Related Artists

Jerry Lee Lewis


Fats Domino


The Coasters


Chuck Berry


Chubby Checker


The Everly Brothers


Buddy Holly


Martha Reeves & The Vandellas


Sam & Dave


Jackie Wilson

Little Richard Biography


Home > Music > L > Little Richard > Biography


Birth Name: Richard Wayne Penniman
Born: 1932/12/05
Birth Place: Macon, Georgia, U.S.
Years Active: 1951 – present
Genres: Rock And Roll, Rhythm And Blues, Soul, Gospel


Richard Wayne Penniman (born December 5, 1932), known by the stage name Little Richard, is an American singer, songwriter, pianist 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 his recording career in 1951 by imitating the gospel-influenced style of late-1940s jump blues artist Billy Wright, but did not achieve commercial success until 1955, when, under the guidance of Robert "Bumps" Blackwell, he began recording in a style he had been performing onstage for years, featuring varied rhythm, 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 James Brown, Elvis Presley, Otis Redding 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 was one of only four of these honorees (along with Ray Charles, James Brown, and Fats Domino) to also receive the Rhythm and Blues Foundation's Pioneer Lifetime Achievement Award.

In October 1957, while at the height of stardom, Penniman abruptly quit rock and roll music and became a born-again Christian. In January 1958, he enrolled in and attended Bible college to become a preacher and evangelist and began recording and performing only gospel music for a number of years. He then moved back and forth from rock and roll to the ministry, until he was able to reconcile the two roles in later life.