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The Queen of Rock and Roll

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“Elvis may be the King of Rock and Roll, but I am the Queen.”
–Little Richard
“The first time we realized we were on the same stage with LITTLE RICHARD in 1963, which seemed like the top of the world for us. That’s as big a thrill as I’ve ever had. The most exciting moment of my life was appearing on the same stage as Little Richard.”
–Keith Richards
“Your music has inspired me – you are the greatest”.
–Elvis Presley
“So Elvis was white and Little Richard was black. This was a great relief. “Thank You God,” I said. “There is a difference between them.”
–John Lennon
“I want to do with my guitar what Little Richard does with his voice.”
–Jimi Hendrix
“After hearing Little Richard on record I bought a saxophone and came into the music business. Little Richard was my inspiration”. –David Bowie

Richard Wayne Penniman was born on December 5th, 1932, in Macon, Georgia, and is still raising a ruckus today. This native Georgian was one of the pivotal figures in the explosion of rock and roll into the scene in the 1950s. In November of 1955, his first single for Specialty Records entered the R&B charts, a song called “Tutti- Frutti,” and it sounded like nothing that anybody had ever heard before. Compared to most of the other records of the day, “Tutti- Frutti” was like an atomic bomb exploding. Over the course of the next three years, Richard released several of the greatest rock and roll records ever made. Most adults in those days thought that his music was utterly barbaric, and to top it off, he regularly wore makeup on stage, had a wild hairdo, and led a fairly open bisexual lifestyle for those days.

After two wild years of sold-out concerts, big hit records, movies, and incredible fame, in late 1957 Richard decided that he was quitting the rock and roll business and going into the ministry. Legend has it that he had been scared sick on a rough flight during an Australian tour. He supposedly tossed his expensive jewelry into the Sydney Harbor, and he quit the tour with a bunch of dates still left, reportedly missing out on about half a million dollars-worth of receipts from the canceled shows.

For the next three years or so, Specialty Records continued to release material that he had already recorded before his “retirement” from show business. A few years later, he was back on the scene with a tour of England that brought out all of the English rock groups of the day to see one of their heroes.
He has been making live appearances on and off over the past 40 years or so, and in recent times he has reportedly sounded as good in his late 60s and early 70s as he did when he was in his 30s. Little Richard defies the natural laws of time and space.
Nearly every rock and roll artist who came after him was influenced by him, but here’s a short list of artists who have recorded his songs: Elvis Presley, The Beatles, The Kinks, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Eddie Cochran, Buddy Holly, The Everly Brothers, Bill Haley, Sam Cooke, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Mitch Ryder, Hollies, Swinging Blue Jeans, Chambers Brothers, Jimi Hendrix, Isley Brothers, MC5, Queen, etc. Jimi Hendrix’s first live appearances of note came as a guitarist in Little Richard’s band, the Upsetters.
James Brown, Otis Redding, Don Covay, Joe Tex, and Larry Williams. All of these artists made records early in their careers where they were trying to sound like Little Richard.
No Little Richard: No Elton John.
No Freddie Mercury.
No Queen.
No Bowie.
No Iggy Pop.
No glam rock.
No ‘Glee’ TV show.”

R.I.P.  Richard Wayne Penniman (Little Richard)
12/05/1932 – 5/09/2020
Little Richard was a true trailblazer. And, most importantly, dear readers, he did his acting up when it wasn’t part of mainstream culture. He, along with others, made it so.