Category Archives: Roots of rock

Little Richard Tutti Frutti

Little Richard Tutti Frutti

Recorded in New Orleans September 14, 1955

Little Richard Tutti Frutti

Richard Wayne Penniman

Richard Wayne Penniman was born on December 5, 1932, in Macon, Georgia. His father was a church deacon Like many young black children, singing in church was a part of life.

The Penniman family joined various denominations, but Little Richard, a nickname kids gave him as a youth, preferred the Pentecostal churches because of their live music. Richard’s strong voice sometimes got him in trouble with the other singers.

In high school he played the saxophone. He also worked at the Macon City Auditorium where he heard many of his favorite performers such as Cab Calloway and his favorite, Sister Rosetta Tharpe. 

Little Richard Tutti Frutti 

Sister Rosetta Tharpe

On October 27, 1947, Sister Rosetta Tharpe heard 14-year-old Little Richard singing two of her gospel recordings before her concert at Macon City Auditorium. She invited him to sing onstage. The crowd loved his performance and Tharpe paid him for it.

Little Richard was in show business.

Show business slow

At first he sang locally because he was still in school, but he gradually put school second. In 1948, he joined Dr Hudson’s  Medicine Show where he sang some secular songs for the first time. He considered rhythm and blues sinful.

After being part of several traveling shows which exposed more and more to that rhythm and blues, Little Richard befriended the energetic performer Billy Wright. Little Richard’s performances also become more energetic.

In 1951, Wright’s connections got Little Richard a recording session whose demos impressed RCA records enough to offer him a contract. Though he had a local hit (“Every Hour” in Georgia), there wasn’t an follow up success and he left RCA in 1952.

Little Richard’s father died shortly afterwards. That and the lack of financial success as a musician forced him to find any jobs available such as a dishwasher. He continued playing music, more and more rhythm and blues and in February 1953 signed with Peacock Records but was again dissatisfied with that relationship. In 1955 Little Richard sent demos to Specialty Records where owner Art Rupe felt Little Richard could be another Ray Charles. Rupe began that quest in his New Orleans studio.

Little Richard Tutti Frutti 

Tutti Frutti

But it was in a nearby bar during a studio break that lightning struck. Little Richard played “Tutti Frutti.” It was a song whose lyrics were not suitable for recording and certainly not airplay.

They changed the original…

Tutti Frutti, good booty

If it don’t fit, don’t force it

You can grease it, make it easy


Tutti Frutti, aw rooty

Tutti Frutti, aw rooty.

Aw rooty simply being slang for “Alright”

Little Richard Tutti Frutti 

Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom

Apparently having a girl named Sue who knew just what to do was just fine to say.

He recorded Tutti Frutti on this date in 1955 and Specialty released it in November.

It is considered by many to be one of the greatest rock and roll songs. Period.

It is hard to argue with them.

Little Richard became a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, the first year of the Hall.

Rolling Stone magazine lists it at #43 of the best songs of all time.

Richard Penniman died on May 9, 2020. He was 87. [NYT obit]

Little Richard Tutti Frutti 

American Bandstand Dick Clark

American Bandstand Dick Clark

August 5, 1957
First ABC broadcast of “American Bandstand”

American Bandstand Dick Clark

First Bandstand

In March 1950 WFIL-TV in Philadelphia broadcast Bandstand. Bob Horn, also a radio DJ, hosted the show. It was not a dance show. It featured short musical films and only occasionally had guests. Think black and white MTV.

It was a time when television, the new media kid on the block, selected a successful radio show and literally visualized it.

By the way, I’ve placed the more familiar music theme, “Bandstand Boogie,” by Larry Elgart over this blog, but the first theme song for the original Bandstand was Artie Shaw’s “High Society.”

Dancing Bandstand

The Bandstand show that Boomers remember today, with teenagers dancing to hit records, came into being on October 7, 1952. Bob Horn continued as host with Lee Stewart. Stewart left as co-host in 1955.  The short music films continued to be part of the show.


In July, 1956, WFIL and The Philadelphia Inquirer were doing a series on drunk driving.  In July, 1956, police arrested Horn for drunk-driving.

On July 9, 1956, Dick Clark took over as the host

American Bandstand Dick Clark

ABC’s American Bandstand

Broadcast companies are always searching for the next hit.  A year after he became host of Bandstand, Dick Clark pitched his show to ABC. The network did not say “Yes” immediately, but eventually did. I’m sure they were happy they did.

August 5, 1957

On this date, ABC did the first national broadcast. Since it was now a nationally televised show, the name changed to American Bandstand. Duh!

The  more popular Mickey Mouse Club interrupted the for half an hour in the middle. The first guest was the Chordettes and the first record danced to on the show was Buddy Holly’s “That’ll Be the Day.”

The show  moved to Los Angeles in 1964. It had already switched from a daily to a weekly Saturday show in which it continued as until 1987.

y101radio dot com article

American Bandstand Dick Clark

WOR-FM Rocks

WOR-FM Rocks

Sunday 31 July 1966
[The audio is NOT July 31, but Oct 8, 1966, the first day of DJs]

WOR-FM Rocks

WOR-FM Rocks

Federal intervention

In July 1964, the federal government, via the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), adopted a non-duplication rule prohibiting FM radio stations in cities of more than 100,000 people from merely running a simulcast of the programming from their AM counterparts. Stations fought the rule and delayed implementation.

WOR-FM Rocks

Writing on the wall

Station owners did not succeed in their fight and many decided to experiment with the still new but growing rock genre. Soon rock FM stations dotted the land.

On June 16, 1966  WOR-FM announced it would be first New York City FM station to play rock and roll music on a “regular basis.”

WOR-FM Rocks

Finally rocks

WOR-FM rocks

And so on July 31, 1966 New York City’s WOR-FM began running a freeform-based progressive rock format for most of its broadcast day. Management was unable to come to an agreement with the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (the union that represented on air talent). As a result, the DJ’s did not start until October 8.

WOR-FM Rocks

Not quite underground

Listening to the sample above from the first day of DJs playing (not particularly different from the previous months’ playlists), the listener will realize that the playlist was not particularly different from the AM pop radio playlists.

That difference would not happen until the FM DJs began to experiment play more album cuts of their own choice.

It was that difference, the question of choice versus the handing down from on high of a playlist, that soon separated FM “pop” stations using the Drake method of programming from the stations like WNEW-FM (also in NYC). WNEW-FM gave its DJs much more leeway when choosing what to play.

WOR-FM Rocks


After hardly more than a year of the new format with DJs, many of the original group left. Bill Mercer, or simply Rosko, was one of the more popular of WOR’s DJs. He brought a unique free style he brought to his shows. Fans loved him and it, but he realized that management did not want that style.

On October 2, 1967, less than a year after starting, Rosko announced his departure on the air. Click below to listen to a piece of it…

Rosko joined WNEW-FM shortly afterwards and the rest is another much more enjoyable history. NYT article

WOR-FM Rocks