12th Street and Vine, Kansas City

Kansas City by Wilbert Harrison

On the corner of Twelfth Street and Vine
With my Kansas City baby
And a bottle of Kansas City wine Read full Lyrics
Fountain in Kansas City<br>(thanks, Mike Middleton)Fountain in Kansas City
(thanks, Mike Middleton)
Wilbert Harrison’s 1959 version of “Kansas City” is the song’s most famous recording. Its lyric spotlights an intersection of 12th Street and Vine, even though natives say these streets never actually meet to form a true intersection. Instead, you can think of this as a mythical party point. It’s a place where a guy longs to visit to have a good time.

In the first verse, Harrison dreams of being with his Kansas City baby, “and a bottle of Kansas City wine.” The second verse speaks of how “they got a crazy way of loving there/And I’m gonna get me some.” This could mean wild women. It could also refer to prostitutes. But because songs about prostitutes didn’t get on the radio back in 1959, we’ll just need to use our imagination regarding what he truly meant.

Kansas City sure didn’t seem to have a great reputation among right living folks, though. In fact, Harrison tries his best to keep this party journey a secret.

I’m gonna pack my clothes
Everybody will be sleeping
Nobody will know where I’ve gone

Ironically, when Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller originally wrote the song, they gave it the title “K.C. Lovin’.” Little Willie Littlefield was the first artist to track it, seven years earlier in 1952. The Beatles and Little Richard also recorded the tune. On May 11th, 1959, Harrison’s version of "Kansas City" reached #1 on the R&B chart and stayed there for seven consecutive weeks.
Kansas City skyline<br>(thanks, James Olsson, Cheboygan, Michigan)Kansas City skyline
(thanks, James Olsson, Cheboygan, Michigan)
“Kansas City” is a rollicking rhythm and blues song. However, in the ‘30s and ‘40s, Kansas City had a thriving jazz scene. Today, it hosts the annual Kansas City Blues and Jazz Festival.

Although the song has a basic blues chord progression, it bops along with a rocking dance beat. With its rolling piano part, it could easily pass for a Fats Domino song. In fact, Fats Domino also does a wonderful version of the song.

People don’t likely think of Kansas City when it comes to good-time destinations. Instead, the sin and gambling locales of Atlantic City and Las Vegas are probably the first party choices. However, with its classic Kansas City-style barbecue, which blossomed in the inner city and can be traced back to barbecue pioneer Henry Perry from Memphis, Tennessee, restaurants like Gates and Sons Bar-B-Q, which opened in 1946, made this downtown area a place for good music, crazy women, and tasty food.

Sadly, America in the 21st century has lost a lot of its original regional flavor. However, in the late ‘50s, back when Wilbert Harrison was riding high with this Midwestern road song, there was still good reason to hit any highway that would take you to Kansas City. Nevertheless, you can still hear this song sung and played by bar bands in nightclubs today. With a drink in one hand and dancing shoes on your feet, you can always go to downtown party central in your mind. Kansas City, here I come!
~ Dan MacIntosh Kansas City Songfacts
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Comments: 9

  • R. James Originally From Kansas City, Mo from Los Angeles, Ca.First, let me say that I was born and raised in KCMO in the Wayne Minor Housing Projects on 12th street which was only blocks from 12th & Vine. When I was 5 or 6 my mother worked in the Orchid Room night club as a waitress and I remember going there with her from time to time. No I wasn't there late at night but enough to remember where it was. There was always something going on there and my mother would show me off to some of the people there and they would watch me while my mother did whatever she was doing there. On occasion I even met big name artist. The only one I can still remember was BB King. Anyway, the area 12th street between Paseo and Woodland was a pretty happening place. Lot's black own businesses that seemed to be doing very well. Besides the Orchid Room there was the several Bars, Cafes, Shoeshine and Barber Shops. There was a Drug Store on the same side of the Orchid Room but on the corner of 12th and Paseo. Across from there was the Castle Movie Theater and a Milgram Grocery store. I say all this because it was one of the few places were black folk could walk around freely and enjoy themselves without being mistreated. Also the money stayed within the community longer because we couldn't go downtown to shop. As for 12th & Vine those street did intersect but Vine at 12th was a very small street and it didn't go all the way through, it was more like a alley, this is because the street didn't go through because of the Low income housing Projects was directly on the other side. In fact Vine street never was a through street from 12th to 18th. Now to address the song and who actually wrote the song. I was too young at the time but I do remember hearing Little Willie Littlefield's version first. It's been well documented that Black artist of that time got screwed over when it came to their music. And it is equally truly that black folks would either write or perform a song first and then when it got copied by White artist it became a National Hit, but the originator rarely got proper compensation or recognition. This has been an issue that dates back to the actually beginning of Rock and Roll. If you do a little investigating you'll find it was black blues singers that first coined the phase Rock and Roll. I was actually a lewd phrase to speak about sex. "I want to rock with baby, rock me all night long, roll with me baby, like my back ain't got no bone" Anyway, I believe Wilbert Harrison got riches and famous off of Little Willie Littlefield's song, just like was happen to Little Richard when Pat Boone covered his song "Tuttie- Fruitie". There is a long list of Artist the did this, from the Fab-Four, Elvis to the Stones! No I'm not blaming them, I'm just saying its time to correct history once and for all.
  • L.h. Bergara from Corpus Christi, Tx.Is the song about Kansas City KS or Kansas City MO?
  • Ocie from San JoseAs a child in 1946 I lived two blocks from 12st and vine. During that time there was a night club called the Blue room or Orchid room on the corner of 12th and vine. A lot of top notch entertainer performed Jazz and blue at this spot. 12th street was booming at this time. Christmas was celebrated with a black Santa Clause at this club with kids lined up outside for treats.
  • Christopher Adams from Florida...but I lived in Kansas City in Hyde Park and the Blue Hills area from 1972 to 1992, working in banking (Empire, Commerce) and marketing (VR Advertising) most of the time.
  • Steve from HoustonA few corrections - 12th and Vine used to intersect, no longer however. Wilbert Harrison changed the lyrics from "they got a crazy was of loving and I'm gonna get me some" to "they got some crazy little women there and I'm gonna get me one". Original title was Kansas City - Willie Littlefield changed it to KC Loving.
  • Groovy Grant from Kansas CityThe Song was First Recorded by Little Willie Litterfield around 1952, K.C. Loving
  • Al Everest from Alberta CanadaMuddy Waters cover of this song is great oho!
  • Lancie Mclean from Kingston Jamaicatrue work of art,unique voice.
  • Giantslor from Kansas CityNice article!
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