Little Richard was born Richard Wayne Penniman on Dec. 5, 1932, in Macon, Ga. He was one of 12 siblings. His father was a brick mason, a bootlegger and eventually a nightclub owner. When Richard was 19, his father was shot to death outside of his club. He died at age 87 from bone cancer. There were years of rumors of his death in an old age home just outside of Los Angeles.
But what set Richard (he always referred to himself in the 3rd person)apart was his willingness to ramp up the tempos and turn the outrage meter up to ten; “Tutti Frutti,” “Rip It Up,” and “Jenny Jenny” still sounds outrageous a half-century after they were waxed.It’s difficult.. but intriguing to imagine how people must have reacted to Little Richard at a time when African-American performers were expected to be polite; and the notion of a black gay man venturing out of the closet simply didn’t exist. His songs were thoroughly heterosexual on the surface, but the nudge and wink of “Tutti Frutti” was faint but visible; and his bop threads, mile-high process and eye makeup clearly categorized him as someone “different”.
Little Richard’s songs represented the alpha and omega of rock and Every song was a classic ! -Richard’s grainy scream remains one of the great sounds in rock & roll history. The thunder of his piano and the frantic wail of the band is still the glorious call of a Friday night with pay in the pocket and trouble in mind. Brilliant stuff! Little Richard was an audacious showman in everything he did. But above all, he was a pioneer of rock and roll, mixing gospel, country, vaudeville and blues into something all his own. His voice was like a fire blizzard across an arctic wasteland. I mean, every major rock singer tried to copy his voice.” . He single handedly tore down the Jim Crow laws for black performers appearing in the South. The Beatles and The Rolling Stones etc.. etc..claimed that Richard’s music was their stepping blocks. In fact, if you’re into counting… The Beatles covered 20 of Richard’s songs..White artists like Pat Boone often scored big hits by covering Little Richard’s songs. He claimed that he didn’t see “a dime” from those thieves. You see back then white radio wouldn’t play black artists!
In one magical moment, every fear of every white family had been laid bare: an uninvited, screaming, flamboyant black man was in the living room. Little Richard was also an ordained minister and urban legend claims he married Tom Petty.. Fame came, all right, like burning lava. In 1970 Little Richard was on the comeback trail. After the British Invasion, he was old news; but no one dare compete with him on stage. He performed at the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles, which had been the home of professional wrestling, roller derby, big time boxing in its early days.. and hard-core punk concerts..–a co-headline with Country Joe and the Fish–but of course it was Richard who closed the show.
Richard always had in his contract that he’d never support other artists. By the end of his set, the crowd was in a frenzy, and Little Richard began inviting the crowd up on the stage. Only the stage, i.e.–the ring at the Olympic–couldn’t handle the weight. In a 1990 interview Richard tells the rest. “Collapsed. The piano fell… The stage fell. One guy broke his leg. It was pandemonium! The crowd was screaming, and they kept screaming for more. I was on top of the piano, and I was screamin’, too, ’cause I was fallin’. Everybody was screamin’. Screamin’ and screamin’!” There is no known footage of the show.. Once the L.A. police and fire department showed up there were hundreds of arrests for public drunkenness and drug charges…
Before he became a solo star, Jimi Hendrix was initiated into show-biz on major national tours with Little Richard. But this led to some disagreeable moments. There were certain rules in place for the band, one of which was showing up on time for gigs and no upstaging richard. Hendrix as always late… he missed soundchecks… curfews …. Had a lustful propensity for young white women… and he committed the cardinal sin…You don’t upstage Richard… He would start playing the guitar with his teeth and behind his head.. Hendrix and Little Richard parted ways and each made their mark in rock history, but they did not get a chance to reconcile their relationship before Hendrix passed away. Perhaps now the two legends can rock out in the afterlife.