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Cheering for Little Richard

Little RichardLittle Richard is said by his attorney to be “annoyed” at the rumours of his death which spread this week. He survived a heart attack in 2013 and underwent a hip replacement operation more recently, but apparently he’s otherwise fine at 83. Let’s hope so.

Let’s also take the chance to remind ourselves of one of his finest recordings: “I Don’t Know What You’ve Got But It’s Got Me, Parts 1 & 2”, a deep-soul ballad written by Don Covay and cut for Vee-Jay in the blessed year of 1965, apparently during a touring stopover in Los Angeles. Richard’s gospel roots have never been more apparent than here, accompanied by a version of the Upsetters featuring Jimi Hendrix (who had played on Covay’s “Mercy Mercy” the previous year) on guitar and Billy Preston on organ, both clearly audible. It was produced by Calvin Carter, whose sister Vivian was the “V” in Vee-Jay; he probably didn’t have to do much more on this session than give the engineer the signal to roll the tape.

A girlfriend introduced me to this one soon after its UK release, and the US copy pictured above has a permanent place in the box that holds my all-time Top Hundred 45s. If you don’t know it, you should.

13 Comments Post a comment
  1. howard thompson #


    May 5, 2016
    • Didn’t I ever play that to you in the Shepherd’s Bush days, Howard?

      May 5, 2016
  2. Chris Michie #

    Thanks, Richard, I hadn’t heard that one. On topic, do you have anything to say about a) I Don’t Want To Discuss It and b) The Rill Thing? I find it slightly odd that most people only know item a) from Delaney & Bonnie’s cover (and, presumably, Rod Stewart’s later version). Why wasn’t the original a smash? Record company not paying attention? Legal woes? Or was it a B-side (to Hurry Sundown)?

    Similarly, there seems (to me) no good reason why The Rill Thing isn’t on everybody’s classic album list. It has a cracking set of songs and some wicked playing and two tracks released as singles made the US charts. Maybe I’m misremembering (I haven’t yet shelled out for an expensive CD to replace my long consigned album), but I thought it was a real houserocker.

    Glad to know the man is still in good health. Along with Fats Domino, Chuck Berry, and Jerry Lee Lewis he represents a fabulous era in pop music.

    May 5, 2016
    • Pretty sure “I Don’t Want to Discuss It” was the A-side, and an absolute stormer, but “Hurry Sundown” is my other non-rock’n’roll Little Richard favourite: great song, great arrangement, great lead vocal. To my shame, I never heard The Rill Thing. Must rectify.

      May 5, 2016
    • Phil Shaw #

      Not sure Little Richard is in ‘good health’, Chris – this interesting piece from Oxford American magazine 6 months ago suggested he was struggling, perhaps unsurprisingly at his age.

      Another great track by Richard that arguably fits the ‘non-rock n roll’ category is ‘Get Down With It’, which won him a new audience on the Northern Soul scene.

      May 5, 2016
    • Tim Hinkley #

      The Rill Thing was recorded at Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals back when the rhythm section could do no wrong. It was his comeback album after three years of silence. It’s one of my treasured Little Richard albums.

      May 6, 2016
  3. Richard Harris #

    Fine record. I saw Richard on the 1963 package tour (Cardiff) with Bo Diddley, the Everleys and…the Stones, their first UK wide tour?

    Richard was indeed brilliant and I also remember waiting out back of the theatre to attempt to talk to Bo Diddley when Richard emerged in his full regal “campness” and demanded forcefully to know how handsome/gorgeous/perfect/
    desirable et al we all thought he was, apart from the music. He was still shouting this from the car window as he was driven away into the night!

    May 5, 2016
  4. WKB #

    Separated at birth ?

    May 6, 2016
    • That’s my favourite Joe Tex record, along with “A Mother’s Prayer”.

      May 9, 2016
  5. What a song..what a performance. I like Little Richard tackling this sort of stuff and I’m minded of another terrific one…Directly From Heart. There’s a great version of that particular one by his old sidemen – Don Harris – on Zappa’s Weasels Ripped My Flesh… Fabulous violin driving it along. Anyway, that distracts from the main issue about LR being a great soulful singer…

    May 6, 2016
  6. Greg Church #

    “…. the box that holds my all-time Top Hundred 45s.”
    Would love to see these posted here sometime.
    Regards, Greg

    May 6, 2016
  7. chiltonbell #

    I didn’t know this record Richard. Wow. Thank you. All the best, Jeff Barrett

    Sent from iPhone


    May 7, 2016
  8. Gareth Hickery #

    Hi Richard. I’d love to know the other 99 in your “top 100 45s”?

    May 8, 2016

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