Little Richard, a legend in the early stages of Rock ‘n’ Roll and beyond, passed away this morning at this home in Tullahoma, TN (about an hour south of Nashville).
Richard had enormous influence over the music world, with popular hits like “Tutti-Frutti” and “Long Tall Sally.” The Beatles have credited Richard as being inspirational to the Fab Four.
Richard’s bass guitarist, Charles Glenn, said Richard had been sick for 2 months. He died at his Tennessee home, surrounded by his brother, sister and son. Glenn says he spoke with Richard March 27 and the singer asked him to come over and visit, but he couldn’t because of the pandemic. Glenn says Richard was like a father to him. Richard would sometimes tell him, “Not to take anything away from your dad, but you’re my son.”
Richard was born Richard Wayne Penniman in 1932. Ironically, he was born in a depression and died in what feels like a depression.
Richard’s music was heavily influenced by the church. He sang gospel and learned the piano at his home church.
His first break came in 1951, when he performed at an ATL radio station and it caught the ear of record execs. Richard was signed to RCA. He didn’t become successful while at the label, but it was a start. In 1955, Richard signed with Specialty Records, where he recorded “Tutti-Frutti” which became an immediate hit.
In 1957, Richard shocked the world by quitting the rock biz and became part of the ministry, recording gospel. He recorded an album, “God is Real,” in 1959.
Richard returned to the pop music world, after The Beatles re-recorded his hit “Long Tall Sally” with great success. In 1964, following the Beatles’ recording of “Long Tall Sally,” Little Richard focused his on rock music. Over the ensuing decades, Little Richard would continue to perform and record, but the public response failed to match the enthusiasm that greeted his earlier success.
Although he didn’t achieve great success after that, his influence is irrefutable. He was one of the original inductees into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences in ’93, and got the Pioneer Award from the Rhythm & Blues Foundation.
I did a short tour with him in the seventies as his sound mixer. His show had some Gospel mixed with his hits. He kept up his flamboyant image on stage and before the press, but behind the scenes, he was just a hard-working musician that was always a pleasure to work with. He definitely had a uniqueness that set him apart from the other rock shows. My prayers are with his family and those who were touched by his life as an entertainer and fellow believer.