It’s impossible to discuss 1950s music without mentioning Little Richard. This flamboyant musician was a driving force in the development of rock and roll, and his influence is still felt today. Richard Penniman was born in 1932, and grew up in Macon, Georgia. He showed an early interest in music, and began singing gospel songs at church services when he was just six years old.

Let’s take a look at his life.

Early Life

Little Richard was born Richard Wayne Penniman on December 5th, 1932, in Macon, Georgia. He was the third of 12 children born to Leva Mae and Charles “Bud” Penniman.

Growing up, Richard was a mischievous child who often got into trouble. When he was 14, he was expelled from school for fighting. Around this time, he also developed a love for music and began performing in his church choir.

In 1951, Richard left Macon to pursue a career in music. He toured with several gospel groups before striking out on his own. His unique style quickly gained attention, and in 1955 he released his first hit song, “Tutti Frutti.”

Here are 5 of his most popular songs

“Tutti Frutti” (1955) – Little Richard’s first major hit was also one of his most memorable. The song’s iconic opening line, “A-wop-bop-a-loo-bop a-wop-bam-boom!” has been quoted by everyone from the Beatles to James Brown.

“Long Tall Sally” (1956) – This song was reportedly based on a real person, a tall woman who worked at a clothing store in Little Richard’s hometown of Macon, Georgia. The original version of the song was even faster than the version that eventually became a hit, but the record label made Little Richard slow it down so that it would be more radio-friendly.

” Rip It Up” (1956) – “Rip It Up” is another classic rock ‘n’ roll song that has been covered by everyone from Elvis Presley to the Rolling Stones. The original version was recorded in just one take, and features a famous drum solo from Richard’s bandmate, Jimmie Johnson.

“Good Golly Miss Molly” (1958) – This song was written by Little Richard’s producer, Robert “Bumps” Blackwell. It was inspired by a teenage girl who Blackwell had seen dancing at a club in New Orleans.

“Keep A-Knockin'” (1958) – “Keep A-Knockin'” is one of Little Richard’s most popular songs, and has been covered by everyone from the Beatles to Led Zeppelin. The original version of the song was recorded in just two takes.

Impact on fashion

While Little Richard is best known for his music, he has also had an impact on fashion and pop culture. He was one of the first musicians to popularize the pompadour hairstyle, and his flamboyant stage persona influenced many future rock stars, including Elvis Presley, Jimi Hendrix, and Prince.

Little Richard awards and recognition 

Throughout his career, Little Richard received numerous awards and recognition for his contributions to music. In 1986, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and in 1993 he was given a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Grammy Awards.

In addition, he was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and a place in the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

His Comeback:

After a decade out of the spotlight, Little Richard made a triumphant return to music in 1984 with the release of his album Lifetime Friend. The album was a commercial and critical success, earning him a Grammy nomination for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance.

The following year, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 1986, he released his first live album, Little Richard Live!, which was another critical and commercial success. He followed it up with another studio album, 1986’s Long Tall Sally, which included the hit single “Great Gosh A’Mighty! (It’s a Matter of Time).”

After a brief hiatus, he returned to music in 1992 with the release of his album Shake It All About. The album was well-received by fans and critics alike, and Little Richard continued to perform and record until his death in 2020.

Listen to Little Richard singing ‘Tutti Frutti’