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Little Richard Penniman

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  • He began singing in church, but "Little Richard" Penniman later became known as a master of boogie-woogie and R&B.

    He began singing in church, but "Little Richard" Penniman later became known as a master of boogie-woogie and R&B.

  • Macon native Little Richard was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1986.

    Macon native Little Richard was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1986.

Born near Macon and raised in the church, "Little Richard" Penniman brought a Pentecostal fervor to his boogie-woogie and R&B-influenced music, widely acknowledged to be the bedrock of rock 'n' roll. The songs he recorded from 1955 to 1957 (when he abruptly retired from music to pursue a ministry career)—"Tutti Frutti," "Long Tall Sally," "Lucille," "Keep A-Knockin'" and many others—have influenced generations of artists for more than 50 years now.

Defined by his outsized personality, outrageous sense of style and music marked by raspy shouts, driving piano, signature interjections (“whoo!”) and funky, saxophone-fueled breaks delivered by his band, Little Richard has remained both a reliable concert draw and a singular personality ever since his first turn in the spotlight. In addition, James Brown credited him with first putting funk in rock 'n' roll, thanks to his '60s band, The Upsetters, which featured a young Jimi Hendrix.

Despite taking occasional breaks in his pop music career to serve in the ministry—Penniman is an ordained pastor in the Seventh-Day Adventist Church—and to record gospel music, Little Richard delivers energetic performances of his signature hits and serves as a musical icon and living legend, occasionally appearing in movies and on television as well.