Richard Wayne Penniman
December 5th, 1932 (Macon, GA)
Jump Blues, Rock and Roll, New Orleans R&B, Gospel, R&B
#1 Hits :
"Long Tall Sally," "Rip It Up," "Lucille" (R&B charts)
Top 10 Hits:
"Long Tall Sally," "Jenny Jenny," "Keep A Knockin'," "Good Golly, Miss Molly" (pop), "Ready Teddy," "She's Got It," "Slippin' And Slidin' (Peepin' And Hidin')," "Tutti-Frutti," "Miss Ann," "Send Me Some Lovin'," "The Girl Can't Help It" (R&B only)
Elvis may have captured the attention of the censors first, but Little Richard was truly frightening in the best way: a hellacious black performer who leered at the audience while shouting classic tunes about wicked women. And all this while wearing makeup. The flamboyant Richard traveled the South in the early Fifties, looking to make a mark on the then-thriving jump-blues scene. That he did, but his Esquerita-influenced live shows so completely outstripped his rather tame early sides that they never caught on.
That all changed when Art Rupe of Specialty Records heard the singer's original, filthy version of "Tutti Frutti" and insisted he record it (cleaned up to please the censors, natch). Although cover versions of his songs by white acts got more airplay at first, Richard's hard, reckless version of jump blues - frantic and forceful, with all the swing in the backbeat sacrificed for maximum impact - soon caught on. However, Penniman also struggled with the tug of war between secular and religious music, and this conflict caused him to give up rock several times, beginning in 1957. Although that struggle stymied his continued commercial success, the flamboyant Little Richard remains an inspiration to generations of rockers.