Personalities | Little Richard | Fifties | Rock

(Piano, vocals, b. 1932)

Georgia-born Richard Penniman, who combines frantic vocals with uninhibited pianistics, was one of 12 children. Raised in a religious family, he started recording for RCA in 1951 after winning a talent contest. Chart success followed his signing with Specialty Records, where Bumps Blackwell produced a series of classic rock’n’roll tracks between 1955 and 1958, including 1955’s ‘Tutti Frutti’, 1956’s million-selling ‘Long Tall Sally’ and ‘Rip It Up’, 1957’s ‘Lucille’ and ‘Keep A-Knockin’’ and 1958’s ‘Good Golly Miss Molly’, among others. While touring Australia in 1957, he abandoned the music business, apparently after seeing the Russian Sputnik space rocket, which he felt was a divine sign to change his behaviour. He studied to become a preacher, only recording gospel music, but returned to the fray in the mid-1960s. While he remained a dynamic live performer and an undoubted legend, his records rarely matched his 1950s rock’n’roll hits.

Styles & Forms | Fifties | Rock
Personalities | Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers | Fifties | Rock

Source: The Definitive Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock, general editor Michael Heatley


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