“Little Richard was one of the all-time greats,” John Lennon once said. “The first time I heard him, a friend of mine had been to Holland and brought back a 78 with ‘Long Tall Sally’ on one side, and ‘Slippin’ And Slidin” on the other. It blew our heads – we’d never heard anybody sing like that in our lives and all those saxes playing like crazy.”
Paul McCartney echoed the sentiment: “In our imaginations back then, John was Buddy (Holly) and I was Little Richard…You’re always someone when you start.” The adulation was obvious. Just listen to McCartney’s “wooo” in “I Saw Her Standing There.” It came straight from Little Richard.
Indeed, the flamboyant singer/songwriter/pianist born Richard Penniman was one of the original rock-and-roll artists who had the greatest influence on The Beatles. And, in tribute to that fact, I’m happy to announce that I’ve invited the great Garry Moore back to town to perform at my “Relive the Beatles ’64” show on September 19. He’ll wow the crowd, as he did last year, with his fabulous performance of Little Richard’s best-loved hits — all of which helped shape the Beatles.
On July 6, 1957, 15-year-old Paul McCartney “auditioned” for 16-year-old John Lennon, then the leader of a skiffle band called The Quarrymen. After playing a rousing version of “Twenty Flight Rock,” he launched into a medley of Little Richard songs. The skeptical Lennon was quietly impressed. Not many people, let alone a young teen, could wail like Richard.
By the early ’60s, the Quarrymen had morphed into The Beatles, with George Harrison and Pete Best on board. Music promoters booked them into the seedy clubs of Hamburg, where they entertained crowds of rowdy Germans for up to 8 hours a night. It was in these clubs that the boys fine-tuned their performances of classic American rock-n-roll songs, particularly those of Little Richard. With Paul’s screaming lead vocals, they nailed hits like “Good Golly Miss Molly,” “Tutti-Frutti” and “Lucille.” They even performed lesser-known Richard songs like “Miss Ann,” “Send Me Some Lovin'”, and a medley that he had recorded in 1959 that paired the Leiber/Stoller song “Kansas City” with a self-penned B-side named “Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey!” The Beatles later recorded this medley on their “Beatles for Sale” LP (it was released in the U.S. on the “Beatles VI” album).
Imagine the Beatles’ thrill when they got to open for their idol at both the Star Club in Hamburg and the Tower Ballroom in New Brighton, England, in 1962!
The boys regularly performed Little Richard’s songs during early appearances on BBC Radio shows (you can purchase their two “Live at the BBC” volumes), and later recorded “Long Tall Sally” for a British EP of the same name. Americans first heard the song on “The Beatles Second Album.”
John Lennon remained a Little Richard fan during his post-Beatles years, recording “Rip It Up”/”Ready Teddy” and “Slippin’ and Slidin'” for his 1975 “Rock’n’Roll” LP.
“Relive the Beatles ’64” will be held on September 19 at the Palace Theatre in Greensburg. You can click here to purchase tickets via the theatre’s online ticketing site, or by phoning the box office at 724-836-8000.
Here’s the talented Garry Moore, channeling Little Richard.
And now, the one and only Mr. Penniman in 1956.