Hello, Little Richard is one of the legendary rock and roll artists of the 1950’s. He not only could rock, but he could write, play the piano and put on a live show second to none. His music has stood the test of time. His songs have been covered by artists from Elvis Presley, Pat Boone to Mitch Ryder and The Detriot Wheels just to mention a few. The songs are timeless, Little Richard is a classic in every word…He was born Richard Wayne Penniman on December 5, 1932 in Macon, Georgia. This post will focus on his first year on the charts…1956…what a year it was.
On November 26, 1955 Little Richard recording on Specialty Records charted his first Billboard R&B hit record, TUTTI-FRUTTI. The single record went straight to the R&B Top 10, just missing the #1 spot, peaking at #2 and holding the #2 spot for 6 weeks. The record remained on the chart for 21 weeks. On January 14, 1956 TUTTI-FRUTTI became a Billboard Top 100 pop hit. His record climbed the pop chart to #17. Sales of TUTTI-FRUTTI were over 1 million, and Little Richard was awarded a “Gold Record” his first of many to come. On April 7, 1956 his second hit entered both the Top 100 and the R&B chart, LONG TALL SALLY and the “B” side, SLIPPIN’ AND SLIDIN’ (Peepin’ And Hidin’) both became huge hits. LONG TALL SALLY became Little Richard’s first #1 hit on the R&B chart and his first Top 10 hit on the pop chart, #6. The record also became his second million-seller. SLIPPIN’ AND SLIDIN’ just missed #1 on the R&B chart, peaking at #2 and became a Top 40 pop hit at #33.
On June 30, 1956 he would follow-up with another double-sided smash and a week later on July 7, 1956 both sides would debut on the pop chart. RIP IT UP would be Little Richard’s second #1 R&B hit record, it would chart at #17 on the Billboard Top 100. The “B” side, if you could call his records, A or B sides was READY TEDDY. The single would chart at #8 R&B and #44 on the Top 100. RIP IT UP would also be his third “Gold Record”.
What a year…and as the saying goes “the hits just keep on coming”. On October 27, 1956 his next single made its R&B debut, SHE’S GOT IT became yet another Top 10 R&B hit, charting at #9. On November 3, 1956 the “B” side of SHE’S GOT IT made its R&B debut. HEEBY-JEEBIES actually charted higher, climbing the chart to #7. Neither side charted on the Top 100 pop chart. His next hit charted on December 29, 1956 on the Billboard R&B chart. The classic Little Richard title hit from the movie “The Girl Can’t Help It” starring Jayne Mansfield and featuring The Robbins, who would later become The Coasters, was another big Top 10 R&B hit charting at #7. THE GIRL CAN’T HELP IT crossed over to the Top100 on January 26, 1957 and charted at #49. ALL AROUND THE WORLD the “B” side charted on the R&B chart at #13.
What an amazing first year…9 hit records, 3 million sellers, 2 #1 hits. Specialty Records issued Little Richards first album in March of 1957 “HERE’S LITTLE RICHARD”. It was his highest charting album on the Billboard Pop Albums chart, at #13. Included on the album were some of his biggest hits, TUTTI-FRUTTI, READY TEDDY, SLIPPIN’ AND SLIDIN’ (Peepin” And Hidin’), LONG TALL SALLY, RIP IT UP and SHE’S GOT IT. It would also include future hits, JENNY, JENNY and MISS ANN.
Little Richard did all this in the 1950’s a time when black artists had a very difficult time having their music played on white AM radio. What happened was, “cover songs”, there were many. It was not a very proud period in our music industry and nation. Artists like Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Lloyd Price, The Platters, Sam Cooke and others broke down these walls and opened the gates for all the great R&B artists who would follow…Little Richard stands at the front of the class…he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986 and received a Grammy for “Lifetime Achievement” in 1993. He is still performing today…the legendary…LITTLE RICHARD.
Till the next time—Joe