Little Richard - the originator, the emancipator, the architect of rock 'n' roll. Exploding into the American consciousness in the mid-'50s, he singlehandedly laid the foundation and established the rules for this brand new musical form. 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 of which received prominent notice. Returning to his job washing dishes in a Greyhound bus station, Richard sent a demo tape 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," and "Ooh! My Soul." By 1968, Little Richard had sold over 32 million records internationally.
A self-imposed hiatus took Richard out of the industry spotlight, but never out of the consciousness of the legions of fans around the world who confidently awaited his return. After spending years on the rock 'n' roll nostalgia circuit in the late '60s and '70s, he charged back stronger than ever in 1985, scoring rave reviews for his memorable appearance in the box office smash Down and Out in Beverly Hills, the film that launched his hit single "Great Gosh A Mighty." He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986 and launched into a pattern of work which has been virtually non-stop ever since, encompassing not only recording (including collaborations with U2, B.B. King, appearances on children's records, and more), but television, films, soundtracks, and commercials as well.
Richard has been honored with many awards to commemorate his vital contributions to the history of American music. He was honored with a star on the world-renowned Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1990, received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences in 1993, earned the Rhythm & Blues Foundation's prestigious Pioneer Award in 1994, and accepted the Award of Merit at the 1997 American Music Awards. More than in these awards, however, Richard's vast influence is evident in the legacies of the superstars who came after him, whose music bears his DNA. As People Magazine declared, "There could not have been a Michael Jackson if there had not been a Little Richard." Driven by an incredible, hard-to-match energy which lends credence to his "wild man of rock 'n' roll" image, Richard continues to tour extensively, delighting audiences with his unique blend of music and humor to this day. "Entertaining is a way to spread joy," he says. "I've come to terms with that and with myself. You've got to do that before you can begin to help others."
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