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Little Richard


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Having cut my musical teeth on the bland offerings of Your Hit Parade, I was definitely ready for something else when rock & roll came along during my teen years. Even so, I wasn't quite ready for Little Richard, and it took me a while to appreciate his raw sound.

Eventually I came to like his music, especially "Slippin' and Slidin,'" and of course now I recognize him as a powerful influence and innovator.

He was born Richard Penniman during the Depression in Macon, Georgia, one of twelve children who grew up in poverty. As a youngster, he soaked up music - blues, country, gospel, vaudeville - which was part of the fabric of life in the black community. He learned to play piano from an equally flamboyant character named Esquerita, who also recorded rock & roll early on for Capitol Records.

Little Richard first recorded in a bluesy vein in 1951, but it was his tenure at Specialty Records beginning in 1955 where he made his mark with a stunning succession of rock & roll sides over the next several years, including “Rip It Up,” “Slippin’ and Slidin’,” “Lucille,” “Jenny Jenny” “Tutti Frutti,” “Good Golly, Miss Molly,” as well as the top ten hits listed below.

Although he abruptly abandoned rock & roll for the church in 1957, he soon returned to performing, and continued to entertain and amaze newer generations with media appearances, soundtrack and children’s record cameos, the film “Down and Out in Beverly Hills” and even Taco Bell commercials.

Once upon a time, somewhere in the mid 50s, he was one of the original rock greats, merging the energy of gospel with New Orleans R&B, while pounding the ivories like there was no tomorrow.

He died on May 9, 2020 at the age of 87.

Little Richard's top ten hits:* "Long Tall Sally" (6), "Keep a Knockin'" (8).

--Dick Estel, August 2006

Some material here was adapted from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame web site.

*Billboard pop singles chart, as reported in the book Top 40 Hits, copyright 1992 by Joel Whitburn.


Click on the photo for a larger image. Photos open in a new window

The label that Little Richard built

His first album Greatest Hits CD

A late photo, in all his flaming glory

Little Richard shows his wild piano style Gotta love that pompadour Little Richard and the Beatles Richard on stage in Germany




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Updated August 28, 2021