Tutti Frutti (song) - Original Recording By Little Richard

Original Recording By Little Richard

Although Little Richard Penniman had recorded for RCA and Peacock Records since 1951, his records had been relatively undistinguished and had not resulted in the commercial success that his producers had hoped for. In February 1955, he sent a demo tape to Specialty Records, which was heard by Specialty owner Art Rupe. Rupe heard promise in the tapes and arranged a recording session for Little Richard at Cosimo Matassa's J & M Studio in New Orleans in September 1955, with Fats Domino's backing band and Robert 'Bumps' Blackwell as producer. The band included Lee Allen and Alvin "Red" Tyler on saxophones, Frank Fields on guitar, and Earl Palmer on drums.

However, as the session wore on, Little Richard's anarchic performance style was not being fully captured on tape. In frustration during a lunch break, he started pounding a piano and singing a ribald song that he had written and had been performing live for a few years. The song that he sang was a piece of music that he “had polished in clubs across the South." Little Richard sang:

Tutti Frutti, good booty"

After this lively performance, Blackwell knew the song was going to be a hit, but recognized that the lyrics, with their "minstrel modes and sexual humor" needed to be cleaned up.

Blackwell contacted local songwriter Dorothy LaBostrie to revise the lyrics, with Little Richard still playing in his characteristic style. According to Blackwell, Dorothy La Bostrie "didn't understand melody", but was definitely a “prolific writer". The original lyrics, "Tutti Frutti, good booty / If it don't fit, don't force it / You can grease it, make it easy", were replaced with "Tutti Frutti, aw rooty! Tutti Frutti, aw rooty". In addition to Penniman and LaBostrie, a third name—Lubin—is credited as co-writer. Some sources considered this to be a pseudonym used by Specialty label owner Art Rupe to claim royalties on some of his label's songs, but others refer to songwriter Joe Lubin. Songwriter LaBostrie was quoted as saying that "Little Richard didn't write none of 'Tutti Frutti'." She was still receiving royalty checks on the average of $5,000 every three to six months from the song in the 80s.

Blackwell stated that time constraints didn't permit a new arrangement, so Little Richard recorded the revised song in three takes, taking about fifteen minutes, with the original piano part. The song was recorded on September 14, 1955. Released on Specialty 561, the record entered the Billboard Rhythm and Blues chart at the end of November 1955, and rose to # 2 early in 1956. It also reached # 17 on the Billboard pop chart. In the UK, it only scraped into the top 30 in 1957, as the B-side of "Long Tall Sally". The song, with its twelve-bar blues chord progression, provided the foundation of Little Richard's career. It was seen as a very aggressive song that contained more features of African American vernacular music than any other past recordings in this style.

Richard's contract with Peacock had been purchased by Specialty Records owner Art Rupe, who also owned the publishing company that bought Richard's songs. Specialty's deal with Richard was typical of most record company's' dealings with their artists.

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