Tag Archives: Little Richard

Still with us: Little Richard

Our premise, revisited: We are not even two months into 2016, and David Bowie is gone. So are Paul Kantner and Signe Anderson. So are Maurice White, Vanity and Otis Clay, as are Glenn Frey, Gary Loizzo and Dan Hicks.

Time, then — well past time, really — to appreciate four music greats who are still with us. These are my four. Yours may be different. We started with the eldest, Chuck Berry. We continue with …

The legend: Little Richard.

Age: 83.

Still performing? Apparently not. My friend Jeff Giles reported in September 2013 that Little Richard had retired. He now lives in Nashville but doesn’t get out much, according to “Prayers For Richard,” a fine piece by David Ramsey in December’s Oxford American.

What we must acknowledge but won’t dwell on: All those folks who got down on Richard Penniman over his style, his sexuality, his sensuality and/or his spirituality. Basically everything that made him great.

Where I came in: Hm. Not really sure. Seems like I’ve known about Little Richard since forever, but I never bought one of his records until I picked up a Specialty Records greatest-hits compilation sometime in the ’80s. It might have been after his career was revived after his memorable film appearance in “Down And Out In Beverly Hills” in 1986. It’s still the only Little Richard record I own.

Don’t take my word for it: As a suburban London kid in the ’50s, David Bowie sent away for two pictures of Little Richard. He eventually received one, “dog-eared and torn and, adding insult to injury, sized at 6-by-8 instead of the expected whopper.” Years later, that old picture of Little Richard sat on Bowie’s piano “in the original Woolworths frame I bought for it over 4o years ago, a small piece of yellowed Sellotape holding its ripped edges together.”

My evening with Little Richard: I’ve had two, actually, and was thrilled to have them both. He twice played our local casino. The first time was at least a decade ago. I got one of the little prayer books his people handed out after that show, but I’m not sure I still have it. The second and last time was in May 2007. What I wrote then:

I’ve seen and heard so much music over the years, yet I can honestly say it’s exciting to see Little Richard, and to see him for a second time.

The man is 74, yet still pounding the piano, belting out rock ‘n’ roll and the blues and doing a little preaching. He was in fine form, feisty as always and in fine voice. He’s backed by a scorching 10-piece show band — three saxes, trumpet, two guitars, bass, two drummers and a second keyboard player.

Little Richard was looking pretty, even if a bout with sciatica forced him to walk onto the stage on crutches. He wore a lemon-colored suit, its jacket covered with rhinestones, and a lime-colored shirt.

Perhaps my favorite moment: His cover of the Stones’ “It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll (But I Like It).” No, no, no, it was the giddy, thrilled reaction of a Japanese woman, one of several attractive ladies invited up on stage to dance, as she scooted off stage after shaking Little Richard’s hand.

To be honest, words fail to convey the essence of Little Richard’s greatness.

So, we’ll heed Little Richard and do as he says … shut up!

Appreciate the greatness:

littlerichard17grooviestlp

“Tutti Frutti,” 1955. A-wop-bop-a-loo-mop-a-lop-bam-boom, indeed!

“Lucille,” 1957. My mom was Lucille. This song was not about my mom.

“Good Golly Miss Molly,” 1958. No less than the great Tom Jones calls this his favorite Saturday night record. “It’s tremendous,” he tells Mojo magazine in the March issue. “I thought he was a girl at first, covering Billy Haley and the Comets, but he did it first. The lyrics were more risque!” Sir Tom and Little Richard duetted on this one on his variety show in November 1969.

All by Little Richard, all from “Little Richard’s Grooviest 17 Original Hits,” 1968. My only Little Richard record. It’s out of print, but all these tunes are available digitally.

littlerichardshag2cd.jpg

“Bama Lama Bama Loo,” Little Richard, 1964, from “Shag On Down By The Union Hall,” a 1996 compilation of his classic Specialty Records sessions from the ’50s and ’60s.

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Filed under February 2016, Sounds

That ’70s song, Vol. 7

Creedence Clearwater Revival was one of the first bands I really dug. Today, I rarely listen to them.

Part of it is having heard it all so many times. I know every note, every line of the good tunes.

Part of it was the realization one day that although Creedence introduced me to swamp rock and roots rock — and I am grateful for that introduction — there are more authentic sources for those kinds of music. Creedence was, after all, four guys from northern California. They weren’t born on the bayou. They just sounded like it.

Few bands were hotter than Creedence in the third week of February 1970. They managed a rare feat, putting both sides of the same single in the Top 10 — the downbeat “Who’ll Stop the Rain” backed with “Travelin’ Band,” a wild rave-up reminiscent of Little Richard.

Apparently a little too reminiscent of Little Richard, whose music publishing company sued Creedence in 1971 for cribbing it from “Good Golly Miss Molly,” which Creedence had covered on its “Bayou Country” LP in 1969. (They settled out of court.)

I was reminded of this not too long ago when Deadspin excerpted Greil Marcus’ story about a memorable episode of “The Dick Cavett Show” during which Little Richard interrupts a bitter sparring match between “Love Story” author Erich Segal and New York critic John Simon.

“WHY, YES, IN THE WHOLE HISTORY OF AAAART! THAT’S RIGHT! SHUT UP! SHUT UP! WHAT DO YOU KNOW, MR. CRITIC? WHY, WHEN THE CREEDENCE CLEARWATER PUT OUT WITH THEIR ‘TRAVELIN’ BAND’ EVERYBODY SAY WHEEE-OOO BUT I KNOW IT CAUSE THEY ONLY DOING ‘LONG TALL SALLY’ JUST LIKE THE BEATLES ANDTHESTONESANDTOMJONESANDELVIS!”

From “Mystery Train: Images of America in Rock ‘n’ Roll,” Greil Marcus, 1975.

WHEEE-OOO, indeed. So, did “Travelin’ Band” borrow from “Good Golly Miss Molly”? As always, you be the judge.

“Travelin’ Band,” Creedence Clearwater Revival, from “Cosmo’s Factory,” 1970.

“Good Golly Miss Molly,” Little Richard, 1958, from “Little Richard’s Grooviest 17 Original Hits,” 1968. It’s out of print, but the tune is available digitally or on just about any greatest-hits compilation.

Also worth noting: If you are somehow new to Creedence, or simply wishing to fill the gaps in your collection, you may wish to check out “The Singles Collection,” which was released last November. It has 30 singles from 1968 to 1972. It’s a two-CD box set with a DVD. The set also is available as 15 vinyl singles — reproductions of the original 45s. Either way, they’re the original single mixes, many of them mono.

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Filed under February 2010, Sounds

Adventures in Retroville, Part I

It isn’t every night that you can drive 10 minutes and see an American legend. So it is this week, with the Rockin ’50s Fest going on in the ballrooms at our local casino.

I was out there for about four hours on Wednesday night, opening night, and it’s fascinating. There’s music to be heard and music to be bought, of course, but it also is a convention of sorts for those passionate about the look of the ’50s. It’s something to behold.

retrolady2.jpg

The hair is perfect — pompadours, slicked-back cuts, ponytails, the Veronica Lake look, even mohawks. Plenty of sharp-dressed men and women, like the lady above and the gents below, all pictured in an ad for My Baby Jo, a retro clothing store in Los Angeles. On its web site, there’s a note that essentially says “Sorry, closed while we’re in Green Bay.”

retrogents.jpg

Indeed, folks have come here from all over the world for this five-day festival, which runs from noon (10 a.m. if you hit the tiki brunch) to the wee hours of the morning, with the last act hitting the stage at 2 a.m. I’ve heard German, Japanese and at least two other languages.

It’s quite a cultural stew. The first act I saw, Sue Moreno, is a sultry singer from the Netherlands. The second, Ruby Ann, a tiny singer with a big voice, is originally from Portugal. The next two acts I saw — the Vargas Brothers (who put on a terrific show) and Big Sandy and his Fly-Rite Boys — are Latinos from southern California.

About that American legend, though.

What can you say about Little Richard? Fabulous, simply fabulous.

I’ve seen and heard so much music over the years, yet I can honestly say it’s exciting to see Little Richard, and to see him for a second time.

The man is 74, yet still pounding the piano, belting out rock ‘n’ roll and the blues and doing a little preaching. He was in fine form, feisty as always and in fine voice. He’s backed by a scorching 10-piece show band — three saxes, trumpet, two guitars, bass, two drummers and a second keyboard player.

Little Richard was looking pretty, even if a bout with sciatica forced him to walk onto the stage on crutches. He wore a lemon-colored suit, its jacket covered with rhinestones, and a lime-colored shirt.

Perhaps my favorite moment: His cover of the Stones’ “It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll (But I Like It).” No, no, no, it was the giddy, thrilled reaction of a Japanese woman, one of several attractive ladies invited up on stage to dance, as she scooted off stage after shaking Little Richard’s hand.

To be honest, words fail to convey the essence of Little Richard’s greatness.

So, we’ll heed Little Richard and do as he says … shut up!

littlerichardshag2cd.jpg

“Bama Lama Bama Loo,” Little Richard, 1964, from “Shag On Down By The Union Hall,” a 1996 compilation of his classic Specialty Records sessions from the ’50s and ’60s.

Check back over the weekend for more Adventures in Retroville.

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Filed under May 2007, Sounds

The big tent is closed

Today was a bittersweet day here in Green Bay, and it had nothing to do with a snowstorm in the middle of April.

The Packers’ schedule came out, so everyone can plan their social calendar for the rest of the year.

However, our local casino announced it was ending the summer concert series at its outdoor pavilion after six years, leaving a gaping hole in my social calendar.

The shows I saw in the big tent at Oneida: Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Little Richard, Lynyrd Skynyrd w/Cross Canadian Ragweed, Cheap Trick, Skynyrd w/Sammy Hagar and the Wabos, Boston, Dwight Yoakam, Billy Idol, Velvet Revolver, the Go-Gos, Sammy Hagar w/the Wabos and Michael Anthony (it’s Van Hagar!), a five-band ’80s extravaganza (Gene Loves Jezebel, Tommy Tutone, Animotion, When In Rome and Flock of Seagulls) and the Allman Brothers Band w/Gov’t Mule.

All just 10 minutes from my house.

Oh, they’ll still have shows at the casino — Johnny Winter, George Jones and Alice Cooper look interesting. They’ll be in the ballroom, though. It’s not quite the same, especially in the summer.

Now I may have to drive an hour to Oshkosh for the Waterfest shows at their outdoor pavilion. Among the possibilities: Three Dog Night, Grand Funk Railroad and an interesting double bill of Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and Los Straitjackets. Last summer, I couldn’t get off work to see the one show I most wanted to see there — another interesting double bill of the Smithereens and Joan Jett.

Ah, so it goes. I’m tempted to go without tunes tonight to protest the end of Pavilion Nights, but I won’t.

Thought I’d never have a chance to see this national treasure, but I did.

In the big tent. Shut up!

essentiallittlerichardcd.jpg

“Good Golly Miss Molly,” Little Richard, from “The Essential Little Richard,” 1985.

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Filed under April 2007, Sounds like bull to me