1956 – Little Richard’s “Tutti-Frutti” crosses over from the R&B to the

Little Richard

1956 – Little Richard’s “Tutti-Frutti” crosses over from the R&B to the pop chart, rising to #17. Elvis Presley performs “Tutti-Frutti” twice on national TV in February.

“Tutti Frutti” is a song by Little Richard, which became his first hit record in 1955. With its opening cry of “Womp-bomp-a-loom-op-a-womp-bam-boom!” (supposedly intended to be a verbal parody of a drum intro) and its hard-driving sound and wild lyrics, it became not only a model for many future Little Richard songs, but also one of the models for rock and roll itself.

Lyrics:
Wop-bop-a-loo-mop alop-bom-bom
Tutti Frutti, aw rutti
Tutti Frutti, aw rutti
Tutti Frutti, aw rutti
Tutti Frutti, aw rutti
Tutti Frutti, aw rutti
Awop-bop-a-loo-mop alop bom bom

I got a girl, named Sue,
She knows just what to do
I got a girl, named Sue,
She knows just what to do
I rock to the east, She rock to the west, but
She’s the girl
That I love the best.

Tutti Frutti, aw rutti
Tutti Frutti, aw rutti
Tutti Frutti, aw rutti
Tutti Frutti, aw rutti
Tutti Frutti, aw rutti
Awop-bop-a-loo-mop alop bom bom
I got a girl, named Daisy,
She almost drives me crazy
I got a girl, named Daisy,
She almost drives me crazy
She knows how to love me ,
Yes indeed
Boy you don’t know,
What she’s doing to me

Tutti Frutti, aw rutti
Tutti Frutti, aw rutti
Tutti Frutti, aw rutti
Tutti Frutti, aw rutti
Tutti Frutti, aw rutti
Awop-bop-a-loo-mop

(Saxophone solo)

Tutti Frutti, aw rutti
Tutti Frutti, aw rutti
Tutti Frutti, aw rutti
Tutti Frutti, aw rutti
Tutti Frutti, aw rutti
Awop-bop-a-loo-mop alop bom bom

Got a girl, named Daisy,
She almost drives me crazy
Got a girl, named Daisy,
She almost drives me crazy
She knows how to love me ,
Yes indeed
Boy you don’t know,
What she’s doing to me

Tutti Frutti, aw rutti
Tutti Frutti, aw rutti
Tutti Frutti, aw rutti
Tutti Frutti, aw rutti
Tutti Frutti, aw rutti
Awop-bop-a-loo-mop alop bam boom

Original recording by Little Richard

Although Little Richard Penniman had recorded for Peacock Records since 1951, his records had been relatively undistinguished and had sold poorly. In February 1955, he sent a demo tape to Specialty Records, which was heard by producer Robert ‘Bumps’ Blackwell. Blackwell heard promise in the tapes and arranged a recording session for Little Richard at Cosimo Matassa’s studio in New Orleans in September 1955, with Fats Domino’s backing band. 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 which he had been performing live for some time.

Although the song was essentially his own, it bears some similarities to an earlier song “Tutti Frutti”, recorded by Slim and Slam in 1938. Little Richard sang :

“A wop bop a loo mop, a good goddam!
Tutti frutti, loose booty
If it don’t fit, don’t force it
You can grease it, make it easy.”

After this lively performance, Blackwell knew the song was going to be a hit, but recognized that the song, with its “minstrel modes and homosexuality 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”.

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.

Recorded in September 1955, “Tutti Frutti” was seen as a very aggressive song that contained more features of African American vernacular music when compared to any other past recordings in this style.

The song was recorded on September 14, 1955. provided the foundation of Little Richard’s career.

The song, as sung by Little Richard, is #43 in Rolling Stone’s list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

The song is #1 in Mojo Music Magazine’s list of 100 records that changed the world.

“Tutti Frutti” provided the title for one of the earliest books about the development of rock and roll and pop music from the 1950s, Nik Cohn’s “Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom” (1969).

Racial connotations?

Recording cover versions of songs was standard industry practice during the 1940s and 1950s. A hit song could generate many different versions: pop and instrumental, polka, blues, hillbilly, and others by a variety of artists.

Despite Little Richard’s popularity, the fact that Pat Boone’s version surpassed his original version on the US pop charts illustrates the racial attitudes of the time period. Both versions made it to the Top 40 rankings, with Pat Boone’s leading at 12 ranking while Little Richard trailing behind in the 17th.

Little Richard says that though Pat Boone “took  Nevertheless, a Washington Post Staff Writer, Richard Harrington, quotes Richard in an article:

They didn’t want me to be in the white guys’ way… I felt I was pushed into a rhythm and blues corner to keep out of rocker’s way, because that’s where the money is. When ‘Tutti Frutti’ came out… They needed a rock star to block me out of white homes because I was a hero to white kids. The white kids would have Pat Boone upon the dresser and me in the drawer ‘cause they liked my version better, but the families didn’t want me because of the image that I was projecting.”

A more successful Chuck Berry used calculated showmanship to lure a wide audience. He sang the songs of Nat “King” Cole and Muddy Waters. “Listening to Nat Cole prompted me to sing sentimental songs with distinct diction,” he said at Blueberry Hill. “The songs of Muddy Waters impelled me to deliver the down-home blues in the language they came from. When I played hillbilly songs, I stressed my diction so that it was harder and whiter. All in all, it was my intention to hold both the black and the white clientele by voicing the different kinds of songs in their customary tongues.”

Other versions

The song has been covered by many musicians. After Pat Boone’s success with “Ain’t That a Shame”, his next single was “Tutti Frutti”, markedly toned down from the already reworked Blackwell version. Boone’s version outdid Little Richard’s on the US pop charts, reaching #12.

Elvis Presley recorded the song and it was included in his first RCA album Elvis Presley March 23, 1956.

Queen regularly played it during their live shows in 1986. It is also featured during the T. Rex jam session with Elton John during the 1972 rock film Born to Boogie. It is the first song on the MC5 album, Back in the USA. The song was covered by Fair Weather in 1970.

Sting recorded the tune for the original soundtrack of the 1982 film Party Party.

The Disney Channel ran a DTV music video of the song, set mostly to clips from the 1940 Donald Duck cartoon Mr. Duck Steps Out (Daisy Duck represents the character of the same name in the lyrics), but also the 1942 cartoon Mickey’s Birthday Party (with Clara Cluck representing Sue in the lyrics).

This song is also featured in the 1987 movie The Brave Little Toaster.

The song is featured on the California Raisins soundtrack from their first special, Meet The Raisins.

The song is sung by Val Kilmer in Top Secret!

WWE’s Mean Gene Okerlund covered it, and uses it as his entrance tune. It appears on 1985’s The Wrestling Album

The song is regularly covered by UK Rock-a-billy band The Houndogs

He appeared on the 90’s sitcom Martin as himself (as a eccentric exterminator) and performs the song on Martin and Gina’s piano.

Long before Richard recorded this, he performed it at his shows as “Tutti Frutti, Loose Booty.” It was a very raucous and sexual song and was considered too suggestive for white audiences, so it was cleaned up considerably when he recorded it. The chorus was changed to “Tutti Frutti, aw Rudi.”

This was Little Richard’s first success after cutting flops for RCA and Peacock Records. His last of the Peacock singles featured the Johnny Otis Trio backing him up.

Producer Bumps Blackwell vetoed the original version with the “racy” lyrics. The released version had lyrics modified by Dorothy LaBostrie, whom Blackwell described as “a girl ..  … kept hanging around the studio to sell songs.” She got half the writing credit. (thanks, Brad Wind – Miami, FL, for above 2)

Pat Boone, who had a long career doing sanitized covers of songs by black artists, had a hit with this in 1956. He also covered Richard’s “Long Tall Sally” that year.

This contains Little Richard’s classic line, “A wop bop a lu bop, a wop bam boom!” He felt you could express your emotions without singing actual words.

When originally performed, the line “a wop bam boom” was “A good Goddamn.”

Like “Long Tall Sally,” this song was covered by Elvis. Little Richard once said, “Elvis may be the King of Rock and Roll, but I am the Queen.” (thanks, Brett – Edmonton, Canada, for above 2)

Queen played this on their “Magic Tour” in 1986. This is an acoustic (guitar) version of this song. (thanks, Andrew – Moscow)

Little Richard recorded this at J&M Studios in New Orleans, which was the only place to record in the city for many years. Opened in the late ’40s, Ray Charles, Sam Cooke and Jerry Lee Lewis recorded there as well. It has since become a laundromat. (thanks, Bertrand – Paris, France)

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