Little Richard was torn in many directions as a man and a performer. Born in 1932 as Richard Wayne Penniman, his father kicked him out of the house at the age of 13 on account of his homosexuality. His early music was shaped by the church; his grandfather and two uncles were preachers. He was taken in by a white family who owned a club in Macon, Georgia and did more singing there. RCA awarded him a record contract in 1951 but, taking from biography.com, his “repertoire of mainly mild blues numbers that masked the searing vocals and piano that would come to define his rock music” wasn’t winning him the fans at the time. That changed a few years later.
In 1955 Richard hooked up with Specialty Records producer Art Rupe, who’d been hunting around for a piano-pounding front man to lead a group of musicians in New Orleans. In September, Richard stepped into the recording studio and pumped out “Tutti-Frutti,” an instant Billboard hit that reached No. 17. Richard’s success didn’t stop there. Over the next year and a half, he churned out several more rock hits, including “Long Tall Sally,” “Good Golly Miss Molly” and “Send Me Some Lovin’.”
Popular though he was, he was conflicted by the rock music and later sought solace again in the church, eventually releasing a gospel album in 1959.
When the Beatles released a cover of Long Tall Sally in 1964, this brought him back into the rock realm as a name and performer in the genre but he never gained back the popularity he had previously.
Still, his importance in the development of rock music has never been questioned. In 1986 Little Richard was one of the 10 original inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He was a recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences in 1993. A year later the Rhythm & Blues Foundation honored the Little Richard with its prestigious Pioneer Award.
He’s a favourite of mine, that’s for sure. I grew up listening to this kind of stuff on jukebox albums and radio stations that lived in the past and I’m still a fan.