Richard Wayne Penniman, born on December 5th, 1932 in Macon, Georgia, and still going strong now at the age of 75 in 2008. One of the pivotal figures in the explosion of rock and roll onto the scene in the 1950s. In November of 1955 his first single for Specialty Records entered the R&B charts, a song called "Tutti-Frutti," and it sounded like nothing that anybody had ever heard before. Little Richard was the most exciting and dynamic musical figure that the world had ever seen up to that point. Compared to most of the other records of the day, "Tutti-Frutti" was like an atomic bomb exploding. Over the course of the next three years Richard released several of the greatest rock and roll records ever made, and established himself as the most radical of all of the rock and roll superstars of the day. Most adults in those days thought that his music was absolutely barbaric, and to top it off, he regularly wore makeup on stage, had a wild hairdo, and led a fairly open bisexual lifestyle for those days.
After two wild years of sold out concerts, big hit records, movies, and incredible fame, in late 1957 Richard decided that he was quitting the rock and roll business and going into the ministry. Legend has it that he had been scared sick on a rough flight during an Australian tour. He supposedly tossed his expensive jewelry into the Sydney Harbor, and he quit the tour with a bunch of dates still left, reportedly missing out on about half a million dollars worth of receipts from the cancelled shows.
For the next three years or so Specialty Records continued to release material that he had already recorded before his "retirement" from show business. A few years later he was back on the scene with a tour of England that brought out all of the English rock groups of the day to see one of their heroes. He has been making live appearances on and off over the past 40 years or so, and in recent times he has reportedly sounded as good in his late 60s and early 70s as he did when he was in his 30s.
LITTLE RICHARD'S PRIMARY INFLUENCES
Louis Jordan. Billy Wright, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Fats Domino, Cab Calloway, Hot Lips Page, Cootie Williams, Piano Red, Lloyd Price, Percy Mayfield, Lucky Millinder, Larry Darnell, Esquerita.
ROCK AND ROLL ARTISTS INFLUENCED BY LITTLE RICHARD:
Nearly every rock and roll artist who came after him was influenced by him, but here's a short list of artists who have recorded his songs - Elvis Presley, The Beatles, The Kinks, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Eddie Cochran, Buddy Holly, The Everly Brothers, Bill Haley, Sam Cooke, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Mitch Ryder, Hollies, Swinging Blue Jeans, Chambers Brothers, Jimi Hendrix, Isley Brothers, MC5, Queen, etc., etc., etc., ....Jimi Hendrix's first live appearances of note came as a guitarist in Little Richard's band, the Upsetters.
ARTISTS WHO STARTED AS LITTLE RICHARD IMITATORS:
James Brown, Otis Redding, Don Covay, Joe Tex, Larry Williams. All of these artists made records early in their careers where they were trying to sound like Little Richard.
QUOTES ABOUT LITTLE RICHARD FROM OTHER ROCK AND ROLL ARTISTS:
Paul McCartney - The first song I ever sang in public was "Long Tall Sally." I love his voice and I always wanted to sing like him. When the Beatles were first starting we performed with Richard in Liverpool and Hamburg, and we became close friends. Richard is one of the greatest kings of rock 'n' roll.
Smokey Robinson - Little Richard is the beginning of rock 'n' roll.
Keith Richards - The first time we realized we were on the same stage with LITTLE RICHARD in 1963, that seemed like the top of the world for us. That's as big a thrill as I've ever had. The most exciting moment of my life was appearing on the same stage as Little Richard.
Mick Jagger - I had heard so much about the audience reaction that I thought there must be some exaggeration. But it was all true. He drove the whole house into a complete frenzy. There's no single phrase to describe his hold on the audience. I couldn't believe the power of Little Richard on stage. He was amazing. Chuck Berry is my favorite, along with Bo (Diddley), but nobody could beat Little Richard's stage act. Little Richard is the originator and my first idol.
Elvis Presley - Your music has inspired me--you are the greatest (1969).
John Lennon - Elvis was bigger than religion in my life. Then this boy at school said that he'd got this record by somebody called Little Richard who was better than Elvis. The new record was Little Richard's "Long Tall Sally." When I heard it, it was so great I couldn't speak. I didn't want to leave Elvis, but this was so much better. Then someone said "It's a nigger singing." I didn't know Negroes sang. So Elvis was white and Little Richard was black. This was a great relief. "Thank You God" I said. "There is a difference between them." (1970)
Jimi Hendrix - I want to do with my guitar what Little Richard does with his voice (1966).
David Bowie - After hearing Little Richard on record I bought a saxophone and came into the music business. Little Richard was my inspiration.
James Brown - Little Richard is my idol.
Otis Redding - If it hadn't been for Little Richard I wouldn't be here. I entered the music business because of Richard--he is my inspiration. I used to sing like Little Richard, his rock 'n' roll stuff, you know. Richard has soul too. My present music has a lot of him in it. He did a number way back called "Directly From My Heart To You" which was the personification of soul. (1966).
Janis Joplin - I'd fly across the country to see Otis; I'd go see Little Richard anywhere. They work, they happen, they're electric, they're exciting, they sweat for you (1969).
Johnny Otis - Little Richard is twice as important as the Beatles and Stones put together.
SELECTED DISCOGRAPHY - SINGLES:
Every Hour / Taxi Blues - 1951
Get Rich Quick / Thinkin' 'Bout My Mother - 1952
Ain't Nothin' Happenin' / Why Did You Leave Me - 1952
I Brought It All On Myself / Please Have Mercy On Me - 1952
Ain't That Good News / Fool At The Wheel - 1953 (Tempo Toppers)
Rice, Red Beans and Turnip Greens / Always - 1954 (Tempo Toppers)
Tutti-Frutti / I'm Just A Lonely Guy - 1955
Long Tall Sally / Slippin' And Slidin' - 1956
Directly From My Heart To You / Little Richard's Boogie - 1956
Rip It Up / Ready Teddy - 1956
She's Got It / Heeby-Jeebies - 1956
The Girl Can't Help It / All Around The World - 1956
Lucille / Send Me Some Lovin' - 1957
Jenny, Jenny / Miss Ann - 1957
Maybe I'm Right / I Love My Baby - 1957
I'm In Love Again / Every Night About This Time - 1962 (Upsetters)
Little Star 123
Valley Of Tears / Freedom Ride - 1963 (Upsetters)
Little Star 128
Bama Lama Bama Loo / Annie Is Back - 1964
I Don't Know What You've Got, But It's Got Me (parts 1 & 2) - 1965
Vee Jay 698
Freedom Blues / Dew Drop Inn - 1970
Great Gosh A'Mighty! / (different artist on flip side) - 1986
SELECTED DISCOGRAPHY - ALBUMS/TRACKS:
Here's Little Richard - 1957 - Specialty 100 (2100)
Tutti Frutti/True Fine Mama/Can't Believe You Wanna Leave/
Ready Teddy/Baby/Slippin' And Slidin'
Long Tall Sally/Miss Ann/Oh Why?/
Rip It Up/Jenny Jenny/She's Got It
Little Richard - 1958 - Specialty 2103
Keep A Knockin'/By The Light Of The Silvery Moon/Send Me Some Lovin'/
I'll Never Let You Go/Heeby-Jeebies/All Around The World
Good Golly Miss Molly/Baby Face/Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey/
Ooh! My Soul/The Girl Can't Help It/Lucille
The Fabulous Little Richard - 1959 - Specialty 2104
Shake A Hand/Chicken Little Baby/All Night Long/The Most I Can Offer/
Lonesome And Blue/Wonderin'/She Knows How To Rock
Kansas City/Directly From My Heart/Maybe I'm Right/Early One Morning/
I'm Just A Lonely Guy/Whole Lotta Shakin'
Little Richard Is Back - 1964 - Vee Jay 1107
A Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On/Going Home Tomorrow/
Money Honey/Only You/Hound Dog/Goodnight Irene
Lawdy Miss Claudie/Groovy Little Suzy/Short Fat Fanny/
Cherry Red/Memories Are Made Of This/Blueberry Hill
The Rill Thing - 1970 - Reprise 6406
Freedom Blues/Greenwood, Mississippi/Two-Time Loser/Dew Drop Inn/
Somebody Saw You/Spreadin' Natta, What's the Matter?
The Rill Thing/Lovesick Blues/I Saw Her Standing There
King of Rock and Roll - 1971 - Reprise 6462
King of Rock and Roll/Joy To the World/Brown Sugar/
In the Name/Dancing In the Street
Midnight Special/The Way You Do the Things You Do/Green Power/
I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry/Settin' the Woods on Fire/Born on the Bayou
The Second Coming - 1972 - Reprise 2107
Mockingbird Sally/Second Line/
It Ain't What You Do, It's The Way How You Do It/The Saints/Niki Suki
Rockin' Rockin' Boogie/Prophet Of Peace/Thomasine/
Sanctified, Satisfied Toe-Tapper
LITTLE RICHARD'S 50 GREATEST RECORDINGS:
2. Long Tall Sally
3. Good Golly Miss Molly
5. Rip It Up
6. Keep A'Knockin'
7. Send Me Some Lovin'
8. Ready Teddy
9. Slippin' And Slidin'
10. The Girl Can't Help It
11. Jenny, Jenny
12. Miss Ann
13. Ooh! My Soul
14. True Fine Mama
15. Hey, Hey, Hey, Hey
16. Kansas City
17. I Don't Know What You've Got, But It's Got Me
18. Bama Lama Bama Loo
19. Freedom Blues
20. I'm In Love Again
23. Every Hour
24. Ain't Nothin' Happenin'
25. I Brought It All On Myself
26. Great Gosh A'Mighty
27. Taxi Blues
28. She's Got It
29. I'll Never Let You Go
30. All Around The World
31. Early One Morning
32. She Knows How To Rock
33. Rice, Red Beans And Turnip Greens
34. Get Rich Quick
35. All Night Long
36. Every Night About This Time
37. Little Richard's Boogie
38. Can't Believe You Wanna Leave
39. Directly From My Heart To You
40. Ain't That Good News
41. By The Light Of The Silvery Moon
42. Baby Face
43. I Got It
44. Why Did You Leave Me
45. Fool At The Wheel
46. Chicken Little Baby
47. I Love My Baby
48. Whole Lotta Shakin'
50. She's My Star
PLACEMENT ON DDD LISTS (as of 2/05):
Greatest Rock 'n' Roll Artists of the 50s - # 4 Greatest Rock Pianists - # 5 Greatest Rock Vocalists - # 17 Greatest 'Live' Rock Artists - # 16 Most Influential Rock 'n' Roll Artists - # 18 Greatest Rock Artists - # 21 Greatest Frontmen Of Rock - # 24 Greatest 'Male' R&B/Soul Vocalists - # 33
Various songs by Little Richard are listed numerous times on many DDD Song lists, including seven of his songs on the "100 Greatest Rock 'n' Roll Songs of the 50s" list, and "Tutti-Frutti" at # 29 on the "Greatest Rock Songs" list.
To discuss Little Richard with others, sign up for our
forum and check out the 'Favorite Artists' section.