Some Crazy Little Women

‘Kansas City’ was written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, two nineteen-year-old rhythm and blues fans from Los Angeles.  Neither one of them had ever been to Kansas City, but they were inspired by listening to Big Joe Turner records.  This was the fifth song that they collaborated on and it was originally released as ‘K.C. Lovin’’.  In 1950, Jimmy Witherspoon recorded and performed their first commercial song, ‘Real Ugly Woman’.  Early in 1951, Bobby Nunn and the Robins recorded one of their songs, ‘That’s What the Good Book Says’, but the record was pretty bad and later on the Robins changed their name to the Coasters.  Their third song was written in 1952 titled ‘Hard Times’ and it was sung by Charles Brown and it reached #7 on the US R&B charts.  Their fourth song was ‘Nosey Joe’ and it was released by Moose Jackson.  This song ‘Kansas City’ was first recorded by Little Willie Littlefield and it did not chart, but seven years later in 1959 the song became a chart-topping hit when it was recorded by Wilbert Harrison.  Mike Stoller wrote the music and Jerry Leiber wrote the lyrics.  Together they wrote over 70 hit songs and the pair also collaborated with other songwriters, and also on rare occasions wrote songs as individuals with other writers.

Jerry Leiber met Mike Stoller in 1950, when they were both 17 years old, as they were introduced by Lester Sill of Modern Records.  Stoller was a freshman at Los Angeles City College while Leiber was a senior at Fairfax High.  They each shared a love of the blues and boogie woogie.  Leiber and Stoller were both white kids from the East Coast that became transplanted to Los Angeles, and they wrote African-American style blues songs.  They helped give birth to rock and roll when they wrote ‘Hound Dog’ in 1952 for blues singer Big Mama Thornton.  She said that she was paid one check for 500 dollars, and never made another cent from her recording, but Elvis did much better with his 1956 release as this song, as it made him a star.

Ralph Bass an American rhythm-and-blues record producer and talent scout for several independent labels was running Federal Records a subsidiary of Syd Nathan’s King Records based in Cincinnati, Ohio when he asked Mike Stoller and Jerry Leiber, to write a song about Kansas City for Little Willie Littlefield.  They asked a bunch of R&B musicians for the names of big streets in Kansas City and they were told that 12th Street and Vine was a hot part of town, so they used it.  In 1959 when Wilbert Harrison recorded this, he changed part of Jerry’s lyrics from “They got a crazy way of loving there / and I’m going to get me some” to “They got some crazy little women there / and I’m gonna get me one”.  Harrison’s version of Kansas City reached #1 on May 11th, 1959, on the R&B chart and stayed there for seven consecutive weeks and it received a Grammy Hall of Fame Award in 2001 and eventually it was included on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s list of the “500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll”.

This song is about a guy who dreams of being with his Kansas City baby, and enjoying a bottle of Kansas City wine.  Leiber came up with a scenario where this guy will do whatever it takes to get to this woman.  Little Richard recorded this song with a whole new approach using the “Hey, hey, hey, hey” lyrics which is the way the Beatles did it later.  Leiber and Stoller were inducted into Songwriter’s Hall of Fame in1985 and they got inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.

The ‘Kansas City’ video below features Muddy Waters playing guitar and singing along with his bandmates, Luther “Guitar Junior” Johnson and “Steady Rollin’” Bob Margolin on guitar, Jerry Portnoy on harmonica, Pinetop Perkins on piano, Calvin Jones on bass and Willie Smith on drums.

I’m going to Kansas City
Kansas City here I come
I’m going to Kansas City
Kansas City here I come
They got a crazy way of loving there and I’m gonna get me one
I’m gonna be standing on the corner
12th Street and Vine
I’m gonna be standing on the corner
12th Street and Vine
With my Kansas City baby and a bottle of Kansas City wine
Well, I might take a plane; I might take a train
But if I have to walk, I’m going just the same
I’m going to Kansas City
Kansas City here I come
They got some crazy little women there and I’m gonna get me one

Written for Song Lyric Sunday Ain’t It Crazy.

26 thoughts on “Some Crazy Little Women

  1. Great history Jim…I learned this song through the Beatles at a young age. I didn’t know it was a number 1 before… Its a good solid song…no matter who does it.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Hope you can visit someday. KC is known as the city of fountains – lots of them and really nice ones. We’ve seen the arch in St. Louis from a distance. And the zoos in both cities are really great to spend a day there. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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