A Rockapaedia Obituary
Little Richard died aged eighty-seven from bone cancer on 9th May, 2020 at his home in Tullahoma, Tennessee, United States of America after a two-month illness. He was survived by his brother, sister, and son who were all with him at the moment of his death.
Little Richard was born Richard Wayne Penniman on 5th December, 1932 in Macon, Georgia, United States of America. Initially, his first name was supposed to have been "Ricardo", but an error resulted in "Richard" instead. In childhood, he was nicknamed "Lil' Richard" by his family because of his small and skinny frame. A mischievous child who played pranks on neighbors, Little Richard began singing in church at a young age. Possibly as a result of complications at birth, he had a slight deformity that left one of his legs shorter than the other. This produced an unusual gait, and he was mocked for his said effeminate appearance.
Little Richard's family were very religious and joined various A.M.E., Baptist, and Pentecostal churches, with some family members becoming ministers. Little Richard enjoyed the Pentecostal churches the most, because of their feelingful worship and live music. He later recalled that people in his neighborhood sang gospel songs throughout the day during segregation to keep a positive outlook, because there was so much poverty and so much prejudice in those days". He had observed that people sang "to feel their connection with God" and to wash their trials and burdens away. Gifted with a loud singing voice, Little Richard recalled that he was "always changing the key upwards" and that they once stopped him from singing in church for "screaming and hollering" so loud. As a child, he would "beat on the steps of the house, and on tin cans and pots and pans" while singing, which annoyed his neighbors.
Little Richard attended Macon's Hudson High School, where he eventually learned to play alto saxophone, joining his school's marching band in fifth grade. While in high school, he got a part-time job at Macon City Auditorium for local secular and gospel concert promoter Clint Brantley. He sold Coca-Cola to crowds during concerts of star performers of the day such as Cab Calloway, Lucky Millinder, and his favorite singer, Sister Rosetta Tharpe.
It was in October 1947 that Sister Rosetta Tharpe overheard fourteen year-old Little Richard singing her songs before a performance at the Macon City Auditorium and she invited him to open her show. After that show, Rosetta paid him, inspiring him to become a professional performer. Little Richard stated that he was inspired to play the piano after he heard Ike Turner's piano intro on "Rocket 88." In 1949, Little Richard began performing in Doctor Nubillo's travelling show and was inspired to wear turbans and capes in his career by Nubillo, who also "carried a black stick and exhibited something he called 'the devil's child'—the dried-up body of a baby with claw feet like a bird and horns on its head." Nubillo told Little Richard he was "gonna be famous" but that he would have to "go where the grass is greener."
Before entering the tenth grade of school, Little Richard left his family home and joined Dr. Hudson's Medicine Show, performing Louis Jordan's "Caldonia". Little Richard recalled that the song was the first secular R&B song he learned, since his family had strict rules against playing R&B music, which they considered the devil's music. Little Richard also performed in drag during this time, performing under the name "Princess LaVonne". In 1950, Little Richard joined his first musical band, Buster Brown's Orchestra, where Brown gave him the name Little Richard. Performing in the minstrel show circuit, Little Richard, in and out of drag, performed for various vaudeville acts such as Sugarfoot Sam from Alabam, the Tidy Jolly Steppers, the King Brothers Circus and Broadway Follies. Having settled in Atlanta, Georgia, at this point, Little Richard began listening to rhythm and blues and was further influenced by Brown's and Wright's flashy style of showmanship. Inspired by Brown and Wright, Little Richard decided to become a rhythm-and-blues singer and after befriending Wright, began to learn how to be an entertainer from him, and began adapting a pompadour hairdo similar to Wright's, as well as styling a pencil mustache, using Wright's brand of facial pancake makeup and also wearing flashier clothes.
Impressed by Little Richard's singing voice, Wright put him in contact with Zenas Sears, a local DJ. Sears recorded Little Richard at his station, backed by Wright's band. The recordings led to a contract that year with RCA Victor. Little Richard recorded a total of eight sides for RCA Victor, including the blues ballad, "Every Hour", which became his first single and a hit within Georgia. The release of "Every Hour" improved his relationship with his father, who began regularly playing the song on his nightclub jukebox. While in Macon, Little Richard met Esquerita, a fellow gay, black singer and pianist, whose flamboyant onstage persona and dynamic piano playing would also influence Little Richard's approach to performance. Shortly after the release of "Every Hour", Little Richard was hired to front Perry Welch and His Orchestra and played at clubs and army bases for one hundred dollars per week. After a year with RCA Victor, Little Richard left the label in February 1952 after his records there failed to become national hits. That same month, Little Richard's father Bud was killed after a confrontation outside his club. Little Richard continued to perform during this time and Clint Brantley agreed to manage his career. Moving to Houston, he formed a band called the Tempo Toppers, performing as part of blues package tours in Southern clubs such as Club Tijuana in New Orleans and Club Matinee in Houston. Little Richard signed with Don Robey's Peacock Records in February 1953, recording eight sides, including four with Johnny Otis and his band that were unreleased at the time. Like his venture with RCA Victor, none of Little Richard's Peacock singles charted despite Little Richard's growing reputation for his high energy antics onstage. Little Richard began complaining of monetary issues with Robey, resulting in his getting knocked out by Robey during a scuffle.
Disillusioned by the record business, Little Richard returned to Macon in 1954 and struggling with poverty settled for work as a dishwasher for Greyhound Lines. That year, he disbanded the gospel-flavored Tempo Toppers and formed a hard-driving rhythm and blues band, the Upsetters, which included drummer Charles Connor and saxophonist Wilbert "Lee Diamond" Smith. The band supported R&B singer Christine Kittrell on some recordings, then began to tour successfully, even without a bass guitarist. Around this time, Little Richard signed a contract to tour with fellow R&B singer Little Johnny Taylor.
At the suggestion of the owner, Little Richard sent a demo to the label, Specialty Records, in February 1955 but months passed before he got a call from them. Finally, in September of that year, Specialty owner Art Rupe loaned Little Richard money to buy out of his Peacock contract and set him to work with producer Robert "Bumps" Blackwell. Upon hearing Little Richard's demo, Bumps felt Little Richard was Specialty's answer to Ray Charles, however, Little Richard told him he preferred the sound of Fats Domino. Bumps sent him to New Orleans where he recorded at Cosimo Matassa's J&M Studios, recording there with several of Fats Domino's session musicians, including drummer Earl Palmer and saxophonist Lee Allen. Initially, Little Richard's recordings that month failed to produce much inspiration or interest. Frustrated, Bumps and Little Richard went to relax at the Dew Drop Inn nightclub. According to Bumps, Little Richard then launched into a risqué dirty blues he titled "Tutti Frutti". Blackwell said he felt the song had hit potential and hired songwriter Dorothy LaBostrie to replace some of Little Richard's sexual lyrics with less controversial words. Recorded in three takes in September 1955, "Tutti Frutti" was released as a single that November.
"Tutti Frutti" became an instant hit, reaching number 2 on Billboard magazine's Rhythm and Blues Best-Sellers chart and crossing over to the pop charts in both the United States and overseas in the United Kingdom. It reached number 21 on the Billboard Top 100 in America and number 29 on the British singles chart, eventually selling a million copies.
Little Richard's next hit single, "Long Tall Sally" in 1956, hit number one on the R&B chart and number 13 on the Top 100 while reaching the top ten in Britain. Like "Tutti Frutti", it sold over a million copies. Following his success, Little Richard built up his backup band, The Upsetters, with the addition of saxophonists Clifford "Gene" Burks and leader Grady Gaines, bassist Olsie "Baysee" Robinson and guitarist Nathaniel "Buster" Douglas. Little Richard began performing on package tours across the United States. Art Rupe described the differences between Little Richard and a similar hitmaker of the early rock and roll period by stating that, while "the similarities between Little Richard and Fats Domino for recording purposes were close", Little Richard would sometimes stand up at the piano while he was recording and that onstage, where Domino was "plodding, very slow", Little Richard was "very dynamic, completely uninhibited, unpredictable, wild and the band also took on the ambiance of the vocalist."
Little Richard's performances, like most early rock and roll shows, resulted in integrated audience reaction during an era where public places were divided into "white" and "colored" domains. In these package tours, Little Richard and other artists such as Fats Domino and Chuck Berry would enable audiences of both races to enter the building, albeit still segregated with for instance, blacks on the balcony and whites on the main floor. As his bandleader at the time, H.B. Barnum, explained, Little Richard's performances enabled audiences to come together to dance. Despite broadcasts on television from local supremacist groups such as the North Alabama White Citizens Council warning that rock and roll "brings the races together", Little Richard's popularity was helping to shatter the myth that black performers could not successfully perform at "white-only venues", especially in the South where racism was most overt. Little Richard's high-energy antics included lifting his leg while playing the piano, climbing on top of his piano, running on and off the stage and throwing his souvenirs to the audience. Little Richard also began using capes and suits studded with multi-colored precious stones and sequins and said he began to be more flamboyant onstage so no one would think he was "after the white girls".
Little Richard stated that a show at Baltimore's Royal Theatre in June 1956 led to women throwing their undergarments onstage at him, resulting in other female fans repeating the action and that it was the first time that had ever happened to any artist. Little Richard's show would stop several times that night due to fans being restrained from jumping off the balcony and then rushing to the stage to touch Little Richard. Overall, Little Richard would produce seven singles in the United States alone in 1956, with five of them also charting in the UK, including "Slippin' and Slidin'", "Rip It Up", "Ready Teddy", "The Girl Can't Help It" and "Lucille". Immediately after releasing "Tutti Frutti", which was then protocol for the industry, "safer" white recording artists such as Pat Boone re-recorded the song, sending the song to the top twenty of the charts, several positions higher than Little Richard's. His fellow rock and roll peers Elvis Presley and Bill Haley also recorded his songs later that same year. Alan Freed, the disc jockey put Little Richard in his "rock and roll" movies such as Don't Knock the Rock and Mister Rock and Roll. In 1957, Little Richard was given a larger singing role in the film, The Girl Can't Help It. That year, he scored more hit success with songs such as "Jenny, Jenny" and "Keep A-Knockin'" the latter becoming his first top ten single on the Billboard Top 100. By the time he left Specialty in 1959, Little Richard had scored a total of nine top 40 pop singles and seventeen top 40 R&B singles. Little Richard performed at the famed twelfth Cavalcade of Jazz held at Wrigley Field in Los Angeles in September, 1956.
Shortly after the release of "Tutti Frutti", Little Richard relocated to Los Angeles. After achieving success as a recording artist and live performer, Little Richard moved into a wealthy, formerly predominantly white neighborhood, living close to black celebrities such as boxer Joe Louis. Little Richard's first album, Here's Little Richard, was released by Specialty in May 1957 and peaked at number thirteen on the Billboard Top LPs chart. Similar to most albums released during that era, the album featured six released singles plus "filler" tracks. In early 1958, Specialty released his second album, 'Little Richard', which didn't chart. In October 1957, Little Richard embarked on a package tour to Australia with Gene Vincent and Eddie Cochran. During the middle of the tour, he shocked the public by announcing he was tofollow a life in the ministry. Little Richard wrote in his autobiography that during a flight from Melbourne to Sydney that his plane was experiencing some difficulty and that he saw the plane's red hot engines and felt angels were "holding it up". At the end of his Sydney performance, Little Richard saw a bright red fireball flying across the sky above him and said he was "deeply shaken". Though he was eventually told that it was the launching of the first artificial Earth satellite Sputnik 1, Little Richard said that he took it as a "sign from God" to repent from performing secular music and his wild lifestyle at the time.
Returning to America ten days earlier than expected, Little Richard read news of his original flight having crashed into the Pacific Ocean as a further sign to "do as God wanted". After a "farewell performance" at the Apollo Theater and a "final" recording session with Specialty later that month, Little Richard enrolled at Oakwood College in Huntsville, Alabama, to study theology. Despite his claims of a spiritual rebirth, Little Richard admitted his reasons for leaving were more monetary. During his tenure at Specialty, despite earning millions for the label, Little Richard complained that he did not know the label had cut the percentage of royalties he was to earn from his recordings. Specialty continued to release Little Richard recordings, including "Good Golly, Miss Molly" and his unique version of "Kansas City", until 1960. Finally ending his contract with the label, Little Richard agreed to relinquish any royalties for his material. In 1958, Little Richard formed the Little Richard Evangelistic Team, travelling across North America to preach. A month after his conversion, Little Richard met Ernestine Harvin, a secretary from Washington, D.C., and the couple married on 11th July 1959. Little Richard ventured into gospel music, first recording for End Records, before signing with Mercury Records in 1961, where he eventually released King of the Gospel Singers, in 1962, produced by Quincy Jones, who later remarked that Little Richard's vocals impressed him more than any other vocalist he had worked with. Little Richard's childhood heroine, Mahalia Jackson, wrote in the liner notes of the album that Little Richard "sang gospel the way it should be sung". While Little Richard was no longer charting in the U.S., some of his gospel songs such as "He's Not Just a Soldier" and "He Got What He Wanted", reached the pop charts in the U.S.A. and the United Kingdom.
In 1962, concert promoter Don Arden persuaded Little Richard to tour Europe after telling him his records were still selling well there. With fellow rock singer Sam Cooke as an opening act, Little Richard, who featured a teenage Billy Preston in his gospel band, figured it was a gospel tour and, after Cooke's delayed arrival forced him to cancel his show on the opening date, performed only gospel material during the show, leading to boos from the audience expecting Little Richard to sing his rock and roll hits. The following night, Little Richard viewed Cooke's well-received performance. Bringing back his competitive drive, Little Richard and Preston warmed up in darkness before launching into "Long Tall Sally", resulting in frenetic, hysterical responses from the audience. A show at Mansfield's Granada Theatre ended early after fans rushed the stage. Hearing of Little Richard's shows, Brian Epstein, manager of the Beatles, asked Don Arden to allow his band to open for Little Richard on some tour dates, to which he agreed. The first show for which the Beatles opened was at New Brighton's Tower Ballroom that October. The following month they, along with Swedish singer Jerry Williams and his band The Violents, opened for Little Richard at the Star-Club in Hamburg. During this time, Little Richard advised the group on how to perform his songs and taught Paul McCartney his distinctive vocalizations. Back in the United States, Little Richard recorded six rock and roll songs with the Upsetters for Little Star Records, under the name "World Famous Upsetters", hoping this would keep his options open in maintaining his position as a minister.
In the summer of 1963, Little Richard was contacted once again by Don Arden to rescue a sagging tour featuring The Everly Brothers, Bo Diddley, and a new band who just released their first album, the Rolling Stones. Little Richard agreed and helped to save the tour from flopping. Mick Jagger commented that he had heard so much about the audience's reaction at Little Richard's shows that he thought there must some exaggeration. When Mick witnessed Little Richard whipping the crowds into a complete frenzy, he realized that it was all true and that he could hardly believe Little Richard's power onstage. Following the success of that tour, Little Richard was given his own television special for Granada Television titled 'The Little Richard Spectacular'. That special became a ratings hit and after sixty thousand fan letters, was rebroadcast twice. In 1964, now openly re-embracing rock and roll, Little Richard released "Bama Lama Bama Loo" on Specialty Records. Due to his UK exposure, the song reached the top twenty there but only climbed to number eighty-two in America. Later in the year, he signed with Vee-Jay Records, then on its dying legs, to release his "comeback" album, 'Little Richard Is Back'.
Due to the arrival of the Beatles and other British bands, musical tastes were changing ine the USA and Little Richard's new releases were not well promoted or well received by radio stations. Also in 1964, Jimi Hendrix joined Little Richard's Upsetters band as a full member and began recording guitar on Little Richard's tracks in June of that year. Jimi Hendrix copied Little Richard's attire and pencil-thin mustache and switched his guitar-playing from blues to more of a rocking style. In 1965, Little Richard took Jimi Hendrix to record sessions on two occasions, one included Jimi and Billy Preston at a New York studio where they recorded the Don Covay soul ballad, "I Don't Know What You've Got", which became a number twelve R&B hit. Little Richard's family, who had been involved in his management, clashed with over Jimi Hendrix's tardiness. Little Richard's brother Robert fired Jimi Hendrix over that issue. In December of 1966, Jimi Hendrix met up with Little Richard and they were socializing cordially when an argument broke out over fifty dollars that Jimi Hendrix claimed Little Richard owed him. Little Richard denied owing him the money but ended up paying him resolving the disagreement.
Little Richard later signed with Modern Records, releasing a modest chart climber called "Do You Feel It?" before leaving for Okeh Records in early 1966. Two albums were released over time, first a live album, cut at the Domino, in Atlanta, Georgia. Okeh paired Little Richard with his old friend, Larry Williams, who produced two albums by Little Richard, including the studio release, 'The Explosive Little Richard', which produced the modest hits "Poor Dog" and "Commandments of Love". Little Richard's second Okeh album, 'Little Richard's Greatest Hits Recorded Live!', returned him to the album charts.
In 1967, Little Richard signed with Brunswick Records but after clashing with the label over musical direction, he left the label the following year. Little Richard felt that producers on these labels worked in not promoting his records during this period and later he said they kept trying to push him to records similar to Motown and he felt he wasn't treated with appropriate respect. Little Richard often performed in dingy clubs and lounges with little support from his label. While Little Richard managed to perform in huge venues overseas such as in England and France, in America Little Richard had to perform on the Chitlin' Circuit and his flamboyant look, while a hit during the 1950s, failed to help his labels to promote him to more conservative black record buyers. Little Richard later said that his decision to "backslide" from his ministry, led religious clergymen to protest about his new recordings. Making matters worse, Little Richard said, was his insistence on performing in front of integrated audiences at the time of the black liberation movement shortly after the Watts riots and the formation of the Black Panthers which caused many black radio disk jockeys in certain areas of the country, including Los Angeles, to choose not to play his music. Now acting as his manager, Larry Williams convinced Little Richard to focus on his live shows. By 1968, he had ditched the Upsetters for his new backup band, the Crown Jewels, performing on the Canadian TV show, "Where It's At". Little Richard was also featured on a Monkee's TV special in April 1969. Larry Williams booked Little Richard shows in Las Vegas casinos and resorts, leading Little Richard to adopt a wilder flamboyant and androgynous look, inspired by the success of his former backing guitarist Jimi Hendrix. Little Richard was soon booked at rock festivals sincluding the Atlantic City Pop Festival where he stole the show from headliner Janis Joplin. Little Richard produced a similar show stealer at the Toronto Pop Festival with John Lennon as the headliner. These successes brought Little Richard to talk shows including the Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and the Dick Cavett Show, making him a major celebrity again.
Responding to his reputation as a successful concert performer, Reprise Records signed Little Richard in 1970 and he released the album, 'The Real Thing', with the philosophical single, "Freedom Blues", becoming his biggest charted single in years. In May 1970, Little Richard made the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. Despite the success of "Freedom Blues", none of Little Richard's other Reprise singles charted with the exception of "Greenwood, Mississippi", a swamp rock original by guitar hero, Travis Wammack, who incidentally played on the track. It charted only briefly on the Billboard Hot 100 and Cash Box pop chart, also on the Billboard Country charts; made a strong showing on WWRL in New York, before disappearing. Little Richard became a featured guest instrumentalist and vocalist on recordings by acts such as Delaney and Bonnie, Joey Covington and Joe Walsh. To keep up with his finances and bookings, Little Richard and three of his brothers formed a management company, Bud Hole Incorporated and by 1972, Little Richard had entered the rock and roll revival circuit, and that year, he co-headlined the London Rock and Roll Show at Wembley Stadium with his musical peer Chuck Berry where he'd come on stage and announce himself "the king of rock and roll", fittingly also the title of his 1971 album with Reprise and told the packed audience there to "let it all hang out". . The following year, Little Richard recorded a charting soul ballad, "In the Middle of the Night", released with proceeds donated to victims of tornadoes that had caused damage in twelve US states. In 1976, Little Richard re-recorded eighteen of his classic rock and roll hits in Nashville for K-Tel Records, in high tech stereo recreations, with a single featuring live versions of "Good Golly Miss Molly" and "Rip It Up" reaching the UK singles chart. By 1973, however, Little Richard's performances began to suffer from his voice problems and quirky marathon renditions of songs. Little Richard later admitted that he was heavily addicted to drugs and alcohol at the time. By 1977, worn out from years of abuse and wild partying as well as a string of personal tragedies, Little Richard quit rock and roll again and returned to evangelism, releasing one gospel album, God's Beautiful City, in 1979.
In 1984, Little Richard filed a one hundred & twelve million dollar lawsuit against Specialty Records; Art Rupe and his publishing company, Venice Music; and ATV Music for not paying royalties to him after he left the label in 1959. The suit was settled out of court in 1986.
Reconciling his roles as evangelist and rock and roll musician for the first time, Little Richard stated that the genre could be used for good or evil. After accepting a role in the film Down and Out in Beverly Hills, Little Richard and Billy Preston penned the faith-based rock and roll song "Great Gosh A'Mighty" for its soundtrack. Little Richard won critical acclaim for his film role, and the song found success on the American and British charts. The hit led to the release of the album Lifetime Friend (1986) on Warner Bros. Records, with songs deemed "messages in rhythm", including a gospel rap track. In addition to a version of "Great Gosh A'Mighty", cut in England, the album featured two singles that charted in the UK, "Somebody's Comin'" and "Operator". Little Richard spent much of the rest of the decade as a guest on television shows and appearing in films, winning new fans with what was referred to as his "unique comedic timing". In 1989, Little Richard provided rhythmic preaching and background vocals on the extended live version of the U2–B.B. King hit "When Love Comes to Town". That same year, Little Richard returned to singing his classic hits following a performance of "Lucille" at an AIDS benefit concert.
In 1990, Little Richard contributed a spoken-word rap on Living Colour's hit song, "Elvis Is Dead", from their album Time's Up. That same year he appeared in a cameo for the music video of Cinderella's "Shelter Me". The following year, he was one of the featured performers on the hit single and video "Voices That Care" that was produced to help boost the morale of U.S. troops involved in Operation Desert Storm. He also recorded a rock and roll version of "The Itsy Bitsy Spider" that year that led to a deal with Disney Records, resulting in the release of a hit 1992 children's album, 'Shake It All About'.
In 1994, Little Richard sang the theme song to the award-winning PBS Kids and TLC animated television series 'The Magic School Bus', which was based on the book series created by Joanna Cole and Bruce Degen and published by Scholastic Corporation. He also opened Wrestlemania X from Madison Square Garden on 20th of March that year miming to his reworked rendition of "America the Beautiful".
Throughout the 1990s, Little Richard performed around the world and appeared on TV, film, and tracks with other artists, including Jon Bon Jovi, Elton John and Solomon Burke. In 1992 he released his final album, 'Little Richard Meets Masayoshi Takanaka' featuring members of his then current touring band.
In 2000, Little Richard's life was dramatized in the biographical film 'Little Richard', which focused on his early years, including his heyday, his religious conversion and his return to secular music in the early 1960s. Little Richard was played by Leon, who earned an NAACP Image Award nomination for his performance in this role. In 2002, Little Richard contributed to the Johnny Cash tribute album 'Kindred Spirits': A Tribute to the Songs of Johnny Cash. In 2003 he appeared in one of the ads for the short-lived Tostitos Gold tortilla chips. In 2004–05, he released two sets of unreleased and rare cuts, from the Okeh label 1966/67 and the Reprise label 1970/72. Included was the full Southern Child album, produced and composed mostly by Little Richard, which had been scheduled for release in 1972 but shelved.
In 2006, Little Richard was featured in a popular advertisement for the GEICO brand. A 2005 recording of his duet vocals with Jerry Lee Lewis on a cover of the Beatles' "I Saw Her Standing There" was included on Jerry Lewis's 2006 album 'Last Man Standing'. The same year, Little Richard was a guest judge on the TV series Celebrity Duets. Little Richard and Lewis performed alongside John Fogerty at the 2008 Grammy Awards in a tribute to the two artists considered to be cornerstones of rock and roll by the NARAS. The same year, Little Richard appeared on radio host Don Imus's benefit album for sick children, 'The Imus Ranch Record'. In June 2010, Little Richard recorded a gospel track for an upcoming tribute album to songwriting legend Dottie Rambo. In 2009, Little Richard was inducted into The Louisiana Music Hall Of Fame in a concert in New Orleans attended by Fats Domino.
Throughout the first decade of the 21st century, Little Richard kept up a stringent touring schedule, performing primarily in the United States and Europe but sciatic nerve pain in his left leg and then replacement of the involved hip began affecting the frequency of his performances by 2010. Despite his health problems, Little Richard continued to perform to receptive audiences and critics. Rolling Stone reported that at a June 2012 performance at the Howard Theater in Washington, D.C., Little Richard was "still full of fire, still a master showman, his voice still loaded with deep gospel and raunchy power." Little Richard performed a full 90-minute show at the Pensacola Interstate Fair in Pensacola, Florida, in October 2012, at the age of 79, and headlined at the Orleans Hotel in Las Vegas during Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekend in March 2013. In September 2013, Rolling Stone published an interview with Little Richard in which he said he was retiring from performing. In October, 2019, Little Richard addressed the audience after receiving the Distinguished Artist Award at the 2019 Tennessee Governor's Arts Awards at the Governor's Residence in Nashville.
Little Richard met his only wife, Ernestine, at an evangelical rally in October 1957. They began dating that year and wed on July 12, 1959, in California. According to Ernestine, she and Little Richard initially enjoyed a happy marriage with "normal" sexual relations. During the marriage, Little Richard and her adopted a one-year-old boy, Danny Jones, from a late church associate. Little Richard and his son remained close, with Jones often acting as one of his bodyguards.
Little Richard said in 1984 that he played only with girls as a child and was subjected to homophobic jokes and ridicule because of his manner of walking and talking. His father brutally punished him whenever he caught him wearing his mother's makeup and clothing. The singer said he had been sexually involved with both sexes as a teenager. Because of his effeminate mannerisms, his father kicked him out of their family home at 15. In 1985, on The South Bank Show, Little Richard said his daddy put me out of the house after saying he wanted seven boys and he had spoiled it, because he was gay.
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