Standing on the Corner of 12th Street and Vine



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

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

I’m going to be standing on the corner of 12th Street and Vine

I’m going to be standing on the corner of 12th Street and Vine

As a Broadway fanatic, I absolutely loved the 1995 musical review, “Smokey Joe’s Café.” It’s celebrated songs are written by Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller. In a show full of musical highlights, one of my favorite numbers was the 1952 R&B hit “Kansas City.” Its most famous early singer was Wilbert Harrison. But it has been recorded by more than 300 artists, from the Beatles to Peggy Lee, from Sammy Davis Junior to Tom Jones. Click here to see it as it looked on the stage Of the Virginia Theater (since renamed the August Wilson Theater).

“Kansas City” is one of those songs with an unforgettable combination of melody and lyrics. Once it gets into your head, it’s hard to stop humming it! But I’ve always wondered, what, exactly, is at the corner of 12th Street and Vine. In the summer of 2014, my son and I took a trip to Kansas City. After visiting the fabulous Negro League Baseball Museum, I realized we were only a few blocks from  the corner of 12th Street and Vine. Using the trusty GPS built into my iPhone, we tried to find the corner. It should’ve been easy. We were on Vine Street at 19th. We began walking in the direction of 12 Street, but couldn’t find it!

A Kansas City police officer stopped to help. She directed us to a nearby park. it was there we discovered the answer. There actually is no corner of 12th Street and Vine! There may have been at one time, but redevelopment changed the layout of the area. The “corner of 12th Street and Vine”  is now in a park! Recognizing that many tourists12_Street_And_Vine look for it, the city established the street sign and a marker for an imaginary corner! There is a badly faded marker and a path in the shape of a treble clef through the park. So while I did get a picture of myself standing on the corner of 12th Street and Vine, I was actually in a park!

We walked over to the American Jazz Museum American Jazz Museum, Kansas Cityand asked a very friendly and knowledgeable docent about the song. He explained that area centering on 18 Street and Vine,

18th Street And Vine

18th Street and Vine in its heyday

where the incredible Jazz Museum is located, was a center of African-American culture in Kansas City as well as one of the cradles of American jazz.

So why did Lieber and Stoller have the protagonist standing on a corner that doesn’t exist, six blocks from the correct location? The answer is easy: when Lieber and Stoller wrote the song, “12th Street” fit the rhyme scheme better than “18th Street!”  Sound it out (standing on the corner of 18th Street and Vine) and you’ll see that they are very different! So the songwriters took a bit of artistic liberty and immortalized a corner that doesn’t actually exist!




7 thoughts on “Standing on the Corner of 12th Street and Vine

  1. Pingback: Negro League Baseball Museum - America's Best Museums - Speaking For A ChangeSpeaking For A Change

  2. I am a native here and yes there was a 12th street and Vine here during and before the song was written. In the beginning of the 20th century (1900) the area was the kick-off point of urban planning in the city with the Paseo being the centerpiece along with a mansion built for Dr Generous Henderson completed in 1899. As the years went by other mansions were added to the strip during the time phrased as the “Lumber Barons” and was then called “Millionaire’s Row” for a time. The are went into decay with the Great Depression and as many areas in decay at the time the lower rents and property values allowed for more colorful goings on. In the 1940’s it became known as the Jazz district. More decay through the years with too many of these mansions being used as apartments split-up to house many families and in many cases cat houses the city came in with Federal dollars in the 1970’s and demolished most of the old mansions on the Paseo and that is when 12th street and Vine disappeared. The housing project is still there surrounding the area where the still empty sculpture park dedicated back in 2005 with the now illegible signage giving some of the history of the place and empty promises of statuary that would be in the Park. It is now 2018 and still no statues even though money was raised a contest among artists was held a winner was declared and no poor neighborhoods can’t have things that are nice. The city has repeatedly spent billions on other projects which benefit people from elsewhere but they are wealthy. Beyond that the cities Parks and Recreation Department even has a number of statues as well as other outdoor art pieces in storage. Same goes for the strip of historic mansions that could have been saved but instead were plowed down by the bull dozer. The remnants of the hand-carved stone can still be found along the riverfront nearby.

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