Musical Map Of The USA: Kansas—Wilbert Harrison



Most of what people know about Kansas, they learned from The Wizard of Oz: There are tornadoes and it’s flat. Needless to say, tourism is not its main industry. Growing up I imagined what it would be like to live on the West or East Coast, or near any kind of water. I was always looking for a place where I would one day escape.

My family made its way to different parts of the country one spring break at a time. The first time I went to California I felt even more cheated that I hadn’t grown up there. Why wouldn’t my parents do the obvious thing and move to eternally sunny Los Angeles? Or to the towering peaks of Colorado? I could have been an Olympic downhill skiier! But, no; my backyard would never be the mountains. Back to the Great Plains we’d go.
I remember the first time I heard the song “Kansas City.” I was like, “Wow, Somebody wants to be here?!” From that moment, I started wearing it like a badge: “Of course, people want to be here!” Because there is so much about Kansas that people don’t know. For instance, people might not know (because it wasn’t in The Wizard of Oz), but there are two Kansas Cities—one in Kansas, one in Missouri. Both make up a large metropolitan area that sprawls out into both states; but it’s the Kansas side that stretches into an infinite horizon.
There are many version of “Kansas City,” but my favorite has always been by Wilbert Harrison. It has the perfect combination of rhythm and blues with an upbeat swing. “I’m going to Kansas City, Kansas City here I come. They got some crazy lil’ women there, And I’m gonna get me one.” Now, when I get on a plane to Kansas City, I always think about that song in my head. I am the crazy lil woman, and I can’t wait to get back to where I’m from.
This is one of more than 50 posts that make up our musical map of the United States, published by region—the West, Midwest, South, and Northeast—by writers who have strongly associated a song with a state.


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