Little Richard jumped into the public eye in 1956 with his first album on Specialty Records, Here's Little Richard. The Concord Group, who now owns the rights to the Specialty catalog, is reissuing that album on April 17 with bonus content.
Along with Richard's breakout hit, Tutti Frutti, the album also features the followups Ready Teddy, Jenny Jenny, Rip It Up and Slippin' and Slidin'. The album also includes two bonus tracks, demo recordings of Baby and All Night Long, plus two videos of screen tests for Tutti Frutti and Long Tall Sally.
Richard approached Specialty Records at the suggestion of R&B legend Lloyd Price, best known for the 1952 R&B hit Lawdy Miss Clawdy. Richard and his band, the Upsetters, recorded a demo of two blues songs at Macon radio station WMBL-AM. The first, Baby, was a blues shuffle, the second a slow blues titled All Night Long that featured B.B. King-style guitar by Thomas Hartwell. In fact Specialty owner Art Rupe happened to be looking for a singer like B.B. King, although staff producer Bumps Blackwell recalls Rupe as seeking the next Ray Charles. The demos didn’t overwhelm Rupe, but he signed Little Richard anyway.
Blackwell was assigned to record Richard in New Orleans, and the resulting session featuring pianist Huey Smith and saxophonist Lee Diamond begat eight standard-issue blues/R&B songs. Then, during a break on the second day while Smith was out, the producer heard Richard sing Tutti Frutti, accompanying himself on the piano. With only 15 minutes of studio time remaining, and the original lyrics cleaned up by songwriter and studio habitué Dorothy LaBostrie, there was no time for Smith to learn the piano part, so Richard played it himself. According to Hildebrand, “Richard attacked the piano with incessant even-eight-note patters which was decidedly different from the shuffle rhythm drummer Earl Palmer was laying down behind him. Swing and shuffle beats had been the primary pulse of rhythm & blues until Richard introduced even eights that would come to drive most R&B and rock music and still do today.”
The song shot to #2 on Billboard’s R&B charts and a credible #17 pop. Rolling Stone rated it at #43 on its list of Greatest 500 Songs of All Time. Subsequent Little Richard Specialty hits dented Top 10 R&B and Top 20 pop. All the songs on Here’s Little Richard were recorded in New Orleans with the exception of True, Fine Mama and She’s Got It, both made in Los Angeles, Specialty’s home.
Since abruptly giving up show business for God in October 1957, Richard’s life has vacillated between religion and rock ’n’ roll. Today at age 78, he lives in Nashville. Despite being wheelchair-bound, on July 3, 2011, he performed Tutti Frutti and other hits on the nationally televised all-star A Capitol Fourth on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
True Fine Mama
Can't Believe You Wanna Leave
Slippin' and Slidin' (Peepin' and Hidin')
Long Tall Sally
Rip It Up
She's Got It
All Night Long (demo)
Artist: Little Richard
Title: Here's Little Richard
Release Date: April 17, 2012
Format(s): CD, DD