On Sept. 14, 1955, Little Richard recorded “Tutti Frutti.” Did you know that the lyrics were revised to avoid censorship? See the explanation from The History Channel’s This Day in History entry. “Tutti Frutti” was the first of several hits for Little Richard, and one of the earliest rock and roll hits. Little Richard was among the inductees to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in its first year (1986), and he has received lifetime achievement awards from the Grammy Awards (1993) and Rhythm & Blues Foundation (1994). Rolling Stone listed Little Richard 12th on its list of 100 Greatest Singers, and “Tutti Frutti” was 43rd on its list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
A 1995 article in American Heritage, “Little Richard’s Big Noise” said
What was new about Little Richard, what smacked people over the head, was his voice’s heat, a bigger-than-life vitality rarely, if ever, equaled in the four decades of rock since. Richard’s voice was disruptive; it immediately got under your skin, made you want to jump up and down; it was a hit of pure laughing gas. “For youngsters who had never heard black performers sing at full throttle,” says the rock critic Langdon Winner, his “effect was mesmerizing.”
To put this piece into some context, what else was going on in 1955? According to A Chronicle of American Music (2nd-floor Reference Collection, ML200 .H15 1996), public school desegregation was ordered by the U.S. Supreme Court, we were working with Canada to protect us from possible Communist attack, the oral contraceptive (aka “the pill”) was just going on the market, and Marion Anderson became the first African American singer at the Metropolitan Opera.
Andersen Library has a recording of “Tutti Frutti” — Check out Little Richard’s 18 greatest hits (2nd-floor Browsing CD rack at BLU Lit 18). You also can hear it from Rolling Stone‘s web site (via Spotify).
Want to learn more? There is biographical information about Little Richard in several sources, including these 2nd-floor Reference Collection titles: The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Rock History (Ref ML3534 .G754 2002 v.1 “The Early Years, 1951-1959”), The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll (ML102 .R6R64 2001), and Baker’s Biographical Dictionary of Musicians (ML105 .B16 2001).
UW-W students and staff may request the book-length biographies Little Richard: The birth of rock ‘n’ roll and The life and times of Little Richard: The quasar of rock from other UW campus libraries via the free Universal Borrowing service (requested items arrive in 2-4 weekdays). There also is a biography in the Biography Reference Bank database.
If you are interested in finding additional materials, such as articles, please ask a librarian.
“Womp-bomp-a-loo-momp a-lop-bomp-bomp!” Sing it all day! You know you want to!