Little Richard and the Upsetters

By Gary:

This will be a total re-write.  About 4 1/2 years ago, in my early stages with the blog, I looked at an artist that was one of my favourites and who had a great influence on me.  He was the wild man from Macon Georgia (I read his book) who bounced from Rock and Roll to the ministry many times. 

The group that backed him, The Upsetters, set a standard in Early Rock and Roll that most bands tried to copy.  So once again I will look at:



Upsetters1Upsetters2The Upsetters



LRupsetters2Little Richard and the Upsetters


The Upsetters

1953 / this is before stardom, the Upsetters /


Recorded in 1960 / I’m in Love Again / under the name “The Upsetters” /


 Little Richard and the Upsetters

1956 / Long Tall Sally /


With the Sounds Incorporated England

1964 / Rip it Up /


1964 / Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On /


1969 / Toronto Peace Festival / Good Golly Miss Molly /


1992 Muhammad Ali’s 50th Birthday /


2000 / Little Richard interview with Donny & Marie Osmond / he tells his story and sings /


1969 / Lucille / Live ABC TV /
1987 / Solid Gold Show / Great Gosh Almighty /
1994 / Little Richard and Lloyd Price / Lawdy Miss Clawdy/
1995  / Little Richard live with an all star band / Tutti Frutti /
2002 / Keep a Knockin’ / Jerry Lewis Telethon /



A-side one – B-side two

1955 – Tutti Frutti / # 17 BB


1955 – A – Long Tall Sally / B – Slippin’ and Sliding /  BB #6 & #33


1956 – A – Rip it Up / B – Reddy Teddy / BB #17 & 44 (Reddy Teddy was the better song, my opinion -Gary)


1956 – A – Heeby Jeebies / B – She’s Got it / BB #50  B side did not place


1956 – A – The Girl Can’t Help It / BB #49


1957 – A – Lucille / B – Send me some Lovin’ / BB # 21 & 54


1957 –  A – Jenny Jenny / B – Miss Ann / BB # 14 & 56 (Again I liked the B side better, Gary)


1957 – A – Keep a Knockin’ / BB #8


1958 – A – Good Golly Miss Molly / BB #10


1958 – A – Ooh My Soul / B – True Fine Mama / BB #35 & 68


1964 – Bama Lama Lou / BB #82

All of the above are Specialty Recordings

Little Richard Biography

Singer (1932–)

    Born Richard Wayne Penniman on December 5, 1932, in Macon, Georgia, Little Richard helped define the early rock ‘n’ roll era of the 1950s with his driving, flamboyant sound. With his croons, wails and screams, he turned songs like “Tutti-Frutti” and “Long Tall Sally” into huge hits and influenced such bands as the Beatles.

Early Years

Born Richard Wayne Penniman on December 5, 1932, in Macon, Georgia, Little Richard was the third of 12 children. His father, Bud, was a stern man who made his living selling moonshine and didn’t do much to hide his disdain for his son’s early signs of homosexuality. At the age of 13 Richard was ordered to move out of the family home. Richard’s relationship with his father was never repaired. When Richard was 19, his father was shot dead outside a local bar.

The childhood that Richard did manage to have was largely shaped by the church. Two of his uncles as well as his grandfather were preachers, and Richard was involved with the church as much as anyone in his family, singing gospel and eventually learning to play the piano.

Upon moving out of his family’s home, Richard was taken in by a white family who owned a club in Macon, where Richard eventually began performing and honing his talent.

In 1951 Richard caught his first major break when a performance at an Atlanta radio station yielded a record contract with RCA. But with a repertoire of mainly mild blues numbers that masked the searing vocals and piano that would come to define his rock music, Richard’s career failed to take off as he hoped it would.

Commercial Success

In 1955 Richard hooked up with Specialty Records producer Art Rupe, who’d been hunting around for a piano-pounding front man to lead a group of musicians in New Orleans. In September, Richard stepped into the recording studio and pumped out “Tutti-Frutti,” an instant Billboard hit that reached No. 17. Richard’s success didn’t stop there. Over the next year and a half, he churned out several more rock hits, including “Long Tall Sally,” “Good Golly Miss Molly” and “Send Me Some Lovin’.” With his blood-pumping piano playing and suggestive lyrics, Little Richard, along with the likes of Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis, established rock as a real musical form and inspired others, most notably the Beatles, to make a go of it. In addition to his records, Little Richard appeared in several early rock films, such as Don’t Knock the Rock (1956), The Girl Can’t Help It (1957) and Mister Rock ‘n’ Roll(1957).

Later Years

But as his success soared, Little Richard, fuelled by his earlier connections to the church, saw his doubts about rock deepen. In 1957 he abruptly and publicly quit performing rock and committed himself to the ministry and recording gospel songs. He recorded his debut religious album, God Is Real, in 1959.

In 1964, following the Beatles’ recording of “Long Tall Sally,” Little Richard plunged back into rock music. Over the ensuing decades Little Richard would continue to perform and record, but the public response failed to match the enthusiasm that greeted his earlier success.

Still, his importance in the development of rock music has never been questioned. In 1986 Little Richard was one of the 10 original inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He was a recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences in 1993. A year later the Rhythm & Blues Foundation honoured the Little Richard with its prestigious Pioneer Award.

In recent years, the once dynamic performer has taken a break from the concert stage. He fell ill during a Washington, D.C. show during the summer of 2012. The following September, Little Richard suffered a heart attack. According to Rolling Stone, Little Richard described the incident to Cee Lo Green during an interview in Atlanta. “The other night, I didn’t know I was having a heart attack. I was coughing, and my right arm was aching.’ The singer took a baby aspirin, which his doctor credits for saving his life. The deeply religious music icon attributed his survival to a higher power. “Jesus had something for me. He brought me through.”

For a more comprehensive biography including the Upsetters go to


9 responses to “Little Richard and the Upsetters

  1. Interesting, informative & enjoyable

  2. With regard to Little Richard’s great 1957 album “Here’s Little Richard”, named as one of the top 100 recordings of the 20th Century, the album was produced in Cosimo Matassa’s studio in New Orleans. With all due respect, Little Richard didn’t “lead” the musicians in New Orleans. Often cited as the greatest studio band (as described in John Broven’s excellent book “Rhythm & Blues In New Orleans”- also included Earl Palmer, Frank Fields, Ernest McLean or Justin Adams on guitar), tenor sax player Lee Allen (whose tremendous, hard driving solos was featured on many of the tunes on “Here’s Little Richard”) and baritone sax player Red Tyler put together most of the arrangements. As Dr. John (Mac Rebennack) has noted, “Little Richard had things before but he was not successful until Lee Allen and Red Tyler put that sound on him and that good hard rock feeling on him. It was the New Orleans Sound that got Little Richard across…” Having said that, Little Richard was a tremendous performer and “Here’s Little Richard”, arguably as much as any other album, helped to set the tone and drive of early rock.

  3. Gary as always I love your articles about singers and how they got started. Being a Disc Jockey for 55 years I could not do a Record Hop or Dance without playing his material weekly. My biggest Little Richard song and not many people own it is “LITTLE RICHARD BOOGIE” on PEACOCK RECORDS it is a MONSTER song.

  4. Pingback: Cover Records | Russ & Gary's "The Best Years of Music"

  5. Neil "Soulman" Hagan

    @Huge “Babe” O’Donnell, I have a jump playlist with several hundred songs and Little Richard Boogie is first on the list, way ahead of his time, I’m thinking Johnny Otis’s band was backing him, not the upsetter’s, but whatever the case, it , as you remarked, “is a monster,”

    • Hugh: His recording with Johnny Otis’s Band was in 1956, but Taxi blues was 1951 and he also recorded as the lead singer of Deuces of Rhythm and Tempo toppers in 53 and 54. He put the upsetter’s band together in 53 and they had their first hit, Tutti Frutti in 55. I love the band and of course Richard Penniman.


    Hope you had a Great and Joyous Easter. You man Neil “SOULMAN” HAGAN is my type of Music lover. One more LITTLE RICHARD was scheduled to sing at # RIVERS STADIUM in PITTSBURGH, Pa. with other OLDIES groups and he was sitting in a trailer get ready to go on stage when a Rain Storm blow-up and they call for him and he refused to go on Stage.
    What a disappointment to the fans of the FRIENDLY CITY. True Story!

    Have a great Spring and Summer our CAR CRUISES will start in May 2018.



    • The Last time I saw Little Richard was at Ontario Place (built out into Lake Ontario) sometime in the early 90’s and Thunderstorm came up and they cut the concert short, even though it was under canvass. The walls were open and Oh yea Hugh Go Leafs and Go Jays, really!!!!

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