"The Architect of Rock and Roll"
Career spaning six decades influenced R&B, rock and Hip Hop; Charismatic songwriting and performance style inspired The Beatles, Elvis and David Bowie, among others
"Little Richard" Penniman, one of the architects of rock and roll, exploded into the American consciousness in the mid-50's and helped to lay the foundation for a new musical form: rock and roll.
Born and raised in Macon, Georgia, the third of twelve children, Richard Wayne Penniman began singing in his local church choir while still a youngster. He signed with RCA Records in 1951 after winning a talent contest and released two singles, neither receiving prominent notice.
Returning to his job washing dishes in a Greyhound bus station, Richard sent a demo to Specialty Records, a fledgling Los Angeles label. The song, "Tutti Frutti," was his catalyst for success and led to an uninterrupted run of smash hits: "Tutti Frutti," "Long Tall Sally," "Rip It Up," "Lucille," "Jenny, Jenny," "Keep A Knockin"', "Good Golly, Miss Molly," "Ooh, My Soul." By 1968, Little Richard had sold over 32 million records internationally.
When, at the peak of his career, Little Richard left the industry spotlight for a self-imposed hiatus, legions of fans worldwide confidently awaited his return. In 1985, he charged back with rave reviews for a memorable appearance in the box-office smash Down and Out in Beverly Hills, which also launched his hit single, "Great Gosh A Mighty."
In 1986, Richard was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and began a non-stop series of performances and appearances, including live concerts worldwide, recording projects, television, film, soundtracks and commercials. His performance of a rock 'n' roll version of the children's tune "Itsy Bitsy Spider" was a standout track on the star-studded Disney Records' benefit album, For Our Children. The record went gold and earned millions for the Pediatric AIDS Foundation. Richard followed up with the Disney album Shake It All About, featuring children's songs redone in his own inimitable style. Thanks to these projects and guest starring appearances on such children's shows as "Mother Goose Rock 'n' Rhyme" and "Sesame Street," Richard garnered a new generation of young fans.
Richard was honored with a star on the world-renowned Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1990 and soon afterward returned to his hometown of Macon for the unveiling of "Little Richard Penniman Boulevard." In 1993, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences and the following year accepted the Rhythm & Blues Foundation's prestigious Pioneer Award. In 1997, in recognition of his contributions to music history, Richard was presented with the American Music Award's distinguished Award of Merit. Most recently, he was inducted into the NAACP Image Awards' Hall of Fame.
Musical legends Jimi Hendrix and Billy Preston toured as members of Richard's band early in their careers, and entertainers ranging from The Beatles and Elvis Presley to David Bowie and Keith Richards have cited Richard as their inspiration. Contemporary performers continue to pay homage to this trailblazing performer who contributed so much to music history.
After six decades as a performer, Little Richard was still in demand for live concert dates and guest star spots for film and television projects-still delighting fans worldwide with his one-of-a-kind blend of music, humor and boundless energy.