There is no mistaking Little Richard. Whether it be in sound or in sight, he is most certainly one of a kind. Thirteen days into this journey, I encountered my first real dose of what I would call rock and roll music. Raw, gritty, loud vocals that were way ahead of their time, explosive piano jams and simple but masterfully constructed songs… that is “Here’s Little Richard”, the album rated #227 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
The album kicks off with HIS version of “Tutti Frutti”, co-written by “Little” Richard Penniman, as most of the tracks are on this album. This is another transformative step forward in the energy and intensity of the performance. You get the sense quickly that both you and Little Richard are barely holding on for the ride, and what a great ride it is. “True, Fine Mama” and “Ready Teddy” keep the temperature sweltering, with the second major hit of the album, “Long Tall Sally” soon to follow. There are few breathers on this album, although “Oh Why?” shows us a SLIGHTLY more reserved version of Little Richard. Of course, that is followed by “Rip It Up”, a song bursting with the kind of dangerous energy that most assuredly had to terrify an entire generation of parents and authority figures.
It is nearly impossible to overstate the influence on the music that followed in his footsteps. Any early up-tempo rocker from The Beatles with Paul McCartney on vocals might as well be a Little Richard song, as they honed their skills playing his songs mixed in with their own material. “Keep On Knocking”, which is not on this album, is clearly the blueprint for Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll”, and the similarities between Little Richard and Bon Scott of AC/DC are too obvious to ignore. I greatly appreciate not only the musical talent and flamboyant performances of Little Richard, I also love that most of these songs are his… written, performed, and owned. If we didn’t make a stop today at Little Richard’s juke joint, this entire exercise would be incomplete and lacking.