Ready Teddy – Little Richard
Here’s Little Richard
28:30 min • Specialty Records • March, 1957
Walter Beck reviews
If James Brown is the Godfather of Soul, then Little Richard is the Godfather of Queercore. Nobody rocked harder or more flamboyantly than Little Richard, he was the physical embodiment of raw rock ‘n’ roll sexuality. While his lyrics weren’t openly queer, his personality and style certainly were; he was out, loud, and proud before anybody else was. His debut album Here’s Little Richard was the wildest LP cut during the early days of rock ‘n’ roll.
Opening up with one of the wildest songs of early rock ‘n’ roll, ‘Tutti Frutti’, Richard gets the album kicking off with a high energy explosion that sets the tone for the entire album. A lot of the lyrics seem nonsensical, “Tutti frutti, oh Rudy/A whop bop-a-lu a whop bam boo”, but underneath the surface, it was a raw, sexual number captured by Richard’s frantic voice and the burning hot blues-soaked sound of his backing band.
The band slows it down half a step for ‘True Fine Mama’, locking into a solid blues groove, backed by some excellent, somewhat restrained backing vocals; but Richard’s vocals sound just as raw as ever, even though he isn’t screaming himself hoarse at a thousand miles an hour.
Richard’s lament in the first half of the album is ‘Can’t Believe You Wanna Leave’; backed by a slow dragging blues sound, he rips his heart out trying to keep his girl in his life. It’s classic bluesy begging and it works like gold on this record.
Apparently the lament is short lived as he comes back to burning fast and mean with ‘Ready Teddy’, two minutes of raw, rock ‘n’ roll speed. There’s nothing romantic or sentimental here, Richard’s got his girl and he’s ready to dance the night away and maybe do some dancing of his own with her later. While this track wouldn’t necessarily be a hit single on its own, it became a mainstay of early rock ‘n’ roll with artists such as Buddy Holly, Elvis, and others covering it in their careers.
The first half of the album comes to an end with another rocker, ‘Slippin’ and Slidin’’, a burner driven by not only Richard’s screeching vocals, but by his powerhouse piano playing. Richard certainly never earned the reputation that Jerry Lee Lewis did for his piano slinging, but he can lay the hot rhythm down.
‘Long Tall Sally’, one of Richard’s biggest hits, kicks off the second half and it remains one of the most blatant expressions of rock ‘n’ roll sexuality ever laid to tape,
Oh baby, yes, baby,
Ooh baby, havin’ me some fun tonight, yeah.
Well, long tall Sally, she’s built for speed,
She got everything that Uncle John needs –
Spitting such shocking lyrics (for the time at least), Richard’s band cuts loose behind him, pounding out the hottest sound that rock ‘n’ roll had seen up to the point. It was a middle finger with a boner to white middle class America. The song was so raunchy that according to legend, white bread crooner Pat Boone refused to cover it.
Bringing it back down to the blues, ‘Miss Ann’ follows as the eighth cut on the album, the music may have slowed down, but Richard’s libido hasn’t stepped down an inch, calling out for Miss Ann, a lady who can do what no other can do, or as Richard says, “Boys, when I’m with Miss Ann I’m living in paradise”.
‘Rip It Up’, track ten, is another that became a rock ‘n’ roll standard, covered by a wide array of artists. It perfectly captures the carpe diem, live for the moment spirit of rock n roll, with a fiery musical backing and Richard’s barking voice capturing the youthful hedonism,
Well, it’s Saturday night and I just got paid,
Fool about my money, don’t try to save,
My heart says go go, have a time,
Saturday night and I’m feelin’ fine,
I’m gonna rock it up, I’m gonna rip it up,
I’m gonna shake it up, gonna ball it up,
I’m gonna rock it up, and ball tonight –
The album comes to a close with one last sexually charged burner, ‘She’s Got It’, two and a half minutes of full throttle ripping rock ‘n’ roll, with Richard’s voice front and centre, his eyes (and his groin) focused on a hot young thing in the crowd. It closes out the album the same way it began, with nothing short of fire.
In half an hour, Little Richard shocked America with a hot, bluesy sound and a libido that screeched just as loud as his vocal cords. This was raw, this was vulgar, and it remains one of the best American rock albums ever cut. Here’s Little Richard is ground zero for those in the LGBTQ community who wanted to pick up a guitar and rock harder and meaner than anyone else. Little Richard laid the groundwork for us and it would be years before anyone else came close to matching it.