Why go see Little Richard after all these years?
“Because I am history alive!” proclaims the rock ’n’ roll pioneer, born Richard Penniman in Macon, Ga., and singer of such landmark ’50s hits as “Tutti-Frutti,” “Long Tall Sally,” “Rip It Up,” “Jenny Jenny” and “Good Golly Miss Molly.”
But to hear the 74-year-old singer, pianist and flamboyant showman tell it, that history was almost interrupted before it even got started.
“I started singing at a young age,” recalls Richard, who was raised in a strict Seventh-Day Adventist home. “But my dad didn’t like my singing. My mama did. My dad told me I was hollerin’ too loud; when I said, ‘Whoo hoo!,’ he said, ‘Shut up!’ He thought somebody had jumped on me or something.”
Salvation came from bassist Jesse Boyce, who discovered Richard, took him under wing and shepherded him into the recording world.
“And it went on from there,” Richard says. “I’ve been singing ever since then — and, in fact, I’ve been screaming ever since then.”
These days, however, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee and Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award winner prefers to do his singing and screaming in concert rather than in a recording studio.
“I’m really not interested in recording anymore,” he says. “I don’t sit around thinking about, ‘When can I record?’ I like to work. I like to meet people. I like to talk to people. I just want you to come see history alive, ’cause that’s what I am.”
Little Richard performs at 8 p.m. Saturday (May 19th) at the Michigan Theatre, 603 E. Liberty St., Ann Arbor. Tickets are $25-$75. Call (734) 668-8463 or visit www.michtheater.org.
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