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Little Richard (1932-) Seminal Blues-Influenced Rocker from Macon Georgia, Performing Since 1947


The Hersch
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I was having a private conversation with somebody on this site, and we were agreeing that more than anyone else, the founding father of rock and roll was Chuck Berry. But Chuck Berry wasn't an exceptional singer, or an exceptional guitarist, although he certainly wasn't bad as either. But I would like to put forward the claim that the founder of rock-and-roll singing was Little Richard. When you listen to his mid-fifties iconic vocal performances, you hear prefigured just about everything to come: Elvis, John and Paul, Mick Jagger, Jimi Hendrix, John Fogerty, Rod Stewart, Joe Cocker, Jackie Wilson, even Bob Dylan. Prince. But also the R & B and soul artists like James Brown, Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, and even Aretha Franklin. You can hear all of them learning what to do when you listen to, and watch, Little Richard murder "Long Tall Sally" (1956):

Comment on this extraordinary exhibition is probably superfluous, although I will point out that it seems remarkably like a minstrel show, except the performers are black rather than in black-face. I'm not entirely sure what to make of that. But my goodness, the joy shines through Little Richard's vocal technique and the expressions on his face and his physical moves. This was a singer who knew what he wanted to do and damn, he did it. It's also remarkable how beautiful he was to look at.

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is Cruisin' 1955 from KSAN in San Francisco.  Arguably the best of the Cruisin series is Joe Niagara from WIBG in Philly in '57.  I have all of these dating to '67 and they are incredible recreations of actual rock and roll broadcasts from back then.  There is also a website called Reel Radio which has extraordinary broadcasts including about every famous disc jockey you will ever hear.  http://www.reelradio.com/index.html#menu

I saw Bill Haley and the Comets in 1956 at the DC Armory with my father.  Blackboard Jungle had just come out and rock and roll was being banned in various cities around the U. S.  I was frightened because the 4 or 5,000 there were all wild.  I believe it is universally agreed that this song gave rock and roll its international acceptance.  Bill Haley and the Comets aka Saddlemen had an earlier album from '55 called Rock the Joint.  This is a significant transitional album because it includes early rock and roll and country.

Jumping Joe Turner 

was covered by Bill Haley on Shake, Rattle and Roll.  He slightly predates Little Richard and Chuck Barry. The video is almost a big band video.  Laverne Baker https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dMWHi-SPEf0, Howling Wolf and others fit into this, too.  I first saw Little Richard on Dick Clark's Beechnut Saturday Night Live on ABC ('56? or '57?)  This is video from the '56 movie, "The Girl Can't Help It" which I actually feel is one of Little Richard's best songs.  Jayne Mansfield was the star of the movie.  
Elvis wasn't known until '56 but his roots go to '54 along with a half dozen others from Sun Records.  Here's Alan Freed introducing the Platters and the immortal "Great Pretender:" 

I believe the greatest rock and roll disc jockey of all time was Jerry Blavat from Philly who is still around.  Like Jocko Henderson almost everything he said rhymed and he had/has a cult following.  I believe he actually "invented" the sock hop.  Alan Freed plays into this, too.

If you are really into rock and roll this is arguably the greatest concert ever performed, the T.A.M.I. show:  http://www.reelradio.com/index.html#menu  You can buy the video on Amazon.  This is James Brown's unequalled, legendary performance from it:  

 I saw him at the Howard theatre in '64 with friends of mine who went to Howard and, to this day, his was the greatest performance I have ever seen.  It is said that the Stones did not want to go on stage after he performed in L. A. at the T.A.M.I. show.  You can see both as well as the Beachboys and many, many others on the video.

As a side note the BBC would not allow rock and roll on their broadcasts and there were literal offshore stations that blasted into the UK, Germany and the Netherlands.  In Germany rock and roll performances were performed in strip clubs in red light districts (Reeperbahn) because many thought it was the Devil's music.  This is one of the greatest club performances of all (source Rolling Stone), Jerry Lee Lewis in Hamburg's Star Club in '64 

 Little Richard also recorded at the Star Club http://www.discogs.com/Little-Richard-Little-Richard-Is-Back/release/3695898.  The Star Club packed more than 1,000 people into a basement with ceilings about 12' high; they stood armpit to armpit and was arguably as rocking of a club as there was on earth.  The Beatles and many other English groups regularly performed there prior to being introduced in the U. S.  
 The Star Club is gone today but there is a plaque in the Reeperbahn commemorating it.

I am extremely fortunate to have seen a lot many years ago.  This also includes Jimi Hindrix performing the Star Spangled banner on stage at the old Ambassador theatre at 18th and Columbia road.

Still, overall, I would argue for James Brown as the greatest performer.

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Thank you The Hersch and Joe H.  These nice two "elderly" or should I say "seasoned" gentlemen are introducing us to the earliest days of rock and roll.  Oh my, I looked into the mirror, and saw a wizened old face with wrinkles.  I'm one of them too!!!!!!

Anyway of the early writers, performers, and singers the one who moved me the most was Chuck Berry:   Chuck Berry's music was DRIVING.  It had GO GO GO as a repetitive theme.  No doubt some of the early very famous songs he wrote were somewhat repetitive.  Repetition of good things is great.   I've listened to Chuck Berry over the years.  It still moves me.

Here is Chuck Berry performing Johnny B Goode, in the 1950's; to me the essence of the GO GO GO element to Rock n Roll:  

This song has staying power:  Here is my man, Chuck, with another rock and roll performer of some note, John Lennon:  It must be the 60's or  '70's   

Son of a gun:  In 1986 Julian Lennon performed Johnny B Goode with Chuck Berry.  Julian Lennon is having a killer time:  

And damn:  Even The Boss needed to get into the action:  Here is Bruce Springsteen, the E Street Band and Chuck Berry performing this classic in 1995 before thousands of rocking out fans:  

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