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Little Richard

One of the original rock & roll greats, Little Richard merged the fire of gospel with New Orleans R&B, pounding the piano and wailing with gleeful abandon. While numerous other R&B greats of the early '50s had been moving in a similar direction, none of them matched the sheer electricity of Richard's vocals. With his bullet-speed deliveries, ecstatic trills, and the overjoyed force of personality in his singing, he was crucial in upping the voltage from high-powered R&B into the similar, yet different, guise of rock & roll. Although he was only a hitmaker for a couple of years or so, his influence upon both the soul and British Invasion stars of the 1960s was vast, and his early hits remain core classics of the rock repertoire.

Heavily steeped in gospel music while growing up in Georgia, when Little Richard began recording in the early '50s he played unexceptional jump blues/R&B that owed a lot to his early inspirations Billy Wright and Roy Brown. In 1955, at Lloyd Price's suggestion, Richard sent a demo tape to Specialty Records, who were impressed enough to sign him and arrange a session for him in New Orleans. That session, however, didn't get off the ground until Richard began fooling around with a slightly obscene ditty during a break. With slightly cleaned-up lyrics, "Tutti Frutti" was the record that gave birth to Little Richard as he is now known -- the gleeful "woo!"s, the furious piano playing, the sax-driven, pedal-to-the-metal rhythm section. It was also his first hit, although, ridiculous as it now seems, Pat Boone's cover version outdid Richard's on the hit parade.

Boone would also try to cover Richard's next hit, "Long Tall Sally," but by that time it was evident that audiences black and white much preferred the real deal. In 1956 and 1957, Richard reeled off a string of classic hits -- "Long Tall Sally," "Slippin' and "Slidin'," "Jenny, Jenny," "Keep a Knockin'," "Good Golly, Miss Molly," "The Girl Can't Help It" -- that remain the foundation of his fame. While Richard's inimitable mania was the key to his best records, he also owed a lot of his success to the gutsy playing of ace New Orleans session players like Lee Allen (tenor sax), Alvin Tyler (baritone sax), and especially Earl Palmer (drummer), who usually accompanied the singer in both New Orleans and Los Angeles studios. Richard's unforgettable appearances in early rock & roll movies, especially The Girl Can't Help It, also did a lot to spread the rock & roll gospel to the masses.

Richard was at the height of his commercial and artistic powers when he suddenly quit the business during an Australian tour in late 1957, enrolling in a Bible college in Alabama shortly after returning to the States. Richard had actually been feeling the call of religion for a while before his announcement, but it was nonetheless a shock to both his fans and the music industry. Specialty drew on unreleased sessions for a few more hard-rocking singles in the late '50s, but Richard virtually vanished from the public eye for a few years. When he did return to recording, it was as a gospel singer, cutting a few little-heard sacred sides for End, Mercury, and Atlantic in the early '60s.

By 1962, though, Richard had returned to rock & roll, touring Britain to an enthusiastic reception. Among the groups that supported him on those jaunts were the Rolling Stones and the Beatles, whose vocals (Paul McCartney's especially) took a lot of inspiration from Richard's. In 1964, the Beatles cut a knockout version of "Long Tall Sally," with McCartney on lead, that may have even outdone the original. It's been speculated that the success of the Beatles, and other British Invaders who idolized Richard, finally prompted the singer into making a full-scale comeback as an unapologetic rock & roller. Hooking up with Specialty once again, he had a small hit in 1964 with "Bama Lama Bama Loo." These and other sides were respectable efforts in the mold of his classic '50s sides, but tastes had changed too much for Richard to climb the charts again. He spent the rest of the '60s in a continual unsuccessful comeback, recording for Vee-Jay (accompanied on some sides by Jimi Hendrix, who was briefly in Richard's band), OKeh, and Modern (for whom he even tried recording in Memphis with Stax session musicians).

It was the rock & roll revival of the late '60s and early '70s, though, that really saved Richard's career, enabling him to play on the nostalgia circuit with great success (though he had a small hit, "Freedom Blues," in 1970). He had always been a flamboyant performer, brandishing a six-inch pompadour and mascara, and constant entertaining appearances on television talk shows seemed to ensure his continuing success as a living legend. Yet by the late '70s, he'd returned to the church again. Somewhat predictably, he eased back into rock and show business by the mid-'80s. Since then, he's maintained his profile with a role in Down and Out in Beverly Hills (the movie's soundtrack also returned him to the charts, this time with "Great Gosh a-Mighty") and guest appearances on soundtracks, compilations, and children's rock records. At this point it's safe to assume that he never will get that much-hungered-for comeback hit, but he remains one of rock & roll's most colorful icons, still capable of turning on the charm and charisma in his infrequent appearances in the limelight. ~ Richie Unterberger, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

"Keep A Knockin'"
Arguably, Little Richard-or Chuck Berry-is the authentic 'King of Rock & Roll'.
By his own admission (perhaps flippantly), and I post this with great respect: Little Richard is the 'Queen of Rock & Roll'.
dlc
this is classic R&B, this is what formed the music after it
The REAL king and the architect of Rock & Roll.
tuti fruit
SANG THE TRUTH RICHARD !!!!!!
Looks like they fixed the Japanese artwork.
stevecostin
Early RP? When recorded. Is
Oh my, look at the NBA,Richard you told us so. America. Its not America its some of the people in it and they come from everywhere.
WAY AHEAD of his times It's a shame Little Richard didn't get the recognition he deserved
Rock and roll........ . . . . . . . . !
What a STAR !!!
If seen little Richard on TV on full house
i am ow 13
Tuttii Frutti I sang all the time when I was little 4 years ago
I quote the man himself, "Elvis may be the king; but I'm the queen, baby!" The look came from Esquirita, but the sound was from outta this world.
nairobiheath e r
Awesome mix up is songs
The best of all of them.The real deal
Don't read this it actually works.you will be kissed on the nearest Friday by the love of your life, tomorrow will be the best day of yur life. However if you don't post this you will die in 2 days. Don't stop reading this. Put this on atleast 5 songs in the next 153min. When your done press f6 on your phone and your lover's name will appear in big letters on the screen.
Many artists copied him. He was the innovator and pretty much the creator of rock & roll. Only if he had trademarked everything, copiers would had been more original and creative, and pay mor dues.
lisad196133 said:

little Richard is great but Elvis was the king.

Reply:

Many artists of that era copied him. He forgot to trademark everything. We would have had more originalty from everyone then.
lisad196133
little Richard is great but Elvis was the king
After all this time they still have that Japanese GPS thing?
Great sounds Little Richard sweatiing to the fiiftys. LOVE IT.
My new fav song is piano riff.....WHO O O !
Straight from the 50's love it its been awhile since I heard this one. My wife tore the rug up to this one in the 50's and 60's.
I don't care how most of my friends say little richard is schlock, I know what like and it's little richard
Omfg great stuff!!
teegiroir
I want to go back to the '50's when I hear songs like this! I'm jitterbuggin g by myself!! WOWWWWW!!!
He has been my idol pretty much all my life. An amazing performer. The architect of rock n' roll.
What up
1309612041
Oooooooooooo o o o yeah pinggggggggg g g a h h h h
sseam
hey shane5638 this is seam
Ooooo yeah
It's been like that for I don't know how long. I think it's some Japanese GPS software. I just informed them about it.
Love the song but What's with the weird album cover?
Saints row picks the best music for there intros.
THIS IS THE ONLY REAL MUSIC,, Little Richard,, Jerry Lee, Chuck Berry ,, Rappers need to take a lesson. Joe pere
Epic
Little Richard is GREAT!!!!
vic_dlg
Love this song it's so good and love 50s dresses and the style
He is and will always Will be the king long live rock and roll. Glo1940
love to visit these site always, bring me a good memories...
Saw Little Richard in Vegas in the eighties..Fa n t a s t i c !
"Even though rock and roll was just invented, we fondly remember it. Here's a new hit called piano riff woo."- family guy three kings episode
Love oldies Rock & Roll! Good to exercise dancing. Like a few Artist. Can't find anyone who loves it to dance with! Ha! People in my building too old or sick, boring and depressed. I have to move from here ASAP! Ha!
Does Little Richard look that much like Lloyd Price....??? ?
Gracenote does the lyrics. They screw up quite often it seems.
Once and for all, the lyric is: He claims he had the MISERY; but he has a lot of fun I've seen three different and incorrect words in the lyric sheet. Does someone just guess at the lyrics?
ryanthomas32 1 0
Gotta respect the greats
I see they still have that Japanese GPS crap. :|
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