The book opened on a crucial chapter in the rock ‘n’ story on 14 January 1956. That was the date on which Little Richard made his official debut on the American pop singles chart, when the brilliant ‘Tutti Frutti’ crashed into Billboard’s Top 100 list at No. 58.
The song contains what for many people is still the greatest intro (and indeed outro) of any rock ‘n’ roll record, and perhaps the only example of an artist singing the sound of a drum pattern. “A wop bop a loo bop a lop bam boom!”, Richard exclaimed, and the world listened.
‘Tutti Frutti,’ on Specialty 561, had entered the R&B chart towards the end of 1955, on its way to No. 2. Richard’s version also went on to No. 17 on the pop list, quite an achievement in the still-cautious American establishment — except that he had to suffer the indignity of being outsold by Pat Boone’s “white bread” cover, which reached No. 12.
The artist co-wrote the song with a rather unsung name in the annals of music, Kentucky-born composer Dorothy LaBostrie, who was hired by the Specialty label’s ‘Bumps’ Blackwell to keep Richard’s somewhat salacious tendencies as a lyricist in check. The song led off the debut album that followed, although not until March 1957. ‘Here’s Little Richard’ also featured ‘Long Tall Sally,’ ‘Rip It Up,’ ‘Jenny, Jenny’ and several more classic cuts.
He had already been recording for four years by this time, initially for RCA Victor and then Peacock, and yet the ‘Georgia Peach’ was still only just turning 23 as ‘Tutti Frutti’ hit the charts. As 1956 progressed and rock ‘n’ roll grew bolder, Little Richard would rip it up, both musically and metaphorically.
‘Tutti Frutti’ is on Mono Box: The Complete Specialty And Vee-Jay Albums, which can be bought here.
Follow the official Little Richard Best Of playlist.