Originally a medley developed by Little Richard for his stage act, the Beatles cover song “Kansas City - Hey, Hey, Hey, Hey!” was a combination of two separate songs: the blues standard "Kansas City," rewritten by the Lieber-Stoller songwriting team and made into a massive hit by Wilbert Harrison in 1959, then later covered with different verses by Richard in 1959. "Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey!" was an original Little Richard shouter released in 1958 as the B-side to his legendary "Good Golly Miss Molly."
Paul stated that John got him to really go over-the-top with his vocal mannerisms, knowing that the engineers at Abbey Road had already set their recording levels lower than was necessary.
He writes in his autobiography:
“I could do Little Richard's voice, which is a wild, hoarse, screaming thing; it's like an out-of-body experience. You have to leave your current sensibilities and go about a foot above your head to sing it. You have to actually go outside yourself. It's a funny little trick and when you find it, it's very interesting. It requires a great deal of nerve to just jump up and scream like an idiot, you know? Anyway, I would often fall a little bit short, not have that little kick, that soul, and it would be John who would go, 'Come on! You can sing it better than that, man! Come on, come on! Really throw it!' Alright, John, OK... He was certainly the one I looked up to, most definitely."
The Beatles reworked the original two songs. For instance, the lyrics to the first two verses are reversed.
Writes Beatle scholar Alan Pollack:
“Along the same lines, we find that the original contains a complete ending instead of the Beatles' fadeout; very strange considering the large number of other cover songs with fadeouts on the original version changed to a complete ending by the Beatles.”
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 US.
Today, The Beatles version of “Kansas City Hey Hey Hey Hey!” is played after every victory by the Athletics baseball team- not the original track.