How a single from a Kansas City soul artist became a surprise hit in Europe

Ken Washington
Photo by Ken Washington

“In the 80s I had come back to KC from college at Langston University in Oklahoma and got my first job at KMBC, Channel 9. I was always working at night, doing music. I was always putting bands together and trying to do songwriting.

“I wrote these two songs, ‘The Promise’ and ‘I Found What I’ve Been Searching For,’ and I knew they were good. I knew someone who was very well-to-do and who came to my shows, and they put up the money to record.

“We were able to go to Chapman Studios and set up time. Eddie Baker, the head of the Charlie Parker Academy in KC, knew everybody back then. He told me, ‘You should get Carol Kaye [legendary bass player who was part of the famed studio ensemble The Wrecking Crew] on the record.’ I said, ‘How do I get Carol Kaye?’ She was in Los Angeles—she played on everything. Her bass is on Hawaii Five-0, ‘La Bamba,’ Pet Sounds, you know that bass on Sonny and Cher’s ‘The Beat Goes On?’ That was her, she wrote that.

“So I got in touch with her—she was a real hip, still-in-the-sixties kind of chick. She said she needed five-hundred dollars and she would drive from Los Angeles to Kansas City. I kinda think she was trying to get away from something, but I’m not sure.

“Once we got the records, we took them over to 7th Heaven on Troost because we had a deal with them. They were selling my records and Chris King was playing it on KPRS. And he would say, ‘The number one record in the city by La’Verne Washington!’ Some kind of way, a couple of these twenty-five hundred [records] made their way to Europe.

“That is amazing to me. Slowly, over the years, I started hearing from French people and people in the UK about how much they loved this record. They started writing to me and finding me. I started seeing the record for sale on these vinyl websites for like three hundred dollars. I was like ‘Oh, my God.’ In Paris and the UK, they like that eighties, what they call ‘boogie’ music.

“Last year, a guy reached out to me on Facebook messenger from a record company in the UK. At first, he started talking about how much he liked the record. Then he started talking about remastering and reissuing it.

“They were going to try to do it from the record. And I said, ‘Well, you know I have the master,’ and they were like ‘What?’ I had the big, heavy twenty-four track reel sitting here in my closet. I kept the masters all these years and thank God finally I needed it. It must weigh thirty or forty pounds. They paid for me to send it to London—it cost like a hundred dollars to ship it.” —La’Verne Washington as told to Izzy Curry

Categories: History, Music