Kansas City Here I Come

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It started yesterday about 11:40 a.m.  Southwest Airlines texted my boarding passes for my Austin-to-Denver flight scheduled for today.  If I had looked carefully at the departure and arrival times when I made my reservation, I may have opted to do it differently. As it turned out, it is all about the adventure.  Why not take my sweet time getting to Denver and touching down in an out-of-the way place.

 

Frankly, I was shocked yesterday when I saw the location of my connecting flight.  Since that time the song has been rolling around in my head almost non-stop.  I’m hesitant to mention the lyrics for fear that you’ll also be rockin’ to the beat of the same rhythm and want to pound me in the head because you can’t stop the music either.  It is a catchy tune and it was very popular back in the day.  But what was the day? You tell me!

 

I’m going to Kansas City, Kansas City here I come  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

 I’m gonna be standing on the corner
 Of Twelfth Street and Vine
  I’m gonna be standing on the corner
  Of Twelfth Street and Vine
 With my Kansas City baby
 And a bottle of Kansas City wine.



 Well I might take a train
 I might take a plane, 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 lil’ women there 
And I’m gonna get me one”.



 

Okay, so if the sound and the lyrics are now running through your head, what is the image of the man or men behind the music?  I must be older than dirt.  The first image that comes to my mind is that of Fats Domino sitting behind the keyboard of a piano pelting out the words while pounding on the ivories.  I was a little kid, but I guess if you’re watching a man like Fats Domino pelting out a song before you on “The Hit Parade”, you’d intuitively think of yourself as small.

 

How would you like to have the nickname of “Fats?”  Apparently, Antoine Domino wore it well.  He entitled his first album “The Fat Man” in 1949. He was 21-years-old at the time. Born in New Orleans in 1928, music was second nature to him. He was one of nine children and music was obviously in their DNA. The entire family swayed to the beat of rhythm and blues. While other kids were playing sandlot baseball at the age of seven, Antoine was playing the piano and being introduced to the music scene in New Orleans. By age 10, Domino was already performing as a singer and pianist. That’s not even old enough to be a paperboy. At age 14, he dropped out of high school with music on his mind.  It served him well.  In 1946, at the age of 18, Domino started playing piano for the well-known New Orleans base player and band leader Billy Diamond. It was Diamond that gave him the nickname “Fats”.

“His first recording, “The Fat Man” (1949), was one of a series of rhythm-and-blues hits that sold 500,000 to 1,000,000 copies. He found success in mainstream America with his 1955 song “Ain’t It A Shame,” which was retitled to its now widely known, “Ain’t That A Shame.” The next year, his cover of “Blueberry Hill” became his highest charting hit. He solidified his popularity with teenagers when he appeared in two films, Shake, Rattle & Rock and The Girl Can’t Help It. During his career, Domino endured the challenges of racial discrimination to become one of the defining pioneers of rock and roll music. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986. A documentary about his life, Fats Domino and the Birth of Rock ‘n’ Roll, premiered on PBS in 2016”.

 

So in my memory, I’m thinking Fats Domino was the legend behind “Kansas City.”  Or was it William Harrison?  No, it couldn’t have been William Harrison. Like I said, mine is a mental visual image. William Harrison is the skinny guy who turned the song into a “Number ‘1’ hit”, but Fats Domino is the guy I remember.

 

I remember Fats, but in case you’re wondering, my memory is broader than that. The year was somewhere between 1962 to1964. I was a high school student and part-time soda jerk at Otto’s Ice Cream after school and on weekends. I remember their music like it was yesterday. It was a new sound. It was an entirely different sound.  It was a new beginning. 

 

“Kansas City Hear I Come” rocked and the three electric guitars and set of drums pelting out the introduction had you in motion before the words began the flow. Nobody, I mean nobody’s recording of Kansas City sounded like John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr’s variation. It was the BEATLES!!!!  Wow!  Wow!  Wow!  Hey! Hey! Hey! Nobody did Kansas City the way the Beatles did “Kansas City Here I come”.

 

Oh Yeah!  The lyric, “Well I might take a train
 I might take a plane, but if I have to walk
 I’m going just the same 
I’m going to Kansas City Kansas City here I come…” was as big as life in my head yesterday mornnig as I looked at my boarding pass. I was even in the first board group, but only barely.  How did that happen?  I sat for two minutes watching the time so I could check in at the first possible second.  My board number is “A-60”.  I guess I can console myself that the number is better than the “B-Group”, but only by one seat.

 

With a population of less than 500,000 people, Kansas City is the largest city in Missouri. Somehow the population surprises me.  That’s about half the size of Austin proper, but if you add the greater-Austin area together it adds up well over 2,000,000 people. I would have guessed that St. Louis was larger than Kansas City. After all, it is known for its Gateway Arch built in the 1960s, honoring the early 19th-century explorations of Lewis and Clark and America’s westward expansion in general. “Replica paddlewheelers ply the river, offering views of the arch. The Soulard district is home to barbecue restaurants and clubs playing blues music”.

 

A couple of years ago when I flew from Austin to Denver, SWA (my airline of choice) routed me from Austin-to-San Diego while in route to Denver. Somehow the route to Denver this time doesn’t seem as far.  Reportedly, it is 920 miles from Austin to Denver.  It is only 737 miles to Kansas City and another 603 miles to Denver.  Consequently, I’m only traveling 420 miles out of the way. 

 

I can’t exactly say “I’m in the money” but the extra 420 miles will entitle me to an extra package of peanuts and a beverage of my choice. In case your wondering what I generally order, it is “spicy tomato juice”. Some folks refer to it as “bloody Mary mix”, but the mental image of that quells my taste. I don’t want to drink a bloody anything. The extra 420 miles also doubles my chances of meeting someone really interesting on the plane or in the airport. 

 

I’ll go out of my way to be friendly and engage people in conversation.  Lord knows I’m going to have ample time to hang around in airport terminals later this morning. Why not be “that passenger” that talks to everybody?  Everyone has a story and sometimes people don’t mind sharing the details if you simply indicate some interest.

 

When I recently flew from Chicago to Austin, I met a delightful young woman who lives near Dripping Springs.  By the time our plane landed, we were friends. I look forward to meeting her family in a couple of weeks.

 

All My Best!

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Don

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