December 14, 2015

Whatever Happened to Little Richard?


Little Richard, now eighty-two years old, has reportedly been living the last several years in a penthouse suite at the Hilton hotel in downtown Nashville (the Hilton will neither confirm nor deny that they have a guest named Mr. Penniman).

Most Nashvillians I’ve talked to have no idea, although a local country singer told me he once happened to spot Richard sitting in the passenger seat of his black stretch Cadillac Escalade, the window cracked. He shouted out Little Richard’s name and Richard rolled down the window to say, “God bless you,” and hand him a book of prayers.
Richard doesn’t get out on the town much. He has been confined to a wheelchair since hip surgery in 2009 that he says went awry. Here’s how he explained it last summer in a rare public appearance, at Nashville’s Wildhorse Saloon, where he was honored at a luncheon hosted by the National Museum of African American Music: “I came to Nashville to see my sister. I bought a home for me and her here in the hills. And I went in for surgery on my hip. I was walking on my way in but I couldn’t walk out. The hip surgery was really bad for me. I haven’t walked since. I’m in pain twenty-four hours a day. I have never seen nothing like it.”
I knew someone who knew someone who had Little Richard’s cell phone number, and in June, I cold-called him. To my surprise, he picked up. He was kind but adamant about not doing an interview. He told me about his hip, about how much pain he was in. “People have been calling me from all over the world,” he said. “But I haven’t been doing any interviews, I’ve been refusing all of them. I’ll be eighty-three on December 5. The Lord has blessed me to still be alive.”
Read it all at Prayers for Richard

Tutti-Fruity Original Lyrics:
“A wop bop a loo mop
A good goddamn
Tutti Frutti
Good booty
If it don’t fit
Don’t force it
You can grease it
Make it easy.”

Long Tall Sally:
Well, long, tall Sally
She's built for speed, she got
Everything that Uncle John need, oh baby
Yeah baby, woo baby
Havin' me some fun tonight, yeah

Posted by gerardvanderleun at December 14, 2015 11:57 AM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

Saw that guy on the toob back in the 90's and he looked like a cadaver.

Posted by: ghostsniper at December 14, 2015 1:34 PM

Gay, Black, Christian, Disabled -- and a matchless rock n' roll performer. Prayers and good thoughts for him.

Posted by: Skorpion at December 14, 2015 2:04 PM

Whew - Little Fuckin Richard, maybe the original Wild Man. Keep trying to imagine coming upon this in the '50s, in a world that already contained Bill Monroe and Thelonious Monk at the same time as the Metropolitan Opera broadcasts on Saturday afternoons. I dunno, this is coming from a guy who has always hated rocknroll.....but Little Richard always cracked me up. I've always found it just wonderful that the world is able to contain all that it does, and Little Richard besides.

Somebody once asked Little Richard what he thought of Jimi Hendrix, and he said "Jimi Hendrix woooooh, Jimi Hendrix woooooh, first time I seen Jimi Hendrix my toooooe shot straight up in my boot." Gotta love it.

Posted by: Rob De Witt at December 14, 2015 2:15 PM

I was told - never saw it so can't confirm it - that one time on Johnny Carson, Johnny asked him what he attributed his success to. Little Richard responded with a couple of platitudes and then added, "...and I could scream like a white woman!"

Posted by: SLM at December 14, 2015 8:46 PM

Mr. Penniman is alive and mostly well in Lynchburg, TN. (Moore County)

Posted by: Joel at December 16, 2015 9:49 AM

Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Little Richard, James Brown, the Platters and many others did much with their music to break down the old color barriers. Black rock musicians are rarely mentioned in that context.

Posted by: Jared Black at December 16, 2015 10:28 AM

I actually saw an interview when LR told the interviewer that early in his career he was "scuhreeemin like a whaaat womin!" Never forgot that one!

Posted by: tim at December 16, 2015 12:53 PM

I was watching Cher being interviewed one time and she was talking about when Little Richard was a guest on the Sonny and Cher Show. He got mad because he didn't have a speaking part in a skit so he didn't show up for rehearsal. They called him to see why he wasn't there and he said he was sick. When they asked what was wrong he said he had stomach cancer.

Posted by: Shirley at December 16, 2015 12:54 PM

I have practiced Acupuncture for 30 years. I have helped many people in Little Richard's situation. I hope someone will provide my contact information to him. It may save his life.

John Roberts
Licensed Acupuncture Physician

Posted by: John Roberts at December 16, 2015 5:34 PM

I wanna see that...the guy sticking the needles in Ruchard. My wife claims he has sons. Says he will admit to it. I'm doubtful. Best filmed performance I saw was him in Italy, where he threw his shoe at the audience.

Posted by: Will at December 16, 2015 7:10 PM

Perhaps the wildest show I ever saw was when Little Richard, at the crescendo of his totally rocking & outrageous set, collapsed the stage at LA's Olympic Auditorium in 1970. At the time he was dancing on top of the grand piano. I was about 25ft from the stage looking up at him. The stage was mobbed by at least 100 people from the audience dancing. There was a sound like the crack of doom, and I have this indelible acid picture in my mind of Richard floating horizontally in the air above the piano, with his eyes bugging out as everything and everybody went down. Nobody died, and it was a miracle that the amps and the giant light standards didn't fall in on top of everybody. Just another tale from the days before the last gasp of hippiedom died...

Posted by: ArtBoy at December 16, 2015 7:35 PM