Little Richard (1932-2020) – Rip It Up

Little Richard passed away yesterday at 87 years old…he was one of the last fifties pioneers left. His influence passed through generations from Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, James Brown, to Lemmy from Motorhead.

I’ve read interviews from so many artists saying how he influenced them. Bob Dylan started on Little Richard in Minnesota as a teenager and I’ve read where Lemmy was a giant fan. Richard touched many generations.

My dad told me about Little Richard before I ever heard him. He said he had the biggest voice he ever heard. He talked about a song called Long Tall Sally. I first heard it…it blew me away. Such a raw emotional power in that voice. He would take us to the edge of the cliff and then at the last minute pull us back.

His voice was one of a kind…and I mean one of a kind. He could sing anything.

Bob Dylan: I just heard the news about Little Richard and I’m so grieved. He was my shining star and guiding light back when I was only a little boy. His was the original spirit that moved me to do everything I would do.

Keith Richards: So sad to hear that my old friend Little Richard has passed. There will never be another!!! He was the true spirit of Rock’n Roll!

Rip It Up

A songwriter named Johnny Marascalco wrote this song, which was released as Little Richard’s third single. Marascalco while he was sitting in a cotton field waiting for a friend to get out of church so they could hunt rabbits. A later weekend, he heard Little Richard’s “Long Tall Sally” and decided that he could write similar songs.

Little Richard’s producer Bumps Blackwell (who has a co-writing credit on this one as well) bought both “Rip It Up” and another Marascalco song, “Ready Teddy,” which was released as the B-side of the single. The two songs were recorded at J&M Studios in New Orleans on May 9, 1956.

The song peaked at #1 in the R&B Charts, #27 in the Billboard Charts, #30 in the UK, and #30 in Canada in 1956.

 

Rip It Up

‘Cause it’s Saturday night and I just got paid
Fool about my money don’t try to save
My heart says go, go
Have a time ’cause it’s Saturday night
And I’m feelin’ fine

I’m gonna rock it up
I’m gonna rip it up
I’m gonna shake it up
I’m gonna ball it up
I’m gonna ride it out
And ball tonight

I got a date and I won’t be late
Pick her up in my ’88’
Shag it on down to the union hall
When the music starts jumpin’
I’ll have a ball

I’m gonna rock it up
I’m gonna rip it up
I’m gonna shake it up
I’m gonna ball it up
I’m gonna ride it out
And ball tonight

Along about 10 I’ll be flying high
Rocking on out into the sky
I don’t care if I spend my gold
‘Cause tonight I’m gonna be one happy soul

I’m gonna rock it up
I’m gonna rip it up
I’m gonna shake it up
I’m gonna ball it up
I’m gonna ride it out
And ball tonight, aw

Well it’s Saturday night and I just got paid
Fool about my money don’t try to save
My heart says go, go
Have a time ’cause it’s Saturday night
And I’m feelin’ fine

I’m gonna rock it up
I’m gonna rip it up
I’m gonna shake it up
I’m gonna ball it up
I’m gonna ride it out
And ball tonight

Along about 10 I’ll be flying high
Rocking on out into the sky
I don’t care if I spend my gold
‘Cause tonight I’m gonna be one happy soul

I’m gonna rock it up
I’m gonna rip it up
I’m gonna shake it up
I’m gonna ball it up
I’m gonna ride it out
And ball tonight

 

Toronto Rock and Roll Revival 1969

Since I posted Paul McCartney’s Concert for Kampuchea yesterday I thought I would concentrate on the festival John Lennon popped up at in 1969… The Toronto Rock and Roll Revival. Unlike Kampuchea which was spread out on multiple days and nights, this festival was held on one day September 13, 1969.

John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band just played fifties songs plus John’s new song that Beatles rejected…Cold Turkey. The reason for the fifties’ songs was because the band had limited time to rehearse and they wanted to do songs they all knew.

It was a great festival lineup but it’s remembered mostly by John Lennon’s participation. The Doors were the headliners and John only agreed to do it

The concert was conceived by promoters John Brower and Ken Walker with financial backing from Eaton’s department store but stymied by poor ticket sales, the venture began to lose support. The festival was almost canceled but Brower called Apple Records in the UK to ask John Lennon to emcee the concert. Lennon agreed to appear on the condition he would be allowed to perform.

The Lennons flew in from England with a makeshift band that included Eric Clapton, Klaus Voormann, Alan White, and Yoko. They arrived at the backstage area at about 10 p.m, while Cat Mother and the All Night Newsboys were singing Good Old Rock ‘n’ Roll to an audience of about 20,000.

Lennon was quoted as saying “I threw up for hours until I went on” because it had been three years since he played live in a concert setting. The band went on and did a good job…ragged but it was a hastily assembled band with only a rehearsal on the plane ride and backstage.

John Lennon:  “The ridiculous thing was that I didn’t know any of the lyrics. When we did Money and Dizzy, I just made up the words as I went along. The band was bashing it out like hell behind me. Yoko came on stage with us, but she wasn’t going to do her bit until we’d done our five songs….Then after Money there was a stop, and I turned to Eric and said, ‘What’s next?’ He didn’t know either, so I just screamed out ‘C’mon!’ and started into something else.”

Little Richard: “I remember the show that people were throwing bottles at Yoko Ono. They were throwing everything at her. Finally, she had to run off the stage. Oh, boy, it was very bad.”

John Lennon: And we tried to put it out on Capitol, and Capitol didn’t want to put it out. They said, ‘This is garbage; we’re not going to put it out with her screaming on one side and you doing this sort of live stuff. And they just refused to put it out. But we finally persuaded them that, you know, people might buy this. Of course it went gold the next day.”

John Lennon and Yoko’s setlist

  • Blue Suede Shoes.
  • Money (That’s What I Want)
  • Dizzy Miss Lizzy.
  • Yer Blues.
  • Cold Turkey.
  • Give Peace a Chance.
  • Don’t Worry Kyoko (Mummy’s Only Looking for Her Hand in the Snow)
  • John John (Let’s Hope for Peace)

Performers 

John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band

Whiskey Howl

Bo Diddley

Chicago

Junior Walker and the All Stars

Tony Joe White

Alice Cooper

Chuck Berry

Cat Mother and the All Night News Boys

Jerry Lee Lewis

Gene Vincent

Little Richard

Doug Kershaw

The Doors

Kim Fowley The Master of Ceremonies

Screaming Lord Sutch

Little Richard – Lucille

Little Richard isn’t just a singer he is a force of nature. I think he would have been successful now or any decade. He is one of the best singers I’ve heard in rock and roll. His voice is brash, intense, rough, soulful, and magical. He takes you to the edge of the cliff and when you think he will go over he pulls it back.

The song peaked at #1 on the Billboard R&B chart, #21 on the US pop chart, and #10 on the UK charts.

Little Richard wrote this song. This was released at a time when Richard was hot…he sold millions of records in 1956 and 1957. His songs were also very successful for other artists, who sometimes outsold him with his own songs.

“Lucille” was covered by The Everly Brothers, who matched Richard’s #21 peak position on the charts with their version in 1960. Waylon Jennings had a #1 Country hit when he recorded this on his 1983 album It’s Only Rock and Roll, and other artists to cover the song include Van Halen, Deep Purple, Johnny Winter, Bill Haley & His Comets, Otis Redding, AC/DC and The Hollies.

Little Richard: “I don’t know what inspired me to write it, it may have been the rhythm.” Certainly, the lyrics serve the rhythm, with the nonsensical first line “Lucille, won’t you do your sister’s will” scanning to the beat.

From Songfacts

This song began as a ballad Richard wrote called “Directly From My Heart to You,” which he recorded as a member of The Johnny Otis band in 1955. “Directly From My Heart to You” was released by Peacock Records as a B-side, and when Little Richard recorded for Specialty Records in September 1955, he tried recording the song for his first album. It didn’t make the cut, but Richard’s career took off, and when he needed another single in 1957, he revived the song, but gave it the sound that made him a star, speeding up the tempo considerably.

The lyrics were completely rewritten, and Richard went to a common theme for his hits: a girl’s name. If Lucille was based on a real woman who broke Richard’s heart, he isn’t saying.
If there was a real Lucille, it would probably be either Richard’s (female) lover Lee Angel, or his mentor Steve Reeder Jr., who performed under the name Esquerita. Little Richard hasn’t kept a lot of secrets, so it’s more likely that he did make up Lucille. His next single was also named after a girl: “Jenny, Jenny.”

In a 1999 interview with Mojo magazine, Richard explained: “The effects and rhythms you hear on my songs, I got ’em from the trains that passed by my house. Like ‘Lucille’ came from a train – Dadas-dada-dada-dada, I got that from the train.”

Other popular Lucille’s in music: B.B. King’s guitar is named Lucille, and Kenny Rogers had a hit with different song with the same title in 1977 – his is the one that goes, “You picked a fine time to leave me Lucille…”

The Everly Brothers 1960 version broke new ground but using several guitarists on the track all at once. Recorded in Nashville and arranged by Don Everly, that sound later appeared on Roy Orbison’s hit “(Oh) Pretty Woman.”

In 1993, Little Richard sang this on Sesame Street as “Rosita,” in tribute to the blue monster of the same name.

Lucille

Lucille, won’t you do your sister’s will?
Oh, Lucille, won’t you do your sister’s will?
Well, you ran away and left, I love you still.

Lucille, please, come back where you belong.
Oh, Lucille, please, come back where you belong.
I been good to you, baby, please, don’t leave me alone.

Lucille, baby, satisfy my heart.
Oh, Lucille, baby, satisfy my heart.
I slaved for you, baby, and gave you such a wonderful start.

I woke up this morning, Lucille was not in sight.
I asked her friends about her but all their lips were tight.
Lucille, please, come back where you belong.
I been good to you, baby, please, don’t leave me alone.

Little Richard – Good Golly, Miss Molly

No one has a voice like Little Richard. His voice would have worked in any generation. He has one of the most primal aggressive voices I’ve ever heard. He sings these rockers great but he also can sing ballads.

Little Richard recorded this song in 1956 and it was released in 1958. The song peaked at #10 in the charts and #4 in the R&B Charts in 1958… as well as #8 in the UK.

The song is ranked #94 on the Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. Good Golly, Miss Molly was written by John Marascalco and Robert “Bumps” Blackwell.

From Songfacts

The title was taken from the pet phrase of one of Little Richard’s favorite DJ’s, Jimmy Pennick. Musically, the song was inspired by the sax player Jackie Brenston, famous for singing lead and playing with Ike Turner on the song “Rocket 88.”

Like most of Little Richard’s songs, this contains a lot of innuendo (“sure like to ball”) but most people were too busy listening to the music to notice, or didn’t get the reference. At the time, the most common meaning for “balling” was dancing; only later did it became a popular euphemism for oral sex. The term later took on a new meaning when it came describe a lavish and extravagant lifestyle, with these guys flashing their cash known as “ballers.”

This song was a huge influence on many musicians in the early years of rock and roll. Speaking with Songfacts, Roger Reale, who was in the group Rue Morgue with Mick Ronson, said: “It’s revolutionary, rebellious and celebratory all in one, starting with that rolling piano intro, before moving into a totally unique vocal performance. I had never heard such a direct, crazed, almost otherworldly vocal before in my life.”

Little Richard’s publisher sued Creedence Clearwater Revival over their song “Travelin’ Band,” which they claimed lifted from “Molly.” A settlement was reached with Creedence giving up some of their royalties.

Good Golly, Miss Molly

Good golly Miss Molly, sure like to ball.
Good golly, Miss Molly, sure like to ball.
When you’re rockin’ and a rollin’, can’t hear your momma call.

From the early, early mornin’ till the early, early night
When I caught Miss Molly rockin’ at the house of blue light.
Good golly, Miss Molly, sure like to ball.
When you’re rockin’ and a rollin’ can’t hear your momma call.

Momma, poppa told me: “Son, you better watch your step.”
If I knew poppa’s momma’s, have to watch my poppa myself.
Good golly, Miss Molly, sure like to ball.
When you’re rockin’ and a rollin’, can’t hear your momma call.

Good golly Miss Molly, sure like to ball.
Good golly, Miss Molly, sure like to ball.
When you’re rockin’ and a rollin’, can’t hear your momma call.

I am going to the corner, gonna buy a diamond ring.
Would you pardon me kiss me ting-a-ling-a-ling.
Good golly, Miss Molly, sure like to ball.
When you’re rockin’ and a rollin’ can’t hear your momma call.

 

Hail! Hail! Rock ‘N’ Roll 1987

This documentary starts off in 1986 with Chuck Berry reminiscing about the Cosmopolitan Club where he played in the earlier days.

The film is centered around Chuck Berry’s 60th birthday and Keith Richards assembling an All-Star Band to support Chuck in concert. Chuck had been touring since the 60s by traveling town to town and playing with any pickup band he found…all he brought was his guitar. He would get paid with cash in a paper bag in many places. That was his motivation more than playing with a good band. Chuck could be very sloppy playing live.

Chuck could also be difficult, to say the least. Keith was determined that Chuck was going to be backed by a great band for this concert… Chuck was Keith’s idol but Chuck seemed to want to give Keith as much trouble as possible. Richards says in the documentary that Chuck was the only man that hit him that he didn’t hit back. During the rehearsals for the song “Carol”, you can feel the tension in the air between the two.

Seeing Keith’s reaction to Chuck at times is worth the price of admission and I’m glad Keith was persistent and patient and got this done. It’s great footage of Chuck playing his classics.

The concert at the Fox Theatre ended up a success. Chuck sounded great and so did the band.

During the documentary, there are some great comments by Little Richard, Bo Diddley, Bruce Springsteen, Jerry Lee Lewis, Willie Dixon and more.

Little Richard, Bo Diddley, and Chuck have a very interesting conversation about how hard it was to get played on the radio because of being African American in the 50s. They also talk about payola and Alan Freed.

The band was incredible… Keith Richards, Robert Cray, the great Johnnie Johnson (Chuck’s original piano player), Steve Jordan, Bobby Keys, Chuck Leavell and Eric Clapton guests on a few songs.

Some of the artists that came on and sang were Etta James, Linda Ronstadt, and Julian Lennon.

Chuck was a complicated man but he was a poet as well. I can’t recommend this documentary enough. If you are a music fan you should like it. Chuck Berry may have influenced Rock and Roll more than anyone else…

My favorite story is from Bruce Springsteen. Bruce and the E Street Band volunteered to back up Chuck Berry for a show in the early seventies. Being Chuck’s temporarily pickup band must have been nerve-wracking for musicians. Chuck didn’t tell them what songs he was playing or what key…this is Bruce’s quote “About five minutes before the show was timed to start, the back door opens and he comes in. He’s by himself. He’s got a guitar case, and that was it,” Springsteen said. “[I said] ‘Chuck, what songs are we going to do?’ He says, ‘Well, we’re going to do some Chuck Berry songs.’ That was all he said!”

Below is the video…not extremely clear but watchable.

 

Little Richard

A voice that won’t quit. Richard Wayne Penniman… better known as Little Richard would be great in any era. Of all of his peers, he could belt a song out better than any other.

In the 50’s he was public enemy number one to many parents. Pat Boone would cover his songs and those are the recordings the parents would buy their kids…while the kids would sneak and buy the real Richard records and keep them hidden while their parents were around…

Others tried to imitate it but no one came close. Paul McCartney would try but didn’t have the rawness that Richard had/has… He was flamboyant, to say the least, and commanded a stage.

In 1957 at the peak of his career he retired to the ministry and gospel music only… that lasted a while but in 1962 he came back to Rock and Roll and toured Europe. The Beatles were really big fans of Richard and they opened some shows for him in 1962. His keyboard player was a young Billy Preston.

Little Richard songs just jump off of the recording right at you.

You can hear his influence on The Stones, The Beatles, James Brown, Elvis and his androgynous influence with Freddy Mercury, Elton John, and David Bowie.

I’ve always seen Little Richard as the hard rock of the fifties. The songs are raw as you can get and in your face.

Black people lived right by the railroad tracks, and the train would shake their houses at night. I would hear it as a boy, and I thought: I’m gonna make a song that sounds like that.  Little Richard

Little Richard and the James Gang in 1970