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Little Richard


1932

Richard Wayne Penniman, a.k.a. “Little Richard,” is born in Macon, Georgia.

1955

Art Rupe of Hollywood-based Specialty Records receives a demo tape from Little Richard. Contracts are sent out to Richard’s manager on March 4th.

1955

Little Richard enters Cosimo Matassa’s J&M Studios in New Orleans for the first time. Over the next year he’ll record some of the greatest sides in rock and roll history with producer Bumps Blackwell and the cream of bandleader Dave Bartholomew’s musical troupe.

1956

Little Richard’s “Tutti-Frutti” crosses over from the R&B to the pop chart, rising to #17. Elvis Presley performs “Tutti-Frutti” twice on national TV in February.

1956

Little Richard’s biggest hit, “Long Tall Sally” released on Specialty Records, tops the R&B chart for eight weeks and reaches #6 on the pop chart. Eight years later, in April 1964, the Beatles’ version of “Long Tall Sally” appears on The Beatles’ Second Album.

1956

Little Richard hits #2 on the R&B chart and #33 (6/30) on the pop chart with “Slippin’ and Slidin’ (Peepin’ and Hidin’)” and #1 on the R&B chart and #17 (8/04) on the pop chart with “Rip It Up”. Both singles are released on Specialty Records.

1956

The last of Little Richard’s New Orleans recording sessions yields a bevy of blockbusters, including “Good Golly Miss Molly,” “Jenny Jenny” and “The Girl Can’t Help It.”

1956

The film ‘The Girl Can’t Help It’ is released. Little Richard performs three songs, including the title track. Other rockers who appear in the film include Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran, Fats Domino and the Platters.

1957

Little Richard hits #1 on the R&B chart and #21 (4/13) on the pop chart with “Lucille”, #3 on the R&B chart with “Send Me Some Lovin’”, #2 on the R&B chart and #10 (7/08) on the pop chart with “Jenny, Jenny” and #2 on the R&B chart and #8 (10/28) on the pop chart with “Keep A Knockin’.” All four singles are released on Specialty Records.

1957

On the fifth date of a two-week tour of Australia, Little Richard suddenly abandons rock and roll for religion. In January 1958, he enters Oakwood Theological College in Huntsville, Alabama.

1958

Little Richard hits #4 on the R&B chart and #10 on the pop chart with the Specialty release “Good Golly, Miss Molly”.

1959

‘Little Richard Sings Gospel’ is issued on the 20th Century label. He continues to record gospel in the coming years for the Mercury and Atlantic labels, working with such producers as Jerry Wexler and Quincy Jones.

1962

Little Richard begins a rock and roll comeback tour in Britain. In November, he shares the bill at Hamburg’s Star Club with the Beatles.

1964

Recording sessions for the Vee-Jay label find Little Richard returning to his rock and roll roots with a then-unknown Jimi Hendrix on guitar.

1965

Jimi Hendrix goes to New York with Little Richard’s band and takes a room at the Theresa Hotel. Over the next several months, he will play with Little Richard, King Curtis, Joey Dee and the Starlighters and the Isley Brothers. He also takes a job with a club band called Curtis Knight and the Squires.

1967

Little Richard’s Greatest Hits, a live collection of older classics cut for the Okeh label, becomes his first LP in ten years to make Billboard’s Top 200 Albums chart.

1968

The film ‘Down and Out in Beverly Hills’, featuring Little Richard in a memorable role, is released.

1969

Once again in demand, Little Richard appears at a rock and roll revival in Toronto with Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Jerry Lee Lewis, Gene Vincent, Bo Diddley and John Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band.

1970

Little Richard quit music at the height of his fame to attend Oakwood theological college in Huntsville, Alabama. Richard, born Richard Wayne Penniman, received a BA from the college and later became ordained as a Seventh Day Adventist minister.

1970

‘The Rill Thing’, the first of three fine albums for the Reprise label, is released. It is followed by ‘The King of Rock and Roll’ (October 1971) and ‘The Second Coming’ (September 1972). The last of these reunites Little Richard with the core crew from his historic Fifties sessions in New Orleans.

1977

Little Richard becomes a traveling Bible salesman and preacher, having again walked away from rock and roll to embrace evangelical Christianity following a period of drug and alcohol abuse. In 1979, he will release the gospel album God’s Beautiful City.

1986

Little Richard is inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at the first induction dinner, held in New York City. Because he’s recuperating from an automobile accident, he cannot attend but sends a videotaped message.

1993

Little Richard receives a Lifetime Achievement Award during the 35th annual Grammy Awards.

1994

Little Richard receives a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Rhythm and Blues Foundation.

Little Richard