“Richard Wayne Penniman was born Dec. 5, 1932, in Macon, Ga. He was one of 12 children who grew up in a Seventh Day Adventist family. Though many male relatives were preachers, Richard’s father was a bootlegger. His parents didn’t encourage his musical ambition, but Penniman sang and played piano at church. When he was 13, his parents kicked him out of their house, he said, because he was gay. ran Macon’s Tick Tock Club, where Penniman first sang professionally. In 1951, RCA Records signed Penniman after he auditioned at an Atlanta radio station. With the label, he cut jump-blues sides such as “Get Rich Quick” and “Every Hour.” Eventually, Penniman moved to Houston to record for Peacock Records. First he played with the Deuces of Rhythm and the Tempo Toppers, but by 1955, he began fronting the Johnny Otis Orchestra for a while. He also played blues clubs, which didn’t favor his rock ‘n’ roll numbers.
Penniman then sent a demo t ape to Los Angeles’ Specialty Records, which signed the singer and arranged for “Bumps” Blackwell to produce him. In September 1955, by now calling himself Little Richard, Penniman cut a former filler number known as “Tutti Frutti” (RealAudio excerpt). It featured his soon-to-be-trademark falsetto and howling lyrics, sold 3 million copies and made Little Richard a rock ‘n’ roll star. The gold records that cleverly mixed rock and New Orleans R&B followed in droves: the #6 “Long Tall Sally” (later covered memorably by the Beatles), the #17 “Rip It Up,” the #21 “Lucille,” the top-10 “Good Golly Miss Molly” and others.
Little Richard even appeared in early rock movies such as 1956’s “Don’t Knock the Rock” and “The Girl Can’t Help It” as well as “Mister Rock and Roll” (1957). But following an Australian tour in 1957, Richard quit the rock business. He said he saw a vision of the apocalypse and his own damnation in a dream. Richard also said he prayed to God during a fiery pl ane flight, promising that if the plane landed safely he would give up his wild life. Richard came out of the flight alive and became an ordained minister in the Seventh Day Adventist Church. He also received a bachelor’s degree from Oakwood College in Alabama. a Knockin’,” which became another Little Richard hit. But after a failed attempt to become an evangelical/gospel act, Richard returned to rock in 1964. His first single, “Bama Lama Bama Loo,” flopped. The music of the Beatles – who were huge Little Richard fans – had eclipsed that of Little Richard, and young people lost interest in his style.” *
A couple of decades ago, I chatted with LITTLE RICHARD about his career, his impending Demi Moore & Bruce Willis Wedding Gig and other fun subjects. Richard looks better today than he did then. Today, this founding father of Rock’ N Roll has become the co-star of many TELEVISION COMMERCIALS.
For more about the father of Rock’N Roll, click on Richard Penniman’s link below.
For our interview, click on play button below