Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Vintage Video: Wilbert Harrison Performs "Kansas City" on the "Saturday Night Beach-Nut Show"

Had he lived, today would have been Wilbert Harrison's 87th birthday.

Harrison was an R&B singer, pianist, guitarist and harmonica player whose career peaked in 1959 with the Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller song Kansas City.

Kansas City was one of the songwriting duo's first compositions when they were still in their late teens. Written in 1952, it was originally recorded by Little Willie Littlefield as his first release for Federal Records and was a regional hit under the name K.C. Lovin'.

Little Richard then recorded two versions in 1955 with one remaining in the vaults until 1970 and the other released as a single in April 1959.

Harrison recorded the song in 1959 with Bobby Robinson of Fury Records which released the single and, as it started to ascend the charts, a number of other artists rushed out their own versions including Little Richard, Hank Ballard and the Midnighters, Rocky Olson, Rockin' Ronald and the Rebels and a reissue by Littlefield. While most only made the lower part of the charts, Harrison's ascended to number 1.

Here, Harrison performs the song on Dick Clark's Saturday Night Beach-Nut Show.