How to sum up Little Richard in 300 words? Gosh, that’s a tough one. There must be 300 superlatives to describe Richard and his classic recordings, while a list of his most famous titles alone would probably run to that many words and tell you as much about his contribution to popular music as a few paragraphs of appreciation ever could.
Richard’s stellar recordings, particularly those he cut for Specialty – ‘Tutti Frutti’, ‘Long Tall Sally’, ‘Slippin’ And Slidin’’, ‘Jenny Jenny’, ‘Rip it Up’, ‘Ready Teddy’, ‘The Girl Can’t Help It’, Lucille’, ‘Jenny, Jenny’, ‘Keep A Knockin’’, ‘Good Golly, Miss Molly’ and ‘Ooh! My Soul’, the majority of which he wrote or co-wrote – catapulted him to rock’n’roll immortality. In his pomp, Richard garnered more imitators than any rock’n’roll great except for Elvis Presley, and his influence on a generation of music giants ranging from Otis Redding to the Beatles and, indeed, Elvis cannot be denied. It wasn’t just the Beatles who were inspired by him, either. Almost all the important Liverpool groups covered his records and his influence also spread south: when the Kinks began their recording career, it wasn’t with one of Ray Davies’ compositions but a revival of ‘Long Tall Sally’. When Richard chose to return to the world of secular music after nearly five years singing gospel, he moved with the times and had no trouble adapting to the new soul music that had evolved from R&B.
Richard has been a mainstay of the Ace catalogue from back in the all-vinyl days. His essential Specialty recordings are currently represented on Ace by six CDs, including his three original Specialty albums. If these were the only CDs you ever purchased, you would still have the foundation of one of the best possible collections of rock’n’roll and R&B. Should you want more by the man, fine examples of Richard’s later recordings from the 60s and early 70s are spread across a variety of Kent CDs.
By Tony Rounce