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.
came to like his music, especially "Slippin' and Slidin,'"
and of course now I recognize him as a powerful influence and
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,
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
Although he abruptly abandoned rock & roll for the church in
1957, he soon returned to performing, and continues 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.
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 and RockPhiles
*Billboard pop singles chart, as reported in the book Top 40
Hits, copyright 1992 by Joel Whitburn.