Monday, July 4, 2011

Little Richard

Richard Wayne Penniman (born December 5, 1932), known by the stage name Little Richard, is an American singer, songwriter, musician, recording artist, and actor, considered key in the transition from rhythm and blues to rock and roll in the 1950s. He was also the first artist to put the funk in the rock and roll beatand contributed significantly to the development of soul music.The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame web site entry on Penniman states that:
He claims to be "the architect of rock and roll", and history would seem to bear out Little Richard’s boast. More than any other performer – save, perhaps, Elvis Presley, Little Richard blew the lid off the Fifties, laying the foundation for rock and roll with his explosive music and charismatic persona. On record, he made spine-tingling rock and roll. His frantically charged piano playing and raspy, shouted vocals on such classics as "Tutti Frutti", "Long Tall Sally" and "Good Golly, Miss Molly" defined the dynamic sound of rock and roll.
Penniman began performing on stage and on the road in 1945, when he was in his early teens.He began his recording career on October 16, 1951 by imitating the gospel-influenced style of late-1940s jump blues artist Billy Wright, who was a friend of his that set him up with the opportunity to record. His early fifties recordings, however, did not achieve remarkable commercial success. However, in 1955, under the guidance of Robert "Bumps" Blackwell, Penniman began recording in a style he had been performing onstage for years,featuring varied rhythm (derived from everything from drum beats he would hear in his voice to the sounds of trains he would hear thundering by him as a child), a heavy backbeat, funky saxophone grooves, over-the-top gospel-style singing, moans, screams, and other emotive inflections, accompanied by a combination of boogie-woogie and rhythm and blues music.This new music, which included an original injection of funk into the rock and roll beat,inspired many of the greatest recording artists of the twentieth century, including James Brown, Elvis Presley, Otis Redding,Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix,Michael Jackson, and generations of other rhythm & blues, rock, and soul music artists.
On October 12, 1957, while at the height of stardom, Penniman abruptly quit rock and roll music and became a born-again Christian.He had charted seventeen original hits in less than three years.In January 1958, he enrolled in and attended Bible college to become a preacher and evangelist and began recording and performing only gospel music for a number of years. He then moved back and forth from rock and roll to the ministry, until he was able to reconcile the two roles in later life.
Penniman was among the first group of inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986 and one of only four of those artists (along with Ray Charles, James Brown, and Fats Domino) to also receive the Rhythm and Blues Foundation's Pioneer Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2003, Penniman was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.In 2007, his 1955 original hit "Tutti Frutti" was voted Number 1 by an eclectic panel of renowned recording artists on Mojo's The Top 100 Records That Changed The World, hailing the recording as "the sound of the birth of rock and roll."In 2010, The United States of America's Library of Congress National Recording Registry added the groundbreaking recording to its registry, claiming that the hit, with its original “A-wop-bop-a-loo-bop-a-lop-bam-boom!” a cappella introduction, announced a new era in music.

Early life and early career: 1932-1951
Richard Wayne Penniman was born in Macon, Georgia, the third of 12 children born to Charlie "Bud" Penniman, Sr. (10 April 1910 – 12 January 1952), a bootlegger and his wife Leva Mae (née Stewart). He grew up in a religious family in which singing was an integral part of their lives; they performed in local churches as The Penniman Singers, and entered contests with other singing families. His family called him "War Hawk" because of his loud, screaming singing voice. His grandfather, Walter Penniman, was a preacher, and his father's family were members of the Foundation Templar African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in Macon. His maternal grandmother was a member of Macon's Holiness Temple Baptist Church. Penniman attended the New Hope Baptist Church in Macon, where his mother was a member. Penniman's favorites were the Pentecostal churches because of the music and the fun he would have doing the holy dance and speaking in tongues with members of the congregation. When he was 10, he became a faith healer, singing gospel songs and touching people, who would testify that they felt better afterwards. Inspired by Brother Joe May, a singing evangelist known as "The Thunderbolt of the West", Penniman wanted to become a preacher.
Almost all of Penniman's dramatic phrasing and swift vocal turns are derived from black gospel artists of the 1930s and '40s. He said Sister Rosetta Tharpe was his favorite singer when he was a child. She had invited him to sing a song with her onstage at the Macon City Auditorium in 1945, after hearing him sing before the concert. The crowd cheered, and she paid him more money than he had ever seen after the show.He was also influenced by Marion Williams, from whom he got the trademark "whoooo" in his vocal, Mahalia Jackson and Brother Joe May.[28] He was influenced in appearance (hair, clothing, shoes, makeup, etc.) and sound by late 1940s gospel-style, jump blues shouter Billy Wright, a friend of his who was known as the "Prince of the Blues".Wright set Penniman up with DJ Zenas Sears, who scored the newcomer his first recording contract in 1951.One of Penniman's main influences in piano-playing was Esquerita (Eskew Reeder, Jr.), who showed him how to play high notes without compromising bass. Penniman met Esquerita when he traveled through Macon with a preacher named Sister Rosa.
Penniman lived in a black neighborhood; he had some contact with whites but, due to racial segregation, he could not cross the line where the whites lived.While in high school, Penniman played alto saxophone in the marching band. He began losing interest in school and began performing in a variety of travelling shows in his mid-teens.

Early recordings: 1951-1955
In October 1951, Penniman began recording jump blues records for RCA Camden. His father was shot to death while he was performing at a club on January 12, 1952.In October 1953, he began recording with Peacock Records.Records were released each year during 1951–54, but none were significant hits.
Following two recording sessions with Peacock in 1953,Penniman, dissatisfied with his solo career, began to form a new R&B road band that he called "The Upsetters." The band began with New Orleans drummer Charles "Chuck" Connors and two saxophonists, including Wilbert "Lee Diamond" Smith.By 1955, the band was joined by saxophonists Clifford "Gene" Burks and Grady Gaines, who became its leader, along with Olsie "Baysee" Robinson on bass, and Nathaniel "Buster" Douglas on guitar.
At Lloyd Price's suggestion, Penniman recorded a demo for gospel/R&B label Specialty Records on February 9, 1955.Specialty's owner, Art Rupe, loaned him money to buy out his contract from Peacock Records and placed his career in the hands of Specialty's A&R man Robert "Bumps" Blackwell.
Rupe and Blackwell originally pictured Penniman as a commercial rival to Ray Charles, who was experiencing success with Atlantic Records by taking gospel songs and developing them in a bluesy setting with a beat.Penniman told Rupe he liked Fats Domino's sound, so Rupe and Blackwell booked Cosimo Matassa's J & M Recording Studio in New Orleans,and hired studio musicians who had worked with Domino (including Earl Palmer on drums and Lee Allen on sax) rather than members of Penniman's road band on many of the mid-1950s Specialty tracks.
Following some recordings that did not satisfy Blackwell, they took a break. Penniman began pounding out a boogie woogie rhythm on piano and hollering out impromptu recital of "Tutti Frutti", a song he had written and had been performing on stage for years. Blackwell was so impressed with the sound that he had Penniman record the song. However, in order to make it commercially acceptable, Penniman's lyrics were rewritten. Blackwell recognized that the lyrics, with their “minstrel modes and homosexuality humor” needed to be cleaned up.For example “Tutti Frutti, good booty",[44] were replaced with “Tutti Frutti, aw-rooty”. The song featured the a cappella intro "A-wop-bop-a-loo-lop-a-lop-bam-boom!", which Penniman first belted out years before onstage based on a drum beat he heard in his voice, that had also been altered slightly to make it commercially acceptable.The recording was released on Specialty in October 1955.

Penniman's influence on the development of a variety of major musical genres in the twentieth century and many of those genres most significant artists was immense.[139] James Brown, who called Penniman his idol,stated that he was the first to put the funk in the rock and roll beat via his mid-1950s road band.Otis Redding, who entered the music business because of Penniman, indicated that Penniman contributed significantly to the development of soul music.ichie Unterberger of stated that "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.
Penniman has been recognized for his outstanding musical contributions by many other high-profile artists. In November 1988, Ray Charles introduced him at the Legends of Rock n Roll concert in Rome, as "a man that started a kind of music that set the pace for a lot of what's happening today."Bo Diddley stated that "Little Richard was a one-of-a-kind show business genius. He influenced so many people in the business."Paul McCartney said that he idolized Penniman when he was in school and always wanted to sing like him,and Mick Jagger called Penniman "the originator" and "my first idol."Bob Dylan performed Little Richard songs on piano as a schoolboy in his first band and declared in his high school yearbook in 1959 that his ambition was "to join Little Richard",and in 1966, Jimi Hendrix, who recorded and performed with Penniman from 1964 to 1965." and began to emulate him in appearance (mustache, clothing, etc.) during that time,was quoted as saying, "I want to do with my guitar what Little Richard does with his voice." Cliff Richard, George Harrison,Keith Richards,Bob Seger,[ John Fogerty,David Bowie,Elton John,Freddie Mercury, Rod Stewart,and AC/DC band members Bon Scott, angus Young, and Brian Johnson are among the many other top-selling recording artists of the twentieth century who indicated that Penniman was a primary rock 'n' roll influence. In 1979, as he began to develop his solo career, Michael Jackson was quoted as saying that Penniman was a huge influence on him.

Awards and honors
In 1956, Cashbox awarded Penniman the Cashbox Triple Crown Award for his second hit single "Long Tall Sally".
In 1984, "Little Richard" Penniman was inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame.
In 1986, Penniman was one of the first group of recording artists inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
In 1990, he was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
In 1993, he then received an Honorary Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.
In 1994, he was the fourth recording artist (the others being Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin and James Brown) to be recognized with the Lifetime Achievement Pioneer Award by the Rhythm and Blues Foundation.
In 1995, he received two Keys to the City of Providence, Rhode Island; one was awarded spontaneously, on stage, by Mayor Vincent "Buddy" Cianci
In 1997, he received the American Music Award of Merit.
On May 14, 2002, Little Richard was honored as one of the first three BMI Icons at the 50th annual BMI Pop Awards. He was presented the award along with BMI affiliates Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry.
In 2002, he received the NAACP Image Award - Hall of Fame Award for having "distinguished himself as not only an unparalleled musical genius, but also as a unique and innovative performing artist—fusing pure vocal talent with exhilarating showmanship."
In 2003, he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked him #8 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.
In 2006, he was inducted into the Apollo Theater Legends Hall of Fame, at the same time as Ella Fitzgerald (who was one of the first winners of 'Amateur Night at the Apollo' in 1934) and Gladys Knight & the Pips.
In 2007, his 1955 original hit "Tutti Frutti" topped Mojo's The Top 100 Records That Changed The World.
In 2008, Penniman was inducted into the Music City Walk of Fame.
In 2009, he was formally inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame.
In 2009, he was inducted into the Hit Parade Hall of Fame.
In 2010, The Library Of Congress National Recording Registry added Penniman's original 1955 hit “Tutti Frutti” to its registry, claiming that the hit announced a new era in music: “A-wop-bop-a-loo-bop-a-lop-bam-boom!”[23]
In September 2010, Little Richard was named GQ's Man of the Year (Legend).