by Robert Wilkinson
Today we send up a big 80th birthday greeting shout out to one of the truly original creators of rock and roll, the inimitable Little Richard!
As I've explained in other articles, in the beginning there were 5 seminar figures in rock and roll. There was Bill Haley, who thanks to the Alan Freed "jukebox" movies and the soundtrack of "Blackboard Jungle," took a song described as "fox trot with vocals" and turned it into an anthem for a disaffected generation, "Rock Around the Clock." Within a short time, four singular talents took to the airwaves and each shook the world: Elvis Presley, the world's first true superstar who blazed into the stratosphere of pop music and electrified teens and adults everywhere; Chuck Berry, the One who gave rock and roll its poetry of teenage life and the classic licks that a million guitar slingers have cut their teeth on ever since; Buddy Holly, who over his 14 month career gave the world dozens of its most memorable songs still popular to this day along with the legend of pop stars dying young in plane crashes; and today's birthday boy of the 6 inch pompadour, frenetic piano, wailing vocals, and "slightly off color" lyrics, the singular Little Richard.
A little bio from AllMusic:
Little Richard merged the fire of gospel with New Orleans R&B, pounding the piano and wailing with gleeful abandon. While numerous other R&B greats of the early '50s had been moving in a similar direction, none of them matched the sheer electricity of Richard's vocals. With his bullet-speed deliveries, ecstatic trills, and the overjoyed force of personality in his singing, he was crucial in upping the voltage from high-powered R&B into the similar, yet different, guise of rock & roll. Although he was only a hitmaker for a couple of years or so, his influence upon both the soul and British Invasion stars of the 1960s was vast, and his early hits remain core classics of the rock repertoire.
He really did "blow the lid off the Fifties." Countless bands have done his music, as his songs were definitely "high voltage" and exciting to hear. When they came on the radio, it seemed that everything went electric for two minutes! (I remember the first time I heard him on my transistor radio in the late 50s, and my hair stood on end!) I had the privilege of seeing him in the 90s when he was halfway between one of his gospel incarnations and the flamboyant-in-full-makeup pompadoured wild man, and the show was great. Since all the talk in the world doesn't describe his kinetic energy, on with the shew!! For your enjoyment, the immortal Little Richard!!
His first big one, the "sound of the birth of rock and roll!" From the 1956 Alan Freed movie "Don't Knock the Rock," Little Richard doing "Tutti Frutti." (It was standard to lip synch in those days, but it still gives a sense of what was happening!) Here's a clip of the Master in full makeup and great form live in 1995 doing a powerful pounding performance of "Tutti Frutti."
Also from "Don't Knock the Rock," "Long Tall Sally." Here's the original studio version, complete with wailing sax! "Long Tall Sally." And for your enjoyment, here's the incredible Beatle performance of "Long Tall Sally," sung "with gusto" by Paul McCartney.
From the 1957 Alan Freed movie "Mr. Rock and Roll," Little Richard doing a performance of "Lucille." For your enjoyment, here are the Everly Brothers on the Tennessee Ernie Ford show doing a short version of "Lucille," and from 1983, here are the Everly Brothers doing a rocking version of "Lucille."
You really need to check this one out! An utterly fantastic music video featuring John Goodman and "the King," Little Richard performing his signature hit, "Good Golly Miss Molly."
From the 1964 UK Granada TV show "'Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On" (later retitled "Don't knock the rock" - no relation to the Alan Freed movies!), here's are four b/w live performances!! First, after a rave up opening by the house band, we find Little Richard performing "Rip It Up." From the same show, "Hound Dog." We then take you to a great performance of "Lucille," and close the set with the iconic "Good Golly Miss Molly."
Using some of the footage from the same concert along with some great acrobatic dance footage, this isn't live, but it is a great tune! Here's Little Richard doing the Johnny Cash hit, "Get Rhythm."
From Shindig in 1964, Little Richard live cranking out "Bama Lama Bama Loo." (Yes, it sounds like his earlier smash hits, but I suppose he's allowed to rip himself off....) Also from American Bandstand in 1964, rare footage of him doing "Bama Lama Bama Loo."
I found three from the same show where he's at his wild man best! From France in 1966, Little Richard wailing on "Jenny Jenny," followed by a great performance of "Long Tall Sally." We close this set with another great one where he winds up shirtless doing a rave up version of "Ready Teddy"
Little Richard in payback mode to Paul McCartney! A great performance of a soul arrangement of Paul's early Beatle hit, complete with full makeup and huge hair, of "I Saw Her Standing There."
We now go to studio versions of his tunes!
From "Here's Little Richard," his first album on Specialty, the original studio version of "Slippin' and Slidin'"
Also from his first album, the original studio version of "Jenny Jenny"
From his second Specialty Records album, "Little Richard," here's the original studio version of "Lucille."
Also from the second album, the original studio version of "Keep A Knockin'" set to a still photo of the original single jacket.
For a treat, here are the Beatles in 1964 live on Shindig performing a medley of “Kansas City” and “Hey Hey Hey Hey”
From his third and final album from his early rock and roll incarnation, "The Fabulous Little Richard," here's "All Night Long."
Also from the third album, "Shake A Hand."
Three takes on a song from the third album, "She Knows How To Rock."
We'll close his early period with this one from "The Fabulous Little Richard," "Early One Morning."
Here's a music video using scenes from the 1956 Jayne Mansfield movie "The Girl Can't Help It," featuring Little Richard on the soundtrack singing "She's Got It." And here's the title track from the same movie, "The Girl Can't Help It."
From 1966, Little Richard's studio version of a great soul number, "Poor Dog (Who Can't Wag His Own Tail)"
We'll close today's celebration with Little Richard and Jimi Hendrix, back when Jimi was LR's guitarist in the mid-60s. For your enjoyment, a blues number called "Going Home Tomorrow."
So here's to you, Mister "Little Richard" Penniman! You're still one of the most exciting performers on Earth, going strong at 80! Woooooooo!!!!!! (And for what it's worth, I still think "Long Tall Sally" should be our national anthem. "Gonna have some fun tonight!" Less bombs bursting in air and more fun tonight is always a good thing.....)
© Copyright 2012 Robert Wilkinson