pop charts with their hit single “I Got You (I Feel Good).” Brown continued to have hits in the 1970s with songs like “Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine” and “Super Bad.” He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986.
The Rolling Stones
Kansas City was the launching pad for the second wave of British rock groups that hit America in the early 1960’s. The Rolling Stones made their American debut in 1964 at the Kansas City Coliseum. The Beatles played their last live concert at Kansas City’s Municipal Stadium in 1966.
Kansas City’s Legacy in Rock and Roll
Kansas City has been a hotbed for rock and roll since the 1950s. Some of the most influential artists in the genre got their start in Kansas City. This list includes Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, and the Beatles. Kansas City is also home to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
The influence of Kansas City rock and roll on later artists
Kansas City’s long and storied history in the rock and roll genre has had a lasting influence on many artists who would come after. The city’s soulful sound and bluesy style helped to shape the sound of rock and roll in its early days, and Kansas City artists would go on to have a significant impact on the evolution of the genre.
In the 1950s, Kansas City was a hotbed for rock and roll music, with a number of local artists making a name for themselves. One of the most influential of these was Big Joe Turner, whosepowerful voice and infectious style helped to define the sound of early rock and roll. Turner’s best-known hit, “Shake, Rattle, and Roll,” is considered by many to be one of the first true rock and roll songs, and his influence can be heard in the work of later artists like Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Chuck Berry.
Kansas City’s legacy in rock and roll continued into the 1960s with the rise of The Beatles. Although The Beatles were from England, they spent a significant amount of time in Kansas City during their early years, performing at clubs like The Fairmont Grill and The Peppermint Lounge. It was during their time in Kansas City that The Beatles developed their signature sound, which would go on to define the British Invasion of rock music in the 1960s.
The city’s influence on rock music did not end in the 1960s; in fact, it continues to this day. Many modern artists have cited Kansas City as an important source of inspiration, including alternative rock band Modest Mouse and indie folk singer-songwriter Conor Oberst. For anyone interested in the history of rock music, Kansas City is an essential stop on any journey through time.
The continued popularity of Kansas City rock and roll
Kansas City’s rich rock and roll history continues to influence musicians today. The city was an important stop on the Chitlin’ Circuit, a network of venues that allowed black musicians to perform for black audiences in theintimate setting of nightclubs. Kansas City was also home to several influential record labels, including Motown and Quest Records.
Many of the musicians who got their start in Kansas City went on to become legends of rock and roll. Chuck Berry, Little Richard, James Brown, and Etta James all performed in the city’s clubs before they were famous. They were joined by other influential artists like Otis Redding,Wilson Pickett, and Ike & Tina Turner.
The city’s rock and roll scene began to decline in the 1970s, as clubs closed and musicians left for other cities. However, Kansas City’s influence on rock and roll has not been forgotten. In recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in the city’s musical past, with new clubs opening and old ones being renovated. And every year, thousands of fans come to Kansas City to experience its unique blend of blues, jazz, and rock and roll.