How many times would you imagine Little Richard made the Top 20 of the American album chart? The starling answer is that he’s done it just once, with his very first LP. On August 5, 1957, Here’s Little Richard made its debut on Billboard’s Best Selling Pop Albums, fully five months after its March 4 release.
The LP was recorded in September and October of 1956, as the sensational “Georgia Peach” was building up a remarkable armoury of seminal hit singles. They included “Tutti Frutti,” “Long Tall Sally,” “Rip It Up,“ “The Girl Can’t Help It,” “Lucille,” and his current hit of the time, “Jenny, Jenny.”
‘I was addicted to ‘Rip It Up’’
One of the many future stars who fell under Richard’s spell in those days was Robbie Robertson, later of The Band. “The first record I ever bought with my own money was Here’s Little Richard,” he later said. “I was addicted to his song ‘Rip It Up.’ It was the most amazing shuffle. It still is, to this day.”
Here’s Little Richard, produced by “Bumps” Blackwell, also included “Tutti Frutti,” “Long Tall Sally” and “Jenny, Jenny,” as well as such essential cuts as “She’s Got It“ and “Ready Teddy.” The cast list of musicians included such great sidemen as sax men Alvin ‘Red’ Tyler and Lee Allen, drummer Earl Palmer and, on “Baby,” Huey ‘Piano’ Smith.
Little Richard and Art Rupe
The record was ranked by Rolling Stone at No.50 in its 2003 list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. In 2012, Concord’s restoration of Here’s Little Richard in an expanded format added demo versions of two tracks; it also had a nine-minute interview with Art Rupe, the influential founder of the label Richard was signed to, Specialty.
“Little Richard can dominate an audience, can control an audience, can upstage any act,” says Rupe in that interview. “He’s unpredictable, but he’s got an enormous amount of energy, a tremendous amount of natural talent.”
The album reached No.13 and spent five weeks on the Billboard chart, but for all his worldwide notoriety, Richard wouldn’t be back on that list for a full ten years. Here’s Little Richard remains a brilliant reminder of this exhilarating performer, who’d already been recording for four years by this time but was still only a mere 24 years old.
Buy or stream the remastered and expanded Here’s Little Richard.