b. Richard Wayne Penniman, 5th December 1935, Macon, Georgia, U.S.A.
d. 9th May 2020, Nashville, Tennessee, U.S.A.
‘Little’ Wayne Penniman is widely regarded as one of the founding fathers of the genre ‘Rock N’Roll’, however, his deeper roots are to be found in R&B, and also in Soul and (later) Funk music.
He is an accomplished recording artist, songwriter, and musician.
Richard was the third-eldest of twelve siblings.
charles 'bud' penniman and leva mae penniman
His parents were Leva Mae and Charles ‘Bud’ Penniman.
The Penniman family children were raised in the poor neighbourhood of Macon called Pleasant Hill.
Richard began singing in church at a young age.
At birth, one of Richard’s legs was shorter than the other.
This produced an unusual way of walking, which was later to embellish his stage appearances.
In 1947, Sister Rosetta Tharpe heard a fourteen-year-old Richard singing her gospel recordings in Macon City.
Richard began his recording career in Atlanta, in late 1951.
The musician, Billy Wright put Richard in contact with a local deejay.
The deejay recorded Richard at his radio station backed by Billy Wright's band.
These recordings led to a deal with RCA's Camden subsidiary.
He recorded with Billy Wright's Orchestra, releasing ‘Taxi Blues’, one of 4 single releases for the label.
In 1952, his father was suddenly killed following a confrontation outside his club.
In 1953, Richard relocated to Texas, where he joined the groups the Tempo Toppers and the Duces of Rhythm, with whom he recorded several R&B sides, including 'Ain't That Good News'.
In the same year, he also recorded with Johnny Otis's Orchestra, on some unreleased sides.
At the suggestion of Lloyd Price, Richard sent a two-song demo for Price's label, Specialty Records, in February 1955, who, under the wing of producer Robert 'Bumps' Blackwell, he recorded a several further tracks in New Orleans.
tutti frutti b/w i'm just a lonely guy - 1955 / rip it up b/w ready teddy - 1956
One of these sides, namely, ‘Tutti Frutti', realised Richard his first R&B and pop hit in the U.S.A.
The follow-up release, 'Long TaIl Sally', topped the R&B charts.
The song became the first of three U.S. Top 10 hits.
Further releases, (which became Top 20 hits) included ‘Rip It Up' and 'Ready Teddy’.
‘Rip It Up’ became Richard’s first U.K. release and chart entry in late 1956.
here's little richard - 1957 / lttle richard - 1958 / the fabulous little richard - 1958 / little richard and buck ram - 1958
Richard performed his first two hits 'Long Tall Sally' and 'Tutti Frutti' in the film 'Don't Knock The Rock’.
His energetic performances were showcased in the film (and subsequent) single, ‘The Girl Can't Help It’.
‘The Girl Can't Help It’, along with its b-side, 'She's Got It’, realised two further U.K. Top 20 hits.
1957’s further single releases embedded Richard into the history of Rock N’Roll.
'Lucille', 'Keep A Knockin’ and 'Jenny Jenny' and an album entitled 'Here's Little Richard' were all Top 20 hits.
Also in 1957, Richard released his first album, ‘Here's Little Richard’, which reached No. 13 on the Billboard Top LPs chart.
At the pinnacle of his stardom, he announced in Australia, he was quitting music to pursue a career in education.
In 1958, previously recorded singles kept him in the public eye, especially the 45, ‘Good Golly Miss Molly’.
In 1959, Richard achieved his biggest U.K. hit with an old recording of the song 'Baby Face' which reached number 2.
the king of the gospel singers - 1961 / sings freedom songs - 1963 / little richard sings - 1964 / little richard is back - 1964
Between 1958 and 1962 Richard recorded Gospel sides for Gone, Mercury and Atlantic Records.
In 1962, Richard toured the U.K. for the first time.
The same year, the Beatles opened for Richard at the Star Club in Hamburg.
When he returned to the U.K., Richard performed live with the Rolling Stones as the support act.
Richard began recording Rock N’Roll again at the Specialty imprint.
The subsequent recordings resulted in the U.K. Top 20 hit 'Bama Lama Bama Loo'.
In 1964, he signed with Vee Jay, re-recording all of his previous material, with varying degrees of success.
Richard began looking to Soul Music during the mid-Sixties, releasing some more soulful material on Vee Jay.
'I Don't Know What You've Got (But It's Got Me)' (which featured Jimi Hendrix on guitar) and 'Without Love’, were fine examples of this era of Richard’s recording career.
sings his greatest hits - 1966 / the explosive little richard - 1967 / the rill thing - 1970 / king of rock and roll - 1971
Richard continued to tour throughout the decade, performing his back catalogue, whilst switching labels between the Modern (in 1965), the OKeh (in 1966) and the Brunswick imprints (in 1967).
At OKeh, Richard collaborated with Larry Williams, who produced two albums for him in 1966 and 1967.
The first was a studio album, ‘The Explosive Little Richard’, which featured ‘Poor Dog’ and ‘Commandments of Love’, and a second release, ‘Little Richard's Greatest Hits: Recorded Live!’.
Other OKeh tracks included, 'Hurry Sundown' and 'Get Down With It' (recorded in the U.K. and later covered by the group Slade).
By 1968, Richard had sold over 32 million records worldwide.
In 1970, Richard signed to the Reprise imprint, working alongside the producer Richard Perry.
Richard released the album ‘The Rill Thing’, which included the singles ‘Freedom Blues’ and ‘Greenwood, Mississippi’.
friends from the beginning (with jimi hendrix) - 1972 / right now - 1973 / good golly miss molly - 1975 / i know the lord - 1979
Throughout the Seventies, Richard performed live regularly, and switched imprints on a regular basis.
This period was viewed by many as Richard’s fallow period, musically, as he became more of a showman than a recording artist.
In 1976, Richard released the Mainstream Records single ‘Call My Name’, which was distributed by Motown.
The same year saw Richard return to his Gospel roots, preaching across the States at this time.
In 1979, Richard released one gospel album, entitled ‘I Know The Lord’.
lifetime friend - 1986 / bama lama bama loo - 1988
In 1986, Richard became an initial performer inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame.
His acting career saw him feature in the film 'Down And Out In Beverly Hills’, in which he performed 'Great Gosh Amighty'.
His new found public interest saw a move to the WEA imprint.
Richard released 'Lifetime Friend', which included the hit, 'Operator'.
During the Eighties, Richard appeared on talk shows, and he was given his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Richard is the recipient of Lifetime Achievement Awards from The Recording Academy and the Rhythm and Blues Foundation.
Richard’s failing health in recent years is well documented.
In 2007, Richard was having problems walking due to sciatica in his left leg, which led to a reliance on the use of a wheelchair at times.
In 2009, he entered a hospital to have replacement surgery on his left hip.
In 2013, he revealed he had suffered a heart attack at his home.
Richard died at the age of 87 in Tennessee on the 9th of May 2020.
The cause of death was revealed to be related to bone cancer.
At the time of his passing, he was living with his brother in Nashville, Tennessee.
His brother and son were with him when he passed away.
R&B pioneer Johnny Otis once stated that:
‘Little Richard is twice as valid artistically and important historically as Elvis Presley, the Beatles, and the Rolling Stones put together’.
Little Richard (Camden Records 1956)
Here's Little Richard (Specialty Records 1957)
Little Richard Volume 2 (Specialty Records 1957)
The Fabulous Little Richard (Specialty Records 1958)
Sings Gospel (20th Century Records 1959)
It's Real (Mercury Records 1961)
Little Richard Sings Freedom Songs (Crown Records 1963)
Coming Home (Coral Records 1963)
King Of The Gospel Singers (Wing Records 1964)
Little Richard Is Back (Vee Jay Records 1965)
The Explosive Little Richard (Columbia Records 1967)
Good Golly Miss Molly (Specialty Records 1969)
The Little Richard Story (Joy Records 1970)
Well Alright (Specialty Records 1970)
Rock Hard, Rock Heavy (Specialty Records 1970)
You Can't Keep A Good Man Down (Union Pacific Records 1970)
The Rill Thing (Reprise Records 1970)
Mr Big (Joy Records 1971)
Cast A Long Shadow (Epic Records 1971)
King Of Rock N'Roll (Reprise Records 1971)
The Original Little Richard (Specialty Records 1972)
The Second Coming (Warners Records 1973)
Rip It Up (Joy Records 1973)
Slippin' And Slidin' (Joy Records 1973)
Good Golly Miss Molly (Hallmark Records 1974)
Greatest Hits Recorded Live (Embassy Records 1974)
Keep A Knockin' (Rhapsody Records 1975)
Dollars Dollars (Charly Records 1975)
The Great Ones (MFP Records 1976)
Little Richard And Jimi Hendrix Together (Ember Records 1977)
Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On (DJM Records 1977)
Little Richard Now (Creole Records 1977)
The Georgia Peach (Charly Records 1980)
Little Richard And His Band (Specialty Records 1980)
Ooh! My Soul (Charly Records 1982)
Whole Lotta Shakin' (Bulldog Records 1982)
Get Down With It (Edsel Records 1982)
The Real Thing (Magnum Force Records 1983)
Little Richard (Cambra Records 1983)
He's Got It (Topline Records 1984)
Lifetime Friend (Warners Records 1986)