#600: Freedom Blues by Little Richard
Richard Wayne Penniman was born in 1932 in Macon, Georgia. His father ran the Tip In Inn in Macon. He had eleven siblings. At the age of 13, Richard heard plenty of recording artists passing through his city at the Macon City Auditorium where he worked selling Coca-cola. Some of the recording artists who impressed him the most were Cab Calloway, Lucky Millender and Sister Rosetta Tharpe. He was taught to play gospel piano at a young age and sang gospel songs. He recalled that time in his life stating “there was so much poverty, so much prejudice in those days” that they sang gospel to try to keep their spirits up. In fifth grade, Penniman learned to play alto saxophone while in a school marching band. By his late teens ‘Lil Richard, as he was known in his family because of his skinny frame, was a member Doctor Nubillo’s traveling show, a vaudeville revue. He developed a theatrical style from his exposure to vaudeville that included wearing turbans and capes. It was a natural persona for the young man who was a prankster from his childhood. At the age of 16, in 1949, Little Richard joined Doctor Hudson’s Medicine Show and performed the Louis Jordan hit “Caldonia”. He got a record deal with RCA Victor in 1951.
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