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Little Richard performing in Austin, Texas, in March 2007
||Richard Wayne Penniman|
|Also known as
||Little Richard, The Real King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, The King of Rockin ‘n’ Rollin' Rhythm & Blues Soulin’.|
||December 5, 1932 (1932-12-05) |
||Macon, Georgia, U.S.|
||Rock and roll, rhythm and blues, soul, funk, gospel|
||Musician, songwriter, recording artist, actor|
||Vocals, piano, keyboards. saxophone|
||RCA Camden, Peacock, Specialty, Gone, Atlantic, Bell, Brunswick, Coral, Critique, Elektra, End, Guest Star, Kent, Lost-Nite, Mainstream, Manticore, MCA, Mercury, Modern, Vee Jay, Okeh, Reprise, K-Tel, Black Label, Warner Bros., WTG|
Richard Wayne Penniman (born December 5, 1932), known by the stage name Little Richard, is an American singer, songwriter, musician, recording artist, and actor, considered key in the transition from rhythm and blues to rock and roll in the 1950s. He was also the first artist to put the funk in the rock and roll beat and contributed significantly to the development of soul music. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame website entry on Penniman states that:
He claims to be "the architect of rock and roll", and history would seem to bear out Little Richard’s boast. More than any other performer – save, perhaps, Elvis Presley, Little Richard blew the lid off the Fifties, laying the foundation for rock and roll with his explosive music and charismatic persona. On record, he made spine-tingling rock and roll. His frantically charged piano playing and raspy, shouted vocals on such classics as "Tutti Frutti", "Long Tall Sally" and "Good Golly, Miss Molly" defined the dynamic sound of rock and roll.
Penniman began performing on stage and on the road in 1945, when he was in his early teens. He began his recording career on October 16, 1951 by imitating the gospel-influenced style of late-1940s jump blues artist Billy Wright, who was a friend and also helped arrange his first sessions. He recorded for RCA Records and Peacock Records over the next couple years but did not achieve much commercial success, so he formed a new "hard-driving" R&B road band in 1953. By early 1955, a demo tape of his music caught the attention of Specialty Records president Art Rupe, who arranged for him to record in September 1955. Under the guidance of Robert "Bumps" Blackwell, Penniman began recording in a style he had been performing onstage for years, featuring varied rhythm (derived from everything from drum beats he would hear in his voice to the sounds of trains he would hear thundering by him as a child), a heavy backbeat, funky saxophone grooves, over-the-top gospel-style singing, moans, screams, and other emotive inflections, accompanied by a combination of boogie-woogie and rhythm and blues music. This new music, which included an original injection of funk into the rock and roll beat, inspired many of the greatest recording artists of the twentieth century, including James Brown, Elvis Presley, Otis Redding, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Michael Jackson, and generations of other rhythm & blues, rock, and soul music artists.
On October 12, 1957, while at the height of stardom, Penniman abruptly quit rock and roll music and became a born-again Christian. He had charted seventeen original hits in less than three years. In January 1958, he enrolled in and attended Bible college to become a preacher and evangelist and began recording and performing only gospel music for a number of years. He then moved back and forth from rock and roll to the ministry, until he was able to reconcile the two roles in later life.
Penniman was among the first group of inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986 and one of only four of those artists (along with Ray Charles, James Brown, and Fats Domino) to also receive the Rhythm and Blues Foundation's Pioneer Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2003, Penniman was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. In 2007, his 1955 original hit "Tutti Frutti" was voted Number 1 by an eclectic panel of renowned recording artists on Mojo's The Top 100 Records That Changed The World, hailing the recording as "the sound of the birth of rock and roll." In 2010, The United States of America's Library of Congress National Recording Registry added the groundbreaking recording to its registry, claiming that the hit, with its original “A-wop-bop-a-loo-bop-a-lop-bam-boom!” a cappella introduction, heralded a new era in music.
 Early life and early career: 1932–1951
Richard Wayne Penniman was born in Macon, Georgia, the third of 12 children born to Charlie "Bud" Penniman, Sr. (10 April 1910 – 12 January 1952), a bootlegger and his wife Leva Mae (née Stewart). He grew up in a religious family in which singing was an integral part of their lives; they performed in local churches as The Penniman Singers, and entered contests with other singing families. His family called him "War Hawk" because of his loud, screaming singing voice. His grandfather, Walter Penniman, was a preacher, and his father's family were members of the Foundation Templar African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in Macon. His maternal grandmother was a member of Macon's Holiness Temple Baptist Church. Penniman attended the New Hope Baptist Church in Macon, where his mother was a member. Penniman's favorites were the Pentecostal churches because of the music and the fun he would have doing the holy dance and speaking in tongues with members of the congregation. When he was 10, he became a faith healer, singing gospel songs and touching people, who would testify that they felt better afterwards. Inspired by Brother Joe May, a singing evangelist known as "The Thunderbolt of the West", Penniman wanted to become a preacher.
Almost all of Penniman's dramatic phrasing and swift vocal turns are derived from black gospel artists of the 1930s and '40s. He said Sister Rosetta Tharpe was his favorite singer when he was a child. She had invited him to sing a song with her onstage at the Macon City Auditorium in 1945, after hearing him sing before the concert. The crowd cheered, and she paid him more money than he had ever seen after the show. He was also influenced by Marion Williams, from whom he got the trademark "whoooo" in his vocal, Mahalia Jackson and Brother Joe May. He was influenced in appearance (hair, clothing, shoes, makeup, etc.) and sound by late 1940s gospel-style, jump blues shouter Billy Wright, a friend of his who was known as the "Prince of the Blues". Wright set Penniman up with DJ Zenas Sears, who scored the newcomer his first recording contract in 1951. One of Penniman's main influences in piano-playing was Esquerita (Eskew Reeder, Jr.), who showed him how to play high notes without compromising bass. Penniman met Esquerita when he traveled through Macon with a preacher named Sister Rosa.
Penniman lived in a black neighborhood; he had some contact with whites but, due to racial segregation, he could not cross the line where the whites lived. While in high school, Penniman played alto saxophone in the marching band. He began losing interest in school and began performing in a variety of travelling shows in his mid-teens.
 Early recordings: 1951–1955
In October 1951, Penniman began recording jump blues records for RCA Camden. His father was shot to death while he was recording in a studio on January 12, 1952. In October 1953, he began recording with Peacock Records. Records were released each year during 1951–54, but none were significant hits.
Following two recording sessions with Peacock in 1953, Penniman, dissatisfied with his solo career, began to form a new R&B road band that he called "The Upsetters." The band began with New Orleans drummer Charles "Chuck" Connors and two saxophonists, including Wilbert "Lee Diamond" Smith. By 1955, the band was joined by saxophonists Clifford "Gene" Burks and Grady Gaines, who became its leader, along with Olsie "Baysee" Robinson on bass, and Nathaniel "Buster" Douglas on guitar.
At Lloyd Price's suggestion, Penniman recorded a demo for gospel/R&B label Specialty Records on February 9, 1955. Specialty's owner, Art Rupe, loaned him money to buy out his contract from Peacock Records and placed his career in the hands of Specialty's A&R man Robert "Bumps" Blackwell.
Rupe and Blackwell originally pictured Penniman as a commercial rival to Ray Charles, who was experiencing success with Atlantic Records by taking gospel songs and developing them in a bluesy setting with a beat. Penniman told Rupe he liked Fats Domino's sound, so Rupe and Blackwell booked Cosimo Matassa's J & M Recording Studio in New Orleans, and hired studio musicians who had worked with Domino (including Earl Palmer on drums and Lee Allen on sax) rather than members of Penniman's road band on many of the mid-1950s Specialty tracks.
Following some recordings that did not satisfy Blackwell, they took a break. Penniman began pounding out a boogie woogie rhythm on piano and hollering out impromptu recital of "Tutti Frutti", a song he had written and had been performing on stage for years. Blackwell was so impressed with the sound that he had Penniman record the song. However, in order to make it commercially acceptable, Penniman's lyrics were rewritten. Blackwell recognized that the lyrics, with their “minstrel modes and homosexuality humor” needed to be cleaned up. For example “Tutti Frutti, good booty", were replaced with “Tutti Frutti, aw-rooty”. The song featured the a cappella intro "A-wop-bop-a-loo-lop-a-lop-bam-boom!", which Penniman first belted out years before onstage based on a drum beat he heard in his voice, that had also been altered slightly to make it commercially acceptable. The recording was released on Specialty in October 1955.
 Initial success: 1955–1957
"Tutti Frutti" reached #2 on Billboard's R&B chart. Seventeen more hit singles followed in less than three years, three of which reached number 1. While most of these hits were characterized by a driving piano, boogie-woogie bass line, a variety of rhythmic drumbeats, and wild screams before Lee Allen's sax solos, such as "Rip It Up", "Lucille", "Jenny, Jenny", "Good Golly, Miss Molly" and "Keep A-Knockin'", a few of them were slower in tempo and more soulful, such as "True Fine Mama". During this period, he also appeared performing his hit songs in three films, including The Girl Can't Help It (1956), in which he sang the hit title track, Don't Knock the Rock (1956), and Mister Rock and Roll (1957).
"Tutti Frutti" was quickly covered by both Elvis Presley and Pat Boone. While Presley's versions only appeared as album tracks, Boone's covers were released as singles and his "Tutti Frutti" single outsold the source record and "outdid Richard's on the hit parade". Boone also released a version of "Long Tall Sally" with slightly bowdlerized lyrics, but this time, the original version outperformed the cover on the Billboard pop chart. Presley and Bill Haley tackled Penniman's fourth R&B chart topper, "Rip It Up", but his single was the hit.
Penniman, along with his road band, performed his hits in sports stadiums and concert venues across the United States through 1956 and 1957. He brought the races together at his concerts, at a time in the United States when laws still dictated that public facilities (including concert venues) be divided into separate "white" and "colored" domains. His audiences would start out segregated in the building, usually with one race on the floor and the other on the balcony, but most of the time, by the end of the night they were mixed together. Racists in the south, such as the North Alabama White Citizens Council, responded by putting out statements on television, warning the public that "Rock n Roll is part of a test to undermine the morals of the youth of our nation. It is sexualistic, unmoralistic and ... brings people of both races together." The demand for him was so great, however, that even in the south where segregation was most rampant, the taboos against black artists appearing in white venues were being shattered.
Penniman was an innovative and charismatic performer, appearing in sequined capes under flicker lights that he brought from show business into the music world. He would run off and on the stage, jumping, yelling, and whipping the audience into a frenzy. At a concert in Baltimore, Maryland, US concert history was made when excited people had to be restrained from jumping off the balconies, and the police had to stop the show twice to remove dozens of girls that had climbed onstage to try to rip souvenirs from Penniman. Later in the show, girls began to throw their undergarments onto the stage.
While on the road in the mid-50s, Penniman would have notorious parties, replete with orgies, in hotel rooms wherever they appeared. In late 1956, he met a voluptuous high school graduate in Savannah, Georgia, by the name of Lee Angel (née Audrey Robinson). She became his girlfriend and started traveling on the road with him. Penniman would invite attractive men to his parties and would enjoy watching them having sex with his girlfriend.
 Conversion to Christianity: 1957–1962
In early October 1957, on the fifth date of a two-week tour of Australia, Penniman was flying from Melbourne to appear in front of 40,000 fans in concert in Sydney. Shocked by the red hot appearance of the engines against the night sky, he envisioned angels holding up the plane. Then, while he performed at the stadium, he was shaken by the sight of a ball of fire that he watched streak across the sky overhead. He took what was actually the launching of Sputnik 1, the first human-made object to orbit the earth, as another sign to quit show business and follow God. The following day he departed Sydney on a ferry and threw his $8,000 ring in the water to show his band members that he was serious about quitting. The plane that he was originally scheduled to fly back home on ended up crashing in the Pacific Ocean, which he took as confirmation that he was doing what God wanted him to do.
The news of his quitting at the height of his career had broken all over the world by the time he returned to the United States. He attended one more recording session for Specialty on October 18, 1957, and, at the request of DJ Alan Freed, performed a farewell concert at the Apollo Theatre in New York. He then had his roadies drive his Cadillacs across the United States to a property he bought for his mother in California and gave her the keys. He formed the Little Richard Evangelistic Team, travelling across the country preaching, and helped people locally through a ministry on skid row in Los Angeles.
Little Richard had aspired to be a minister since he was a young man, and in 1957 he answered that calling and enrolled in the Oakwood Theological College in Huntsville, AL. Due to the British invasion reaching the height of popularity, Little Richard returned to rock and roll. After his experience at theology school, Little Richard would go on to record gospel albums as well as rock and roll. Little Richard eventually went on to earn a BA in Theological Studies from the college in 1970, eventually becoming an ordained minister.   
From October 1957 to 1962, Penniman recorded gospel music for End, Mercury, and Atlantic Records. In 1958, he enrolled in the Seventh-day Adventist Oakwood College (now Oakwood University), in Huntsville, Alabama, where he planned to take a three-year course which was to culminate in ordination. In November 1957, he met Ernestine Campbell at an evangelistic meeting in Washington, D.C.. They were married on July 11, 1959.
 Return to secular music and personal decline: 1962–1976
Following release of his gospel album for Mercury Records titled The King of the Gospel Singers, Little Richard met Mahalia Jackson, one of his childhood heroes. She was appearing in Los Angeles and he stopped her on the street to invite her to hear him sing at the Mount Maria Baptist Church. She attended and indicated that she was delighted with his singing, stating that "he was singing gospel songs the way they should be sung" and "he had that primitive beat and sound that came so naturally." Three of his gospel songs during this period hit the pop charts - "He's Not Just a Soldier" (1961) and "He Got What He Wanted" 1962 (UK) for Mercury Records, and "Crying In The Chapel" (1963) for Atlantic Records. He continued in the ministry but was experiencing marital problems and some difficulty living his ideal of a disciplined Christian life.
Although rock and roll sales were in a slump in America in 1962, Penniman's records were still selling well in England. From April to May of that year, The Beatles, then still an obscure band, co-resided with Penniman at the Star Club in Hamburg, Germany, during which time he advised them on the proper technique for performing his songs. Included in this instruction was teaching Paul McCartney his "woo holler." British promoter Don Arden then booked Penniman for an October 1962 tour of Great Britain, with the Beatles as an opening act. Penniman thought he was going to perform gospel music, but Arden had promoted the concert as a rock and roll show. On the first night of the tour he began performing gospel music, but gave in to the pressure and began performing his secular hits. He walked off to a standing ovation. The frenzied crowd reaction was to be repeated wherever he appeared.
He returned to Specialty Records in March 1964, recording one secular track, following a Don Arden headlining deal, accepted by Penniman, who decided not to disclose his reactivated Rock and Roll activity to the church community because he was convinced that rock and roll was evil and still wanted to keep his options open in the ministry.
He had successfully toured England and Wales in October and November 1963, with Bo Diddley, The Everly Brothers and the then little-known Rolling Stones. Mick Jagger would later state, "I heard so much about the audience reaction, I thought there must be some exaggeration. But it was all true. He drove the whole house into a complete frenzy... I couldn't believe the power of Little Richard onstage. He was amazing." Near the end of the tour, Penniman recorded a television show, The Little Richard Spectacular, with Sounds Incorporated as the backing band and The Shirelles performing backing vocals, for Britain's largest independent television company at the time, Granada. After the show was first aired in May 1964, Granada received over 60,000 letters from fans, which prompted the company to two repeat broadcasts of the show. Much of the footage was used for a TV special, highlighting the frenzy and excitement associated with rock and roll, that was seen all over the world.
Penniman recorded four more secular tracks for Specialty in April 1964. One of these recordings, "Bama Lama, Bama Loo" was released as a single and was a minor hit on the Billboard charts but a Top Twenty in the UK.
In the spring of 1964, Penniman and Robert Blackwell brought a fledgling Jimi Hendrix (who wanted to be known at the time as 'Maurice James') into his band, full-time. Hendrix began dressing and growing a mustache like Penniman's. Hendrix began dressing and growing a mustache like Penniman's. He toured with Penniman and played on at least a dozen tracks for Vee Jay Records between the spring of 1964 and spring of 1965. Of these, "I Don't Know What You Got But It's Got Me" and covers of "Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On" and "Goodnight, Irene" hit the pop and/or R&B charts with moderate success.
Penniman continued to record and perform only secular music in the mid-60s, during which time he began drinking heavily. He has stated that he could have had more commercial success during this period, but southern preachers displeased with his backslide from the ministry pressured R&B radio stations throughout the southern U.S. not to play his music, while on the West Coast, particularly in Los Angeles following the Watts Riots, some black DJs were not playing his music because he was drawing both races to his concerts.
In 1966 and 1967, Penniman recorded two soul albums for Okeh Records, with his old friend from the mid-'50s, Larry Williams, as producer, and Johnny Guitar Watson on guitar. The first album included two modest hits, "Poor Dog" and "Commandments Of Love" In August 1967, the second album, which was an "Okeh Club" concert performance, returned Penniman to Billboard's Top 200 Albums chart for the first time in 10 years, and reached the Billboard Black Albums Top 30. Williams also acted as the musical director for Penniman's live performances used for the album, and Penniman's bookings during this period skyrocketed.
With the emergence of the Black Power movement in the latter part of the decade, Penniman was invited to perform for strictly black crowds. He refused because he did not want to exclude any races from attending his shows. He remained a popular concert attraction, travelling extensively in the United States and Europe, as well as in Mexico and Canada, throughout the remainder of the decade.
In 1969, he was invited to perform at the Toronto Rock and Roll Revival. The event was filmed by director D.A. Pennebaker and also featured Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Gene Vincent.
Penniman continued to tour, appear in an occasional film, and record secular music into the 1970s. The Rock and Roll Revival period of the late sixties resulted in another comeback opportunity for Penniman in the early seventies. However, instead of recording only the expected high-energy rock & roll, he recorded a series of eclectic, wide-ranging albums that touched on country, acoustic blues, hard-driving funk, soul, gospel, melodic pop, as well as rock & roll. The range and accomplishment of the music, which included stunning covers of recordings by artists that he inspired as well as powerful, memorable new songs written by Penniman himself, was staggering. These albums resulted in two Top 100 hits for Reprise Records between 1970 and 1972. In '72 he had a short stay on the charts as guest on Canned Heat's "Rockin' With The King". The following year, Richard did fairly well with the soul ballad, "In The Middle Of The Night", profits to go to charity, and a single charted briefly for Manticore in 1975. That same year, he played piano on the Top 40 single "Take It Like a Man" from the Bachman–Turner Overdrive hit album Head On and recorded a gospel song entitled, "Try To Help Your Brother". In 1976, he re-recorded twenty of his biggest Specialty hits in Nashville for a K-Tel Records album.
Penniman also continued his wild partying through the first half of the seventies and, reportedly, by late 1971, developed a dependency on a variety of drugs and alcohol. He and his brothers started their own management company, Bud Hole Incorporated.
 Return to Christianity: 1977–1984
In 1977, Penniman reached a crossroad in his life. Two close friends, a brother and a nephew that he loved as a son, died, and he came close to being shot by his long-time friend, Larry Williams, over a drug debt. Even though he and Williams were very close friends, cocaine addiction fueled a rage in Williams when Penniman failed to repay him because he was high. In what he referred to as the most fearful moment of his life, Penniman happened to have the money and Williams spared him.
Penniman repented for his wayward living and returned to evangelism. He also represented Memorial Bibles International and sold their Black Heritage Bible, which highlighted the many black people in the Bible. In 1979, he recorded a gospel album entitled God's Beautiful City, and embarked upon an evangelical campaign across the U.S. During this period, he proclaimed that it was not possible to perform rock and roll music and serve God at the same time.
Penniman evangelized to crowds of as few as 250 in small churches to packed auditoriums of 21,000 through the remainder of the 1970s and the first half of the 1980s. His preaching focused on bringing the races together and lost souls to repentance through God's love, as well as the rejection of his former lifestyle of alcoholism, drug addiction and bisexuality.
 Show business comeback and recognition: 1984–2000
Little Richard, interviewed during the 60th Annual Academy Awards, 1988
In 1984, Charles White's authorized biography of Penniman (The Life and Times of Little Richard) was published, featuring extensive first-person input from its subject, testimonials of Penniman's influence on many legendary recording artists, and attracting attention for its "juicy anecdotes". The publication catapulted Penniman into the limelight again with a number of the world's largest newspapers and magazine's featuring major reviews.
Shortly before the publication of the biography, Penniman's mother died. Not long before she died he promised her that he would remain a Christian. He thereafter reconciled his role as an evangelist and as a rock and roll artist, stating that he believed that rock and roll music could be used for good or evil.
In an effort to merge his faith with his music, Penniman enrolled his old friend Billy Preston to help him write a song with religious lyrics that sounded like rock and roll. The song was destined for the soundtrack of a new motion picture entitled Down and Out in Beverly Hills. The result was "Great Gosh A'Mighty (It's a Matter of Time)", which became a hit. The hit theme song appeared in a different version on an album of faith-based material entitled Lifetime Friend, recorded (primarily in England) from late 1985 into early 1986. Penniman referred to his new style of music as "message music" and "messages in rhythm", which included a track that was an innovative blend of rap and funky rock music. Penniman also acted in the hit motion picture and received critical acclaim for his performance.
Near the end of the recording process for Lifetime Friend, Penniman flew back to the United States to appear in an episode of the television show Miami Vice. Following the filming he broke his leg in an automobile accident, which prevented him from attending the first Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony on January 23, 1986, at which he was honored as one of the first inductees.
In 1987, Penniman recorded a track for the 1988 tribute album Folkways: A Vision Shared ("The Rock Island Line", backed by Fishbone). He also recorded the theme song for the Twins motion picture soundtrack with Philip Bailey and appeared in a promotional music video of the recording for the movie with Bailey, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito.
The pressure to return to singing his classic secular hits seemed to mount as the spotlight on Penniman continued. On November 11, 1988, Penniman was filmed as he appeared at "The Legends of Rock and Roll Concert" in Rome, Italy, along with Jerry Lee Lewis, Bo Diddley, Fats Domino, B.B. King, Ray Charles, and James Brown. Penniman sang three songs; two faith-based ("Great Gosh a'Mighty" and "Joy, Joy, Joy") and the third family-themed ("No Place Like Home"). While others sang the lyrics of one of his secular hits ("Tutti Frutti"), introduced by Jerry Lee Lewis during the all-star jam session finale involving all of the artists, Penniman refused to sing the lyric, instead passing the microphone to Bo Diddley, who seemed to support him by changing the song. However, at an AIDS benefit concert hosted by Cher in March 1989, Penniman performed his classic, "Lucille" for the first time in 13 years. This event marked Penniman's second return to performing his classic brand of rock 'n' roll, though not to the hedonistic lifestyle he had ventured after his first return to secular music in the sixties.
Penniman would go on to continue to perform some of his faith-based brand of rock 'n' roll music at his concerts, as well. In April 1989, he preached, rapped in funky rhyme style, and sang background vocals on the live, extended version of the 1989 U2/B.B. King hit "When Love Comes to Town". He also recorded on a gospel music track with John P. Kee.
Penniman remained active throughout the 1990s on television, in music videos, commercials, movies, in concert and as a guest recording artist. In 1990, he recorded a rap segment for Living Colour's "Elvis Is Dead" (featuring Maceo Parker on saxophone) and then performed it with the band live on television. He appeared in "Mother Goose Rock N Rhyme" (as Ol' King Cole) in 1990. He appeared (as a preacher) in music videos for Cinderella's "Shelter Me" and in a new recording of "Good Golly Miss Molly" for the motion picture King Ralph (1991). He recorded an album of classic children's songs in his original rocking style for Disney, as well as the opening theme song for the science mystery cartoon The Magic School Bus. He has also voiced an animated version of himself in an episode of Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventures. He recorded duets with Jon Bon Jovi, Hank Williams, Jr., Elton John, Tanya Tucker and Solomon Burke on his Definition of Soul album. He also recorded new tracks for two motion picture soundtracks: Casper (1995) and Why Do Fools Fall in Love (1998).
Penniman appeared (as himself) in Why Do Fools Fall in Love, as well as in the 1999 film Mystery, Alaska, in which he sang "The Star-Spangled Banner" and "O Canada". He also guest starred as himself in television shows including Columbo (in an episode entitled "The Murder of a Rock Star"), Full House (in the episode entitled "Too Little Richard Too Late"), Muppets Tonight (in an episode full of cameo appearances), Martin (in the episode entitled "Three Men and a Mouse") and The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. On June 2, 1995, he appeared on the ABC daytime soap opera One Life to Live. He portrayed a fictionalized version of himself, officiating the wedding of supercouple Bo Buchanan and Nora Gannon, who were huge fans of 1950s rock and roll music.
In the summer of 1998 he toured Europe with Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis.
 Current work: 2000–present
In 2000, Robert Townsend directed a television biopic entitled Little Richard about the artist's life from childhood to his early 30s (circa 1962). Leon Robinson received an Emmy Award nomination for his performance in the starring role.
Penniman has continued to record, tour, and appear on television throughout the decade. He wrote and recorded a song for the 2001 film The Trumpet of the Swan. In 2002, he recorded a rocking version of Johnny Cash's "Get Rhythm" for Kindred Spirits: A Tribute to Johnny Cash. In 2005, he and Jerry Lee Lewis recorded a duet of the Beatles' hit "I Saw Her Standing There" for Lewis' 2006 album Last Man Standing. In 2006, he was featured in a hit Geico television advertisement. Later that year, he was retained by Simon Cowell to be a judge in the Fox television series Celebrity Duets. On March 24, 2007, Penniman performed and lectured students at the University of Texas event "40 Acres Fest", featuring 1,200 bands. He also performed that year at the Capitol Fourth, a July 4 celebration in front of the White House. On July 25, 2007, he made an appearance on the ABC show The Next Best Thing. On November 22, 2007, he headlined the half-time show for a Thanksgiving football game at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona. In 2007, to help raise funds to benefit sick and dying children, as well as to debunk the notion that Don Imus was a racist, he recorded a guest track for The Imus Ranch Record (2008). In June 2008, Penniman also made a cameo appearance on The Young and the Restless as an ordained piano-playing minister.
Reverend Richard Penniman, who had performed wedding ceremonies for celebrities including Cyndi Lauper, Bruce Willis and Demi Moore, Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen, Steve van Zandt and Michael Jackson's former lawyer John Branca (for whom Jackson was best man), spoke a message with a heavy spiritual emphasis at his old friend Wilson Pickett's January 2006 funeral, officiated at a wedding of 20 couples in December 2006, and preached at Ike Turner's December 2007 funeral. On May 30, 2009, following a performance in honor of Fats Domino to raise funds to help rebuild children's playgrounds devastated by Hurricane Katrina, Penniman led Domino and others present in prayer. On June 12, 2009, prior to performing for the grand finale of 29th annual Riverbend Music Festival in Chattanooga, Tennessee he said, "although I sing rock 'n' roll, God still loves me. I'm a rock 'n' roll singer, but I'm still a Christian." In late November 2009, Penniman asked for fans to pray for his quick and full recovery from a recent surgery on a hip, which had been causing him pain in his left leg for some time.
Little Richard continued to recover from the operation on his left hip in the first part of 2010. On June 5–6, 2010, he spent time at The Rock House in Franklin, Tennessee to record a new track — a cover of Dottie Rambo's "He Ain't Never Done Me Nothing But Good", as part of a star-studded tribute to the late gospel songwriting legend which was slated for release in 2011.
In January 2011, Penniman appeared for an interview on the set of Charles Wright's "Express Yourself Show." Interviewed by Mr. Duran, Penniman preached a brief message to his Latino fans, spoke of his ongoing recovery from the operation on his hip, and introduced his rap recording artist nephew, RR112, who performed a partial rhyme at the end of the interview. Penniman performed at "A Capital Fourth" celebration in Washington, D.C. on July 4, 2011. His performance included several of his most well known hits, including Long Tall Sally and Good Golly Miss Molly.
 Personal life
Born the third of twelve siblings, Penniman was raised in a family with deep evangelical Christian roots. He was put out of the home by his father, who told him that he had spoiled his wish to have seven sons because of his sexual mannerisms. After Penniman began making records, his father had started to open up to him. But his father was fatally shot by Penniman's best friend, James LeRoy, outside a local bar. At the time Penniman was 19 years old.
Penniman became actively involved in orgies in the mid-1950s. In June 1956, Penniman met what has been described as his life-long soul mate, a young woman by the name of Audrey Robinson, who also went by the name Lee Angel. Robinson, who was 16 years of age when they first met, had graduated from high school early and was a college student at the time. Penniman converted to Christianity in October 1957, and met Ernestine Campbell at an evangelical church rally. They were wed in 1959. Penniman had some difficulty living a disciplined Christian life and was drawn so much to show business that he ended up divorcing his wife in 1963. The marriage did not produce any children. However, Penniman did adopt the son of a deceased church associate in the early 1960s.
Penniman's sexuality has been a long topic of debate with the singer himself admitting that he had homosexual experiences as a young adult but later in life after becoming born again, he told a biographer that homosexuality was "contagious". In the same breath, he announced to the same biographer that he was "omnisexual" and in an interview with Penthouse magazine in 1995, said that he knew he was homosexual. Richard has had affairs with both men and women in the past.
Following over a decade of wild living, Penniman encountered a series of devastating personal experiences, including a near fatal, drug-fueled clash with his long-time friend Larry Williams in 1977. He returned to evangelical ministry and walked away again from rock and roll music, stating that it was not possible to serve God and perform that style of music at the same time. Prior to the death of his mother in 1984, Penniman promised her that he would remain a Christian. He proceeded to use rock and roll to produce gospel recordings that he referred to as "messages in rhythm," changing his stance by stating that rock and roll could be used for good or evil.
Penniman has remained single for many years, is deeply spiritual, and now lives in Moore County Tennessee . In recent years, he has occasionally been in the company of his former girlfriend from the mid-1950s, Audrey Robinson.
Penniman's influence on the development of a variety of major musical genres in the twentieth century and many of those genres most significant artists was immense. James Brown, who called Penniman his idol, stated that Penniman was the first to put the funk in the rock and roll beat via his mid-1950s road band. Otis Redding, who entered the music business because of Penniman, indicated that Penniman contributed significantly to the development of soul music. Richie Unterberger of allmusic.com stated that "Little Richard merged the fire of gospel with New Orleans R&B, pounding the piano and wailing with gleeful abandon. While numerous other R&B greats of the early '50s had been moving in a similar direction, none of them matched the sheer electricity of Richard's vocals. With his bullet-speed deliveries, ecstatic trills, and the overjoyed force of personality in his singing, he was crucial in upping the voltage from high-powered R&B into the similar, yet different, guise of rock & roll. Although he was only a hitmaker for a couple of years or so, his influence upon both the soul and British Invasion stars of the 1960s was vast, and his early hits remain core classics of the rock repertoire."
Penniman has been recognized for his outstanding musical contributions by many other high-profile artists. In November 1988, Ray Charles introduced him at the Legends of Rock n Roll concert in Rome, as "a man that started a kind of music that set the pace for a lot of what's happening today." Bo Diddley stated that "Little Richard was a one-of-a-kind show business genius. He influenced so many people in the business." Paul McCartney said that he idolized Penniman when he was in school and always wanted to sing like him, and Mick Jagger called Penniman "the originator" and "my first idol." Bob Dylan performed Little Richard songs on piano as a schoolboy in his first band and declared in his high school yearbook in 1959 that his ambition was "to join Little Richard", and in 1966, Jimi Hendrix, who recorded and performed with Penniman from 1964 to 1965." and began to emulate him in appearance, like Prince (mustache, clothing, etc.) during that time, was quoted as saying, "I want to do with my guitar what Little Richard does with his voice." Cliff Richard, George Harrison, Keith Richards, Bob Seger, John Fogerty, David Bowie, Elton John, Freddie Mercury, Rod Stewart, and AC/DC band members Bon Scott, Angus Young, and Brian Johnson are among the many other top-selling recording artists of the twentieth century who indicated that Penniman was a first and/or primary rock 'n' roll influence. In 1979, as he began to develop his solo career, Michael Jackson was quoted as saying that Penniman was a huge influence on him.
 Awards and honors
- In 1956, Cashbox awarded Penniman the Cashbox Triple Crown Award for his second hit single "Long Tall Sally".
- In 1984, "Little Richard" Penniman was inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame.
- In 1986, Penniman was one of the first group of recording artists inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
- In 1990, he was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
- In 1993, he then received an Honorary Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.
- In 1994, he was the fourth recording artist (the others being Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin and James Brown) to be recognized with the Lifetime Achievement Pioneer Award by the Rhythm and Blues Foundation.
- In 1995, he received two Keys to the City of Providence, Rhode Island; one was awarded spontaneously, on stage, by Mayor Vincent "Buddy" Cianci
- In 1997, he received the American Music Award of Merit.
- On May 14, 2002, Little Richard was honored as one of the first three BMI Icons at the 50th annual BMI Pop Awards. He was presented the award along with BMI affiliates Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry.
- In 2002, he received the NAACP Image Award - Hall of Fame Award for having "distinguished himself as not only an unparalleled musical genius, but also as a unique and innovative performing artist—fusing pure vocal talent with exhilarating showmanship."
- In 2003, he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
- In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked him #8 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.
- In 2006, he was inducted into the Apollo Theater Legends Hall of Fame, at the same time as Ella Fitzgerald (who was one of the first winners of 'Amateur Night at the Apollo' in 1934) and Gladys Knight & the Pips.
- In 2007, his 1955 original hit "Tutti Frutti" topped Mojo's The Top 100 Records That Changed The World.
- In 2008, Penniman was inducted into the Music City Walk of Fame.
- In 2009, he was formally inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame.
- In 2009, he was inducted into the Hit Parade Hall of Fame.
- In 2010, The Library Of Congress National Recording Registry added Penniman's original 1955 hit “Tutti Frutti” to its registry, claiming that the hit announced a new era in music: “A-wop-bop-a-loo-bop-a-lop-bam-boom!”
- In September 2010, Little Richard was named GQ's Man of the Year (Legend).
- The Girl Can't Help It (1956), lip-syncing the title number, "Ready Teddy" and "She's Got It"
- Don't Knock the Rock (1956), lip-syncing "Long Tall Sally" and "Tutti Frutti"
- Mister Rock and Roll (1957), lip-syncing "Lucille" and "Keep A-Knockin'", on original prints
- Catalina Caper (aka Never Steal Anything Wet, 1967), Richard lip-syncs an original tune, "Scuba Party" still unreleased on record in 2011.
- Little Richard: Live at the Toronto Peace Festival (1969) - released on DVD in 2009 by Shout! Factory
- The London Rock & Roll Show (1972), performing "Lucille", "Rip It Up", "Good Golly Miss Molly", "Tutti Frutti", "I Believe" [a capella, a few lines], and "Jenny Jenny"
- Jimi Hendrix (1973)
- Down and Out in Beverly Hills (1986), production number of hit version of "Great Gosh A-Mighty"
- Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll (1987)
- Goddess of Love (1988)
- Purple People Eater (1988)
- Scenes from the Class Struggle in Beverly Hills (1989) (uncredited)
- Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventures (1990) (voice)
- Mother Goose Rock 'n' Rhyme (1990)
- The Naked Truth (1992)
- Sunset Heat (1992)
- The Pickle (1993)
- Why Do Fools Fall In Love (1998)
- Mystery Alaska (1999)
- The Trumpet of the Swan (2001) (voice)
- James Brown: The Man, The Music, & The Message (2008)
Johnny "Guitar" Watson
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
|Johnny "Guitar" Watson|
Johnny "Guitar" Watson in 1976
||John Watson, Jr.|
|Also known as
||Young John Watson|
||February 3, 1935(1935-02-03)|
Houston, Texas, United States
||May 17, 1996(1996-05-17) (aged 61)|
||Blues, blues-rock, funk|
||Vocals, guitar, keyboards, bass, drums|
||Federal, RPM, Keen, Class, Kent, Arvee, Goth, Escort, King, Highland, Jowat, Okeh, Fantasy, DJM, A&M, Valley Vue, Wilma|
Johnny "Guitar" Watson (February 3, 1935 – May 17, 1996) was an American blues and funk guitarist and singer.
A flamboyant showman and guitar picker in the style of T-Bone Walker, Watson recorded throughout the 1950s and 1960s with some success. His raunchy reinvention in the 1970s with disco and funk overtones, saw Watson have hits with "Ain't That a Bitch", "I Need It" and "Superman Lover". His successful recording career spanned forty years, with his biggest hit being the 1977 "A Real Mother For Ya".
 Early life
John Watson, Jr. was born in Houston, Texas. His father John Sr. was a pianist, and taught his son the instrument. But young Watson was immediately attracted to the sound of the guitar, in particular the electric guitar as played by T-Bone Walker and Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown.
His grandfather, a preacher, was also musical. "My grandfather used to sing while he'd play guitar in church, man," Watson reflected many years later. When Johnny was 11, his grandfather offered to give him a guitar if, and only if, the boy didn't play any of the "devil's music". Watson agreed, but "that was the first thing I did." A musical prodigy, Watson played with Texas bluesmen Albert Collins and Johnny Copeland. His parents separated in 1950, when he was 15. His mother moved to Los Angeles, and took Johnny with her.
 Early career
In his new city, Watson won several local talent shows. This led to his employment, while still a teenager, with jump blues-style bands such as Chuck Higgins's Mellotones and Amos Milburn. He worked as a vocalist, pianist, and guitarist. He quickly made a name for himself in the African-American juke joints of the West Coast, where he first recorded for Federal Records in 1952. He was billed as Young John Watson until 1954. That year, he saw the Joan Crawford film Johnny Guitar, and a new stage name was born.
He affected a swaggering, yet humorous personality, indulging a taste for flashy clothes and wild showmanship on stage. His "attacking" style of playing, without a plectrum, resulted in him often needing to change the strings on his guitar once or twice a show, because he "stressified on them" so much, as he put it.
Watson's ferocious "Space Guitar" album of 1954 pioneered guitar feedback and reverb. Watson would later influence a subsequent generation of guitarists. His song "Gangster of Love" was first released on Keen Records in 1957. It did not appear in the charts at the time, but was later re-recorded and became a hit in 1978, becoming Watson's "most famous song".
He toured and recorded with his friend Larry Williams, as well as Little Richard, Don and Dewey, The Olympics, Johnny Otis and, in the mid-1970s with David Axelrod. He also played with Sam Cooke, Herb Alpert and George Duke. But as the popularity of blues declined and the era of soul music dawned in the 1960s, Watson transformed himself from southern blues singer with pompadour into urban soul singer in a pimp hat. His new style was emphatic - the gold teeth, broad-brimmed hats, flashy suits, fashionable outsize sunglasses and ostentatious jewellery made him one of the most colorful figures in the West Coast funk scene.
He modified his music accordingly. His albums Ain't That a Bitch (from which the successful singles "Superman Lover" and "I Need It" were taken) and Real Mother For Ya were landmark recordings of 1970s funk. "Telephone Bill", from the 1980 album Love Jones, featured Watson rapping.
In his book Dream Boogie: The Triumph of Sam Cooke (2005), Peter Guralnick claimed that Watson was an actual pimp, as well as dressing like one as a performer. Watson himself, however, reportedly felt "ambivalent" about prostituting women, even though it "paid better" than music.
 Later career
The shooting death of his friend Larry Williams in 1980 and other personal setbacks led to Watson briefly withdrawing from the spotlight in the 1980s. "I got caught up with the wrong people doing the wrong things", he was quoted as saying by the New York Times.
The release of his album Bow Wow in 1994 brought Watson more visibility and chart success than he had ever known. The album received a Grammy Award nomination.
In a 1994 interview with David Ritz for liner notes to The Funk Anthology, Watson was asked if his 1980 song "Telephone Bill" anticipated rap music. "Anticipated?" Watson replied. "I damn well invented it!... And I wasn't the only one. Talking rhyming lyrics to a groove is something you'd hear in the clubs everywhere from Macon to Memphis. Man, talking has always been the name of the game. When I sing, I'm talking in melody. When I play, I'm talking with my guitar. I may be talking trash, baby, but I'm talking".
In 1995, he was given a Pioneer Award from the Rhythm & Blues Foundation in a presentation and performance ceremony at the Hollywood Palladium. In February 1995, Watson was interviewed by Tomcat Mahoney for his Brooklyn, New York-based blues radio show The Other Half. Watson discussed at length his influences and those he had influenced, referencing Guitar Slim, Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa and Stevie Ray Vaughan. He made a special guest appearance on Bo Diddley's 1996 album A Man Amongst Men, playing vocoder on the track "I Can't Stand It" and singing on the track "Bo Diddley Is Crazy".
His music was sampled by Redman (who based his "Sooperman Luva" saga on Watson's "Superman Lover" song), Ice Cube, Eazy-E, Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre, Jay-Z, and Mary J. Blige. Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre borrowed P-Funk's adaptation of Watson's catchphrase "Bow Wow Wow yippi-yo yippi-yay" for Snoop's hit "What's My Name".
"Johnny was always aware of what was going on around him", recalled Susan Maier Watson (later to become the musician's wife) in an interview printed in the liner notes to the album The Very Best of Johnny 'Guitar' Watson. "He was proud that he could change with the times and not get stuck in the past".
Watson died of a myocardial infarction on May 17, 1996, while on tour in Yokohama, Japan. According to eyewitness reports, he collapsed in mid guitar solo. His last words were "ain't that a bitch", probably in reference to the song "Ain't that a Bitch". His remains were brought home for interment at Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California.
Watson, a recognized master of the Fender Stratocaster guitar, has been compared to Jimi Hendrix and allegedly became irritated when asked about this comparison, supposedly stating: "I used to play the guitar standing on my hands. I had a 150-foot cord and I could get on top of the auditorium – those things Jimi Hendrix was doing, I started that shit."
Frank Zappa stated that "Watson's 1956 song Three Hours Past Midnight inspired me to become a guitarist". Watson contributed to Zappa's albums One Size Fits All (1975), Them or Us (1984), Thing-Fish (1984) and Frank Zappa Meets the Mothers of Prevention (1985). Zappa also named "Three Hours Past Midnight" his favorite record in a 1979 interview.
Steve Miller not only did a cover of "Gangster of Love", he made a couple of references to it in his 1969 song "Space Cowboy" ("Some call me the a gangster of love"; "Is your name "Stevie 'Guitar' Miller?") as well as in his 1973 hit song "The Joker" ("Some call me the gangster of love"). Miller also covered "The Gangster Is Back", on his 1971 album Rock Love.
Jimmie Vaughan, brother of Stevie Ray Vaughan, is quoted as saying: "When my brother Stevie and I were growing up in Dallas, we idolized very few guitarists. We were highly selective and highly critical. Johnny 'Guitar' Watson was at the top of the list, along with Freddie, Albert and B.B. King. He made magic."
Bobby Womack said: "Music-wise, he was the most dangerous gunslinger out there. Even when others made a lot of noise in the charts – I'm thinking of Sly Stone or George Clinton – you know they'd studied Johnny's stage style and listened very carefully to Johnny's grooves."
Etta James stated, in an interview at the 2006 Rochester Jazz Festival: "Johnny 'Guitar' Watson... Just one of my favorite singers of all time. I first met him when we were both on the road with Johnny Otis in the '50s, when I was a teenager. We traveled the country in a car together so I would hear him sing every night. His singing style was the one I took on when I was 17 – people used to call me the female Johnny 'Guitar' Watson and him the male Etta James... He knew what the blues was all about..."
Etta James is also quoted as saying: "I got everything from Johnny... He was my main model... My whole ballad style comes from my imitating Johnny's style... He was the baddest and the best... Johnny Guitar Watson was not just a guitarist: the man was a master musician. He could call out charts; he could write a beautiful melody or a nasty groove at the drop of a hat; he could lay on the harmonies and he could come up with a whole sound. They call Elvis the King; but the sure-enough King was Johnny 'Guitar' Watson."
Pearl Jam recorded a song entitled "Johnny Guitar", about Watson, for their 2009 album Backspacer.
- 1963 I Cried for You (Cadet 4056) (featuring Watson on piano)
- 1963 Johnny Guitar Watson (King)
- 1964 The Blues Soul of Johnny Guitar Watson
- 1965 Larry Williams Show with Johnny Guitar Watson
- 1967 Bad
- 1967 In the Fats Bag
- 1967 Two for the Price of One
- 1973 Listen (Fantasy 9437)
- 1975 I Don't Want to Be A Lone Ranger (Fantasy 9484)
- 1975 The Gangster Is Back
- 1976 Ain't That a Bitch (DJM 3)
- 1976 Captured Live
- 1977 A Real Mother For Ya
- 1977 Funk Beyond the Call of Duty (DJM 714)
- 1978 Giant (DJM 19)
- 1978 Gettin' Down with Johnny "Guitar" Watson
- 1979 What the Hell Is This? (DJM 24)
- 1980 Love Jones
- 1981 Johnny "Guitar" Watson and the Family Clone
- 1982 That's What Time It Is
- 1984 Strike on Computers
- 1985 Hit the Highway
- 1992 Plays Misty
- 1994 Bow Wow (Wilma 71007)
 Chart singles
||"Those Lonely, Lonely Nights"
||"Mercy, Mercy, Mercy"
Larry Williams & Johnny Watson
Larry Williams & Johnny Watson with The Kaleidoscope
||"Like I'm Not Your Man"
||"I Don't Want To Be A Lone Ranger"
|"It's Too Late"
||"I Need It"
||"A Real Mother For Ya"
||"Love That Will Not Die"
|"Gangster of Love"
||"What The Hell Is This?"
||"The Planet Funk"
||"Strike On Computers"
||Valley Vue 769
||"Hook Me Up"
 Additional details and non-chart singles
- 1954 Space Guitar / Half-Pint A-Whiskey (Federal 12175)
- 1956 Three Hours Past Midnight" /"Ruben (RPM 455)
- 1957 Gangster of Love / One Room Country Shack Keen 3-4005)
- 1960 Johnny Guitar / Untouchable (Arvee 5016)
- 1961 Looking Back / The Eagle Is Back (Escort 106)
- 1962 Cuttin' In / Broke and Lonely (King 5579) (French cover Johnny Hallyday: Excuse-moi partenaire)
- 1963 Gangster of Love / In the Evenin' (King 5774)
- 1964 Ain't Gonna Move / Baby Don't Leave (Jowat 118)
- 1965 Big Bad Wolf / You Can Stay (Magnum 726)
- 1966 Keep On Lovin' You / South Like West (Okeh 7263)
- 1967 Hold On, I'm Comin' / Wolfman (Okeh 7270)
- 1967 Johnny Watson and Larry Williams – Mercy, Mercy, Mercy / A Quitter Never Wins (Okeh 7274)
- 1967 Johnny Watson and Larry Williams – Too Late / Two For The Price Of One (Okeh 7281)
- 1967 I'd Rather Be Your Baby / Soul Food (Okeh 7290)
- 1967 Johnny Watson and Larry Williams – Find Yourself Someone To Love / Nobody (Okeh 7300)
- 1967 She'll Blow Your Mind / Crazy About You (Okeh 7302)
- 1973 Like Not Your Man / You Bring Love (Fantasy 721)
- 1975 It's Too Late / Tripping (Fantasy 752)
- 1976 Ain't That A Bitch / Won't You Forgive Me Baby (DJM 1020)
- 1976 I Need It / Since I Met You Baby
- 1976 Superman Lover / We're No Exception
- 1977 A Real Mother For Ya / Nothing Left To Be Desired (DJM 1024)
- 1977 Lover Jones / Tarzan (DJM 1029)
- 1977 It's A Damn Shame / Love That Will Not Die (DJM 1034)
- 1977 The Real Deal / Tarzan
- 1978 Gangster Of Love / Guitar Disco (DJM 1101)
- 1978 Virginia's Pretty Funky / The Institute (DJM 1100) (The Watsonian Institute)
- 1978 Miss Frisco (Queen Of The Disco) / Tu Jours Amour
- 1978 I Need It / Superman Lover
- 1979 What The Hell Is This? / Can You Handle It (DJM 1106)
- The Gangster of Love – Johnny "Guitar" Watson: Performer, Preacher, Pimp (2009), Vincent Bakker, Createspace, ISBN 1-442141-47-6
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Coordinates: 37°47′6.13″N 122°26′5.6″W / 37.7850361°N 122.434889°W / 37.7850361; -122.434889
The Winterland Ballroom, often referred to as Winterland Arena or simply Winterland, was an old ice skating rink and 5,400-seat music venue in San Francisco, California. Located at the corner of Post Street and Steiner Street, it was converted to exclusive use as a music venue in 1971 by rock promoter Bill Graham and became a common performance site for many of the most famous rock music artists.
Winterland was built in 1928 for the then astronomical cost of $1 million. Opening on June 29, 1928, it was originally known as the "New Dreamland Auditorium." Sometime in the late 1930s, the name was changed to Winterland. It served as an ice skating rink that could be converted to an entertainment venue. Early acts/shows at Winterland included Shipstads and Johnson Ice Follies.It also was host to opera, boxing, and tennis.
 As a music venue
Starting with a 1966 double bill of Jefferson Airplane and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Bill Graham began to rent the venue occasionally for larger concerts that his nearby Fillmore Auditorium could not properly accommodate. After closing the Fillmore West in 1971, he began to hold regular weekend shows at Winterland. Various popular rock acts played there, including such bands and musicians as Bruce Springsteen, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Queen, Boston, Cream, Yes, KISS, The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Steppenwolf, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Styx, The Allman Brothers Band, Grateful Dead, The Band, Jethro Tull, Pink Floyd, Rush, Electric Light Orchestra, Genesis, Jefferson Airplane, Traffic, Golden Earring, Grand Funk Railroad, Humble Pie, Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Sha Na Na, Loggins and Messina, Lee Michaels, Heart, Journey, Deep Purple and Elvis Costello. Many of the best-known rock acts from the 1960s and 1970s played at Winterland or played two blocks away across Geary Boulevard at the original Fillmore Auditorium. Peter Frampton recorded parts of the fourth best-selling live album ever, Frampton Comes Alive!, at Winterland. The Grateful Dead made Winterland their home base and The Band played their famous last show there on Thanksgiving Day 1976. That concert, featuring numerous guest performers including Neil Young, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, and many others, was filmed by Martin Scorsese and released in theaters and as a soundtrack under the name The Last Waltz. Winterland was also host to the Sex Pistols' final show on January 14, 1978.
 Final concerts
During Winterland's final month of existence, shows were booked nearly every night. Acts included The Tubes, The Ramones, Smokey Robinson, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, and on December 15–16, 1978, Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band. Springsteen's December 15 show was simulcast on local radio station KSAN-FM and Springsteen historians consider that show one of his most legendary. Winterland closed on New Years 1978/79 with a concert by the Grateful Dead, New Riders of the Purple Sage, and The Blues Brothers. The show lasted for over eight hours, with the Grateful Dead's performance — documented on DVD and CD as The Closing of Winterland — lasting nearly six hours itself. The final show was simulcast on radio station KSAN-FM and also broadcast live on the local PBS TV station KQED. Winterland was eventually torn down in 1985, and was replaced by apartments, Its original back entrance door for musicians is currently up for sale on Wolfgang's Vault for $1,000,000.
 Live recordings at Winterland
The following films and recordings were made in whole or in part at the Winterland Ballroom:
 Concert films
 Live albums
- The Allman Brothers Band - Wipe the Windows, Check the Oil, Dollar Gas
- Big Brother and the Holding Company - Live at Winterland '68
- Cream - Wheels of Fire, Live Cream, Live Cream Volume II, Those Were the Days
- Electric Light Orchestra - Live at Winterland '76
- Peter Frampton - Frampton Comes Alive!
- Grateful Dead - Steal Your Face, Dick's Picks Volume 10, So Many Roads (1965-1995),The Grateful Dead Movie Soundtrack, The Closing of Winterland, Winterland: 1973: The Complete Recordings, Winterland June 1977: The Complete Recordings
- Jimi Hendrix - Live at Winterland and The Jimi Hendrix Concerts (live tracks of various gigs)
- Jefferson Airplane - Thirty Seconds Over Winterland
- Bruce Springsteen - Live/1975–85
- Sex Pistols - "Live at Winterland 1978" (Bootleg)
- The Band - "The Last Waltz"
- Genesis - Winds on the Pier - March 25, 1977 (A+ Bootleg)
- Led Zeppelin - Blowup - November 6, 1969 (Bootleg)
- Humble Pie - Live at Winterland