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Little Richard Says “Goodbye” But Rayman Tells You How He Got His Start

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

In a recent post we all read Little Richard saying it was over. Although he’s said the same things before during his career, this time I believe him. When Richard says goodbye, it saddens me a great deal, for it really is the end of an era. I will miss him. Instead of dwelling on that though, let me tell you how it really started for Richard Penniman from Macon Georgia.

After playing with some small time bands, and getting a contract with RCA that didn’t work out, Richard decided he needed to get signed by someone else. He sent out demo tapes to all the recording studios around. He got no replies. Nobody wanted Richard Penniman.

Down on his luck and totally frustrated, his luck suddenly changed when out of the blue one day he received a phone call from Art Rupe of Specialty Records. Art wanted to audition him, with possibility of signing him to a deal.

Little Richard entered the studio on September 14, 1955. With him was Bumps Blackwell who Rupe had signed on as the producer, along with a New Orleans style rhythm section. They started around 10:30 in the morning, and Richard played some of his older songs, however both he and Bumps felt they weren’t good enough to record. One song they did like was Tutti Fruitti, an old song that had been around for awhile. They had problems rearranging the lyrics, and felt it needed something..but what was the question.

Around Noon, totally frustrated, Bumps suggested they go next door to have a coke and a burger. Upon entering, Richard noticed an old piano way back in the corner, and immediately started taking out his frustrations on the piano to the tune of Tutti Frutti. Not remembering the words, he made them up as he went along. The song started coming together, as Richard sped up the tempo, and added the famous a wop bop a lu bop a wop bam boom to the song. It sounded good, and he played it again this time even faster. Bumps noticed those in the cafe were smiling and nodding their approval. They rushed back to the studio, and in three takes, had the song recorded .

Tutti Frutti sold eight million records by 1968. Richard was of course signed to Specialty records, and went on to record for Specialty for many years. And that’s how Little Richard really got his start.


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