Little Richard: Child of God
What do you think about what James Brown is doing now—”I’m Black and I’m Proud” kind of thing?
I imagine he’s doing what he feels, but I have a different feeling. My feeling is, if I die I must be truthful, to me; I figure that the nations of the world—I call it God’s bouquet—I figure with my brown here—you understand what I mean—it’s just like my little sister picking some roses and sunflowers and medallions and lilies is a bouquet, the nations are a bouquet—the Chinese, the Japanese, the white man, the brown man—we all belong to God; God is a God of beauty of love of peace, so I think that we are all together this bouquet. He’s not a God of one race, He’s a God of all races, and I don’t think God intended us to have hatred against any man, because hatred is a sickness, and God wanted us to be well, we should stay well.
Who needs a sickness of prejudice in any form? I mean a black man can be prejudiced, a white man can be prejudiced, and if I’m a militant against a man I’m prejudiced, and so if I’m prejudiced, I’m sick. You understand, we are all God’s bouquet, we all need each other the same as the birds need air. If a man is hungry, I don’t care if he’s black, white, Jewish or Mexican, you don’t need to go out and talk to him about his hunger. Feed that man; then talk to him about eating again and how to keep eating. I think we need to learn to live together because unity is going to make things happen, and where there’s unity there is strength. Division kills. It steals from the will of mind and the love and the hope and the joy that God has given us.
How did you come to write “Tutti Frutti”?
Oh my God, my God, let me tell the good news! I was working at the Greyhound bus station in Macon, Georgia, oh my Lord, back in 1955.
How old were you then?
O my Lord, that’s the only secret I’ve got. I’m only 24, folks. I was washing dishes at the Greyhound bus station at the time. I couldn’t talk back to my boss man. He would bring all these pots back for me to wash, and one day I said, “I’ve got to do something to stop this man bringing back all these pots to me to wash,” and I said, “Awap bop a lup bop a wop bam boom, take ’em out!” and that’s what I meant at the time. And so I wrote “Tutti Frutti” in the kitchen, I wrote “Good Golly Miss Molly” in the kitchen, I wrote “Long Tall Sally” in that kitchen.
How did you get them onto record?
I met a singer, Lloyd Price who had a big hit, “Lawdy Miss Clawdy.” So he came to my home town, I was selling drinks in a little bucket at his dance, and so he saw me and I stopped by the stage and I said, “I could do that,” but they wouldn’t let me, so I went back in the dressing room, they had a piano in the dressing room, so I played “Tutti Frutti” on the piano for Lloyd. Lloyd said, “Man, say I believe that could be a hit. I want you to send a tape to Specialty Records.” So I sent a tape to Specialty and they waited one year before they wrote me back. So I forgot about it, I just kept washing dishes. So I recorded “Tutti Frutti” and it was an instant hit.
What was your reaction?
I didn’t know I had sold a million; I was sittin’ in Macon broke with no money, hungry. And the record company said, “You know you’re the hottest thing in the country.” I said “Me? Me?” I had never been on a airplane before so they said, “We’re sending you a ticket, you’re coming to Hollywood.” So I went to Hollywood and “Tutti Frutti” was Number One, and so immediately they released “Long Tall Sally” and “Slippin’ and Slidin’,” which I wrote, and so that’s when everything began happening.
What inspired you to write “Tutti Frutti”? Where did the style come from?
Well, you know I used to play piano for the church. You know that spiritual, “Give Me that Old Time Religion,” most churches just say, [sings] “Give me that old time religion” but I did, [sings] “Give me that old time, talkin’ ’bout religion,” you know I put that little thing in it you know, I always did have that thing but I didn’t know what to do with the thing I had. So the style has always been with me but I had never introduced it for the people to hear. Because I would hear Fats Domino, Chuck Berry, Ruth Brown, Faye Adams, the Clovers, the Drifters, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, John Lee Hooker, Elmore James, and I admired them, but I always had my little thing I wanted to let the world hear, you know.
What was it like in 1956?
In 1956 after “Tutti Frutti”; the engagement in Atlantic City reminded me of 1956. I’ve never been on a show like this in all my life, in all the 20 years I’ve been in the business, I’ve never been on a show like this. And Jenny—Janny—Janis, she’s fantastic. And so I watched the show—the lady works, and she’s got all this soul, and it proved something to me that God didn’t give all the soul to the black man, He gave some to everybody. And this woman was just singing from the heart and I became numb.
Now, I’m closing the show, and this lady tore the house down, a standing ovation, 60 thousand people standing up, calling her back and back again, and I go on behind her? Oh my God, I said a prayer like I always do, and I know that He heard my prayer. And so I went on, leaped up on the piano with my wings high, talking to the people and spreading joy to them, and the kids just came, it was like magic power came over—[whispers] oh Lord, oh God, it was one of the greatest experiences.