This was written in 1952 by the team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, who went on to write hits for Elvis, Ben E. King, and many others. While this is certainly one of the first songs penned by Leiber and Stoller to become widely recorded, it was not their first ever written song, nor even their first published song. The book Hound Dog: The Leiber & Stoller Autobiography
names "Nosey Joe," "Hard Times," "Real Ugly Woman," "Ten Days in Jail," and "That's What the Good Book Says" as previously written and released songs.
The original title was "K.C. Lovin'." The song was first recorded in 1952 by the R&B singer Little Willie Littlefield. It wasn't until 7 years later that Harrison turned the song into a hit, becoming by far his most famous track.
In the UK, this was a #26 hit for Little Richard also in 1959. He would play it in a medley with his song "Hey, Hey, Hey."
The Beatles recorded a version of this song with Little Richard's "Hey, Hey, Hey" in 1964. In 1993, a recording of The Beatles playing "Kansas City" and "Some Other Guy" at the Cavern Club in 1962 was auctioned for about $32,000 at Christie's auction house in London.
One notable Beatles performance of the song came on September 17, 1964, when Charles O. Finley, the owner of the Kansas City Athletics baseball team, paid them $150,000 to perform at their stadium. Only 20,000 people came to the show in a stadium that could seat 35,000, as many fans stayed away in protest of Finley, who was taking some heat over his management of the losing franchise. The Beatles played 12 songs that night, and included a special rendition of "Kansas City" in their set. It was the only time The Beatles played the song in the United States - they performed it on the US TV show Shindig, but it was part of a taped segment recorded in London. (thanks, Bertrand - Paris, France)
In an interview with Leiber and Stoller in Mojo magazine April 2009, Leiber explained how the pair settle arguments over what sounds best. He said: "Each of us would give in to the other who really had jurisdiction over the choice. If it was words, most of the time it was in my pocket to make the music." Stoller added that if it was music most of the time it was his decision. Leiber then illustrated his point by giving the writing of this song as an example: "I had a beef with the song, Mike was playing a tune (Leiber sings a different tune to the one we know), and I said, 'That's really corny, it sounds like Benny Goodman or something, let's do something that's really original.' And he said, 'Like what?' (Leiber sings a bluesy version). He said, 'I don't like that, that's like a hundred other blues.' He said, 'Who writes the music?' I said, 'you do'. And he wrote it the way he wanted and I came into it and we had a smash."
Mike Stoller claims it wasn't until 1986 that the songwriters went to Kansas City for the first time. He explained in an appearance on the UK show Songbook: "I wanted to make it have a melody that sounded like it could have come out of a little band in Kansas City, and so that if it was played as an instrumental, you'd still know what it was instead of just kind of 12-bar blues. And Jerry felt, as I recall, that that wasn't authentic enough."
Leiber replied: "Mike could go to a piano and noodle around and come up with a progression and a tune that was original. I couldn't do that. I wasn't a musician. I didn't play and I couldn't write. But I was singing my kind of a tune, and Mike heard it and didn't particularly like it. It wasn't a repeat blues, per se. It didn't have an original song, notes to it. And he insisted on writing it his way."
Here's a fun fact for you chart geeks: This debuted on the US chart at #100. Six weeks later it had climbed to #1, the first ever song to rise from the Hot 100's bottom position to its summit.