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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

"Tutti Frutti"

Little Richard - Tutti Frutti (1955)

Tutti Frutti, good booty/ If it don't fit, don't force it.

In November 1955, the world had heard Bill Haley, and Big Joe Turner, and Chuck Berry, but were still months away from Elvis' breakthrough and more than a year away from Jerry Lee Lewis. Little Richard must have driven every old person in America off the deep end. A flamboyant, makeup wearing, pompadour having, piano smashing mad black man out to teach every young person "just what to do". The original lyrics ( a taste of which are above) would have gotten Little Richard an obscenity trial in the 90s, and worse in the 50s.

Using Fats Domino's backing band, Richard (the story goes) was unhappy with how the recording session was going; feeling like he was too restrained. During a break, he started playing a song that was a big hit for him in the black night clubs he was touring at the time. The musicians jumped in and the producer (who would later go on to work with Ray Charles, Quincy Jones, Herb Albert, and Sly and The Family Stone - among others) knew that he had a hit if he could clean up the lyrics. The record label brought in a ringer to clean up the lyrics and a hit record was born.

At the time, Pat Boone's cover was more successful than Little Richard's original. Fortunately time has been on Little Richard's side. I've linked the Boone version for completionists, or the just curious, but once you've heard the rollicking original, Boone's cover just seems pallid.

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