“Little” Richard Penniman was only 22 when he recorded “Tutti Frutti” in September 1955 but he was already on his third record label, having a hard time finding the right support for his energetic and flamboyant performance style. He died last week at 87. You’ll hear his music and a bit about how New Orleans let his freak flag fly in this week’s show. Get it started and then read on.
Little Richard began his professional career in his teens when he performed with a travelling show. However, he would struggle with the tension between his religious leanings and his sexual orientation through most of his professional career. But when Specialty Records bought out his contract and sent him to New Orleans, he found an accepting work environment that allowed him to be more true to himself. The J&M Studio run by Cosimo Matassa had become a bit of a hit factory, largely as a result of the residency of Fats Domino. With the help of bandleader Robert “Bumps” Blackwell, a native of Seattle, Little Richard found the musical backing that could match his frenetic style.
When Tutti Frutti took off, it was quickly followed by “Long Tall Sally” which went to number one on the R&B chart. You’ll hear that song along with two others from that era. I’ll also play another set featuring music Little Richard made popular, including a demo tape of Good Golly Miss Molly. All the songs I play were recorded in New Orleans.
But as with most of my shows, I don’t stick to one genre for long. After the Little Richard sets, we make a sharp turn into the soulful songwriting and singing of Andrew Duhon with a greeting by him sequestered in his New Orleans home. Duhon has toured the Northwest including Olympia and when you hear his three-song set, you’ll hope he comes back real soon.
The second half of the show features funk, blues, Latin, Cajun, swing and jazz. So just sit back and soak it up. What else do you need to do?
If you have a story of New Orleans or would like to share with me your love for the city and its music, let me know. I’d like to get your voice on my show. You’ll hear an example of what I’m talking about near the end of the first hour of the show. Contact me through my Facebook page and we’ll work it out.