Richard Wayne Penniman (born December 5, 1932), known by the stage name Little Richard, is an American singer, songwriter, pianist, bandleader and recording artist, considered key in the transition from rhythm and blues to rock and roll in the 1950s. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame web site entry on Penniman states that:
"He claims to be “the architect of rock and roll,” and history would seem to bear out Little Richard’s boast. More than any other performer - save, perhaps, Elvis Presley, Little Richard blew the lid off the Fifties, laying the foundation for rock and roll with his explosive music and charismatic persona. On record, he made spine-tingling rock and roll. His frantically charged piano playing and raspy, shouted vocals on such classics as "Tutti Frutti", "Long Tall Sally" and "Good Golly, Miss Molly" defined the dynamic sound of rock and roll."
Penniman began performing on stage and on the road in 1945, when he was in his early teens. He began his recording career on October 16, 1951 by imitating the gospel-influenced style of late-1940s jump blues artist Billy Wright, who was a friend of his who set him up with the opportunity to record. His early fifties recordings, however, did not achieve remarkable commercial success.
In 1955, under the guidance of Robert "Bumps" Blackwell, Penniman began recording in a style he had been performing onstage for years, featuring varied rhythm (derived from everything from drum beats he would hear in his voice to the sounds of trains he would hear thundering by him as a child), a heavy backbeat, funky saxophone grooves, over-the-top Gospel-style singing, moans, screams, and other emotive inflections, accompanied by a combination of boogie-woogie and rhythm and blues music. This new music, which included an original injection of funk into the rock and roll beat, inspired many of the greatest recording artists of the twentieth century, including James Brown, Elvis Presley, Otis Redding, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Michael Jackson, and generations of other rhythm & blues, rock, and soul music artists. He was subsequently among the seven initial inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986 and one of only four (along with Ray Charles, James Brown, and Fats Domino) to also receive the Rhythm and Blues Foundation's Pioneer Lifetime Achievement Award.
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