6 Classic Recordings That Have No Business Existing (Part One)

#4 -- "Tutti Fruitti" (1956) by Little Richard

That's Little Richard (giving a rather subdued performance, actually.)

It's 1956.

He's from Mississippi.

He's obviously black, probably nuts, and almost certainly "a bisexual space alien." (He performed in drag as "Princess LaVonne.")

If he was a character in The Color Purple or Ragtime, he'd also be dead.

In real life, of course, Little Richard became a highly influential and successful musician, who continues to perform today to adoring crowds.

But that success almost didn't happen.

Not because the Klan was tailing his tour bus as he went from one mixed-race gig to the next -- black clergymen gave him a harder time -- but because producers subjected Little Richard to the standard "I love you -- now change!" treatment so many other talented yet hard-to-label artists have endured.

A fed-up Little Richard went off to bang out some pent-up stress on the piano.

"Finally," the producers exclaimed, "THAT'S the sort of song you should be doing!"

There was one catch:

Little Richard had been playing that particular little ditty, called "Tutti Fruiti," in gay bars, and the lyrics were salacious, to put it mildly.

(In retrospect, the title should've been clue one.)

No problem: They cleaned up the lyrics, and Little Richard and the musicians laid down their tracks.

"Tuttie Frutti" sold 200,000 copies in the first week. The song made it to Billboard's  No. 17.

Alas, Pat Boone's whiter, watered-down cover version hit No. 12.

It's true: black rock and roll pioneers in the 1950s got ripped off by white promoters, producers, and performers --like the sainted Beatles -- all the time.

But Little Richard wasn't too upset about that; he called Boone "the man who made me a millionaire."

And anyway, he didn't have much right to complain:

Little Richard stole his entire persona from this poor guy you've never heard of:

Check out PJ Lifestyle next Tuesday for Part 2...


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