Richard Wayne Penniman is not a name most people associate with the beginning of rock n' roll, but few people did more to make rock one of the hearthstones of 20th-century American culture than the man known as Little Richard.
Penniman was born into a family of 12 children in Macon and grew up singing gospel in the Pentecostal church. As a teenager he sang in nightclubs, performing as “Little Richard” in a high-energy style that would become his trademark. His big break came in September 1955 when he recorded a song called “Tutti Fruitti” that featured non-sensical lyrics with suggestive undertones. It became his standard.
Over the next year and a half Little Richard recorded hits like “Long Tall Sally” and “Good Golly Miss Molly” that became defining moments in the new cultural phenomenon known as rock n’ roll. With his trademark pompadour hairstyle, eyeliner, and thick makeup, Little Richard thrilled teenagers, horrified parents across 1950s America and influenced a generation of musicians.
The man who calls himself the architect of rock n’ roll was born in Macon on December 5, 1932, today in Georgia history.
Today in Georgia History is a joint collaboration of the Georgia Historical Society & Georgia Public Broadcasting.