Little Richard is one of America’s most iconic artists, known for his flamboyant attire and stage presence. He was born Richard Wayne Penniman on December 5, 1932, in Macon, Georgia.
He was the third of 12 children and his family was a part of the strict Pentecostal church. His uncles and grandfather were preachers so his love of music started early. Penniman learned to play the piano at church.
When Richard came out as gay, his father ordered him to leave home. His father Bud was a moonshiner and was killed outside of a bar when he was 19.
He was taken in by Macon family and in 1951, a performance at an Atlanta radio station led to RCA contract. In 1955 he worked with Specialty Records and recorded his hit “Tutti Frutti.”
In the next few years, he recorded “Long Tall Sally,” later recorded by Beatles, “Good Golly Miss Molly,” and “Send Me Some Lovin’.” By the end of the 1950s, Little Richard found his way back to the church and started recording gospel songs.
He stopped touring for a few years and had health issues but in 1986 was one of the 10 original inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 1993, he was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. He was also honored with a street in Macon being renamed Little Richard Penniman Boulevard.
Unless otherwise stated, all of these locations are in and around Macon, Georgia.
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Little Richard Landmarks in Macon
Little Richard Resource Center
The shotgun home in Macon’s Pleasant Hill neighborhood where Little Richard lived with his 11 siblings and parents was slated for demolition when the Georgia Department of Transportation wanted to widen the highway.
But the 1920s two-bedroom home was moved a few blocks to preserve it for its historic importance. Now The Little Richard House Resource Center provides job training for members of the community.
After the death of his father in 1954, Little Richard returned to Macon to help support his family. He got a job working as a dishwasher for Greyhound Lines. It was during this time that he got the idea for his hit song “Tutti Frutti.”
The original building for the bus station is now the Macon Visitor’s Center, which has exhibits on Macon’s musicians. The operational bus station is across the parking lot next to the Tubman Museum.
Tic Toc Room
Ann’s Tic Toc Lounge opened in the 1940s as a place for African American performers to pay and was considered to be a gay-friendly bar during a time when it was unheard of. James Brown and Otis Redding later performed here.
Miss Ann hired Little Richard to wash dishes and the bar was later the site of one of Little Richard’s earliest performances. She even occasionally let him stay at her house when he had nowhere else to go.
Today it operates as Tic Toc Room, a fine dining restaurant and martini bar with the finest USDA prime-aged steaks and freshest seafood. Menu favorites include the lobster ravioli and seared ostrich medallions.
Little Richard got a part-time job at the Macon City Auditorium as a high schooler, working for local concert promoter Clint Brantley. He sold sodas to crowds and got to see the acts that would go on to influence him, including rhythm and blues and gospel acts like Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Cab Calloway, and Lucky Millinder.
The auditorium is still used for concerts and events throughout the year. Otis Redding‘s funeral also took place here.
Tubman Museum of African-American Art, History, and Culture
The Tubman Museum first opened in 1981, named for Harriet Tubman, before expanding to its current space. The building in the heart of downtown is inspired by a ceremonial headdress found in Africa.
It has a collection of over 3,000 pieces relating to the art, culture, and history of the African-American diaspora. Exhibits feature the work of self-taught artists like Mister Imagination, artifacts from African tribes, and even the piano that belonged to Little Richard.
Little Richard Landmarks Elsewhere
Royal Peacock, Atlanta
After leaving Macon as a young man, Little Richard moved to Atlanta to be closer to the music industry. He performed for a radio station and listened to rhythm and blues bands at Atlanta clubs like the Harlem Theater and the Royal Peacock. It was here that he saw acts like Roy Brown and Billy Wright.
The Royal Peacock opened in 1937 in historic Sweet Auburn as the Top Hat Club but was later renamed by owner Carrie Cunningham. She styled it in Egyptian-themed decor. Little Richard performed during this time, along with contemporaries James Brown, Sam Cooke, Aretha Franklin, and Marvin Gaye.
Today it continues to be a club called the Royal Peacock but bears little resemblance to how it was during its heydey. The marquee out front and murals of notable artists that played there are a reminder of this time.
Oakwood College, Huntsville, Alabama
After his rise to fame, Little Richard left it all behind to study theology at Oakwood College, now Oakwood University, in Huntsville. The Seventh Day Adventist school was established in 1896 for the African American community.
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Cleveland
Little Richard was a part of the 1986 inaugural class of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame alongside Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley, Fats Domino, James Brown, and Ray Charles.
Today fans can visit the hall of fame in Ohio to learn about his role in modern music history. One of his colorful jumpsuits is one display in the galleries.
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