April 28, 2017

50th anniversary of KC Beatles concert coming up

Finley was reviled by KC baseball fans but loved by its Beatle fans.

Finley was reviled by KC baseball fans but loved by its Beatle fans.


Sir Paul McCartney returns to Kansas City for a concert this Wednesday, July 16, at the Sprint Center as part of his “Out There” tour. It will be the first time I have seen him perform, but it’s the rock icon’s fifth visit to our town.
The first, of course, was when the Beatles played a concert on Sept. 17, 1964, at old Municipal Stadium as part of their first American tour.
Paul’s next KC appearance came on May 29, 1976, at Kemper Arena on the “Wings Over America” tour. Four tracks – “Maybe I’m Amazed,” “Listen to What the Man Said,” “The Long and Winding Road” and “Letting Go” – recorded at Kemper appear on the triple live album bearing the title of the tour.
McCartney performed at Arrowhead Stadium on May 31, 1993, on his “New World” tour, followed by a July 24, 2010, show at Sprint Center on his “Up and Coming” Tour.
We’re blessed to have both surviving Beatles visit KC this year. Ringo Starr brings his All-Starr Band to Starlight Theater Oct. 4. He was last here June 28, 1992, playing at Sandstone.
John and George never returned after 1964.
I have been gathering information about the Beatles’ 1964 KC concert in preparation for a presentation on the 50th anniversary of the event. It’s set for 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 14 at the Central Library, 14 W. 10th St., as part of the KCMO Public Library’s free Missouri Valley Speaker Series.
I’m honored to have been asked to give this talk. And while I have some materials, I am desperately seeking more, both for the talk and for the book I hope to publish on KC Rock History. So if anyone out there has photos taken at the show, no matter how grainy, or other memorabilia, please write me at rick@kcrockhistory.com. You can scan and send it to me (high-res, please!) or loan it to me for scanning and be assured I will take good care of it. And please post your memories of the show below.

The man who sang “Kansas City” first

Britain's Ace Records has reissued the seminal "K.C. Loving" in this set.

Britain’s Ace Records has reissued the seminal “K.C. Loving” in this set.

While the song “Kansas City” is officially credited to rock ’n’ roll demigods Lieber and Stoller, the first man to record it, then-20-year-old Little Willie Littlefield, often claimed in the ensuing years to have written it himself.

It’s not hard to believe Littlefield had at least a hand in writing the song. After all, it was he who was hanging out on the corner of 12th Street and Vine in 1952, not Lieber and Stoller. They apparently never visited until 1986, to receive a key to the city.

From The Call June 20, 1952.

From The Call June 20, 1952.

According to articles and items in the “Running the Scales” column by Bee Flatt in The Call, Little Willie played the Orchid Room, located at the intersection made famous in the song lyric, in June and July 1952,
From The Call column "Running the Scales" by Bee Flatt, July 28, 1952.

From The Call column “Running the Scales” by Bee Flatt, July 28, 1952.

immediately before heading out to L.A. for an August recording session helmed by Ralph Bass. Those songs included “K.C. Loving,” released later that year on the Federal label.

In retrospect, “K.C. Loving” swings. It’s a happy meeting of boogie-woogie, jazzy saxophone and proto-rock ’n’ roll. But according to several sources, it hardly made an impact outside of the West Coast. It didn’t chart.

Apparently, though, Wilbert Harrison heard it, and his rollicking 1959 resurrection of the tune as “Kansas City” for the Fury label shot to Number 1 on the Billboard pop and R&B charts. That occasioned the re-release of Little Willie’s original, along with versions by Hank Ballard, Rocky Olson and Little Richard, with Richard adding different lyrics and welding it to his earlier “Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey!” Richard’s medley was the one covered just a few years later by those four lads from Liverpool, taking the song to new heights of popularity.

Meanwhile, Little Willie was fading into obscurity that was only to be relieved when he began touring Europe in the late 1970s. He moved to the Netherlands around 1980 and continued to perform in Europe — and occasionally the United States — until very recently. He played the Blue Room at 18th and Vine in 2008. According to his manager, Rolf Schubert, in this Washington Post obit, Little Willie Littlefield succumbed to cancer June 23.

The heavy sounds of Stone Wall

Greg Whitfield, (from left) Ken Mairs and Allen Blasco of Stone Wall at the Fun Fair, Municipal Auditorium, June 1969.

Greg Whitfield, (from left) Ken Mairs and Allen Blasco of Stone Wall at the Fun Fair, Municipal Auditorium, June 1969.

If the Classmen (clean-cut brothers, managed by their father) were Kansas City’s equivalent to the Beach Boys and the Chesmann its Beatles, Stone Wall could be likened to Kansas City’s Cream or Led Zeppelin.

A power trio with roots in the blues, Stone Wall was led by singer-guitarist Allen Blasco in combination with three different rhythm sections (1968-76).

Allen Blasco of The Clergymen at the Hullaballoo Scene club, March 1968.

Allen Blasco of The Clergymen at the Hullaballoo Scene club, March 1968.

As a young teen (1965-68), Blasco led The Clergymen, whose ever-changing array of musicians included Ray Goldsich, later to become known as radio personality Ray Dunaway. They were good enough to headline the Hullaballoo Scene club, a spinoff from the 1965-66 NBC television show that opened in 1967 on 85th Street just east of Prospect Avenue.

Stone Wall played many times at the summer Sunday Volker Park love-ins of the 1970s.

Stone Wall played many times at the summer Sunday Volker Park love-ins of the 1970s.

But with the coming of Hendrix, Cream and Blue Cheer, 17-year-old Blasco wanted to emulate that heavier sound, and he had the chops and the equipment to do it. He and his band mates (Ken Mairs, drums, Greg Whitfield, bass, v.1; Lee Cline, d, Rick Bacus, b, v. 2; Pete Jacobs, d, Alan Cohen, b, v.3) played venues ranging from Volker Park love-ins (there’s a great YouTube video here) to Municipal Auditorium, as part of then-future Cowtown Ballroom impresario Stan Plesser’s June 1969 Fun Fair.

Short-lived Aquarius attracted top-name local bands.

Short-lived Aquarius attracted top-name local bands.

While Stone Wall gigged all around town and at such outlying venues as St. Joe’s Frog Hop Ballroom and The Jolly Troll in Holton, Kan., they struggled to create original songs and thus interest from major record labels.

Blasco went on to form and/or play with such bands as Neon Blue and the reformed Riverrock.