ABOUT LITTLE RICHARD
Born into a family of 12 children, Penniman learned gospel music in Pentecostal churches of the Deep South. As a teenager, he left home to perform rhythm and blues in medicine shows and nightclubs, where he took the name “Little Richard,” achieving notoriety for high-energy onstage antics. His first recordings in the early 1950s, produced in the soothing jump-blues style of Roy Brown, showed none of the soaring vocal reach that would mark his later singing.
His breakthrough came in September 1955 at a recording session at J & M Studio in New Orleans, Louisiana, where Little Richard, backed by a solid rhythm-and-blues band, howled “Tutti Frutti,” with its unforgettable exhortation, “A wop bop a loo bop, a lop bam boom!” In the year and a half that followed, he released a string of songs on Specialty Records that sold well among both black and white audiences: “Rip It Up,” “Long Tall Sally,” “Ready Teddy,” “Good Golly, Miss Molly,” and “Send Me Some Lovin’,” among others. Blessed with a phenomenal voice able to generate croons, wails, and screams unprecedented in popular music, Little Richard scored hits that combined childishly amusing lyrics with sexually suggestive undertones. Along with Elvis Presley’s records from the mid-1950s, Little Richard’s sessions from the same period offer models of singing and musicianship that have inspired rock musicians ever since.