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Little Richard

Little Richard in Macon

Born Richard Wayne Penniman on December 5, 1932 in Macon, Georgia, Little Richard is known for being the Architect of Rock ‘N’ Roll. Growing up attending Baptist and Holiness churches, young Penniman sang gospel and played the piano at a local church. At 13, he moved in with a family, Ann and Johnny Johnson, who ran Miss Anne’s Tic Toc, where he first performed. Miss Anne’s Tic Toc is now Tic Toc Room, a fine dining restaurant in Downtown Macon.

In 1951, Penniman signed a contract with RCA, but none of his recordings made much of a commercial impression. In 1955, he sent a demo tape to Art Rupe of Specialty Records in Los Angeles. He was looking for a raspy voice like Penniman’s and brought him in for a session. There, he recorded Tutti Frutti. The single sold over three million copies and appealed to both black and white fans. Out of the 36 songs he recorded with Speciality, seven were gold: Tutti Frutti, Long Tall Sally, Rip It Up, Lucille, Jenny, Jenny, Keep A Knockin, and Good Golly, Miss Molly. Known for his flamboyant performances and larger-than-life personality, Little Richard personified a new era of music.

During the height of his popularity, Little Richard also appeared in 3 movies: Don’t Knock the Rock (1956), The Girl Can’t Help It (1956), and Mister Rock ‘n’ Roll (1957). He also appeared in several television shows like Hollywood a Go Go, Shindig!, and Happy Days.

Shortly after his music and acting success, Little Richard quit his rock career to move to Australia and didn’t return until 1964. Touring through Britain, among his fans were the Rolling Stones and the Beatles. Paul McCartney of the Beatles considered Little Richard to be one of his music inspirations, even recording Long Tall Sally in 1964.

Since then, he's reappeared in the limelight from time to time. In the 1980s, he appeared in several movies and television shows: Down and Out in Beverly Hills, Why Do Fools Fall in Love, Miami Vice, Martin, and Full House. In the 1990s, he appealed to the younger generation, recording a rock-rap version of Itsy Bitsy Spider and Shake It All About. In 2017, Little Richard celebrated his 85th birthday. To celebrate, Macon proclaimed December 5, 2017 at Little Richard Day. His boyhood home has recently been moved and renovated and has become a community center.

One of the first 10 inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, Little Richard’s music continues to inspire artists today. Nothing Can Change This Love (1965) was sampled in The Food by Common feat. Kanye West, The Rill Thing (1970) was sampled in For Pete’s Sake by Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth (1982), and The Girl Can’t Help It (1956) was sampled by Fergie on her song, Clumsy (2006).