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On Air

Moshpit Hall of Fame Induction

Richard Wayne Penniman
aka Little Richard
circa 1950s

The first member of the Moshpit Hall of Fame is Little Richard (Richard Wayne Penniman).

 

Richard Wayne Penniman was born on December 5th, 1932 in Georgia where he was the third of twelve children. Richard’s father who sold moonshine for a living didn’t hide his disdain towards Richard’s homosexuality and kicked him out of home at the age of thirteen. Due to his father’s disdain, Richard spent most of his childhood within the church where he would sing gospel and eventually learn to play the piano.

 

Richard was adopted by a white family who happened to own a club in Macon, this is where Richard began performing and honing his talent.

 

In 1954 a performance at Atlanta radio station earnt Richard a record contract with RCA. However, at the time Richard had more of a repertoire for blues numbers that simply didn’t allow him to present his famous vocals and piano work that would come to define him. Due to this Richard’s career did not take off at this time.

 

In 1955 Richard signed with record producer Art Rupe. Mr. Rupe was searching for a lead for a  group of Orleans based musicians. During September of that year Richard recorded “Tutti Frutti”, this piece was an instant hit and managed to reach number 17 on the billboards.

 

Over the next year and a half, Richard continued to release music, including rock hits “Good Golly Miss Molly”, “Long Tall Sally” and “Send Me Some Lovin’”. Richard’s use of a boppy piano against his powerful voice and his more suggestive lyrics has cemented him as one of the few musicians who alongside Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis helped to established rock and roll as a proper and real form of music while also inspiring some of the most influential musicians of all time like the Beatles and Jimi Hendrix.

 

However as Richard’s fame grew he had doubts about rock and roll and in 1957 he quit performing rock and returned to the church where he would commit himself to the ministry and gospel, even releasing his debut religious album “God Is Real” in 1959.

 

After the Beatles recorded “Long Tall Sally” in 1964 Richard came back to rock music where he would continue to perform and record, however, he never reached the same heights he had previously.

 

As the years went on Richard’s health began to deteriorate and on May 9th of 2020 Richard passed away due to complications with bone cancer.
Richard’s effect on rock music is undeniable and is reflected in the awards he has been given throughout the years. Richard was one of the first ten inductees into the rock and roll hall of fame in 1986. Richard was a recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences in 1993, and a year later the Rhythm & Blues Foundation honored him with its prestigious Pioneer Award.

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