Have Some Fun Tonight

The word frutti was used for people who acted gay and the original lyrics in Little Richard’s hit song ‘Tutti Frutti’, “A wop bop a loo mop a good goddam, Tutti Frutti, good booty, if it don’t fit, don’t force it, you can grease it, make it easy”, had to be edited because they were too pornographic.  Dorothy La Bostrie was brought in to clean up the lyrics resulting in “Bop bopa-a-lu a whop bam boo Tutti frutti, oh Rudy”, which gave Little Richard his first big record, that was released at the end of 1955.  In September 1955, ‘Tutti Frutti’ climbed to the top of the R&B charts and hit #17 on Billboard’s pop chart.  It was followed by sixteen more Little Richard hits in the next three years, among them were Good Golly Miss Molly, Rip It Up, Keep A-Knocking, Slippin’ & Slidin’, Lucille, Jenny Jenny and Long Tall Sally.  Little Richard is an essential story in the history of rock and roll and he entered the music scene just as rock and roll was beginning.  He was known as a wild man behind the piano and as one of the proponents of the transition from ‘Rhythm and Blues’ to ‘Rock and Roll’ in the mid 50’s. Little Richard wore a pompadour and feminine makeup, dressed flamboyantly sporting capes and he sang with high pitched squeals while rocking dynamic, high-energy sexually suggestive dance moves before most people ever heard of Elvis Presley. Little Richard is known for his trademark “Woo” that is featured in many of his songs and he was one of the first seven inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986.  My readers are probably aware that I have been writing about songs with a female name in the title, so this post is not about ‘Tutti Frutti’.  The title gives you a good clue about today’s song, which is not ‘Good Golly Miss Molly’, ‘Lucille’ or ‘Jenny Jenny’.

The song ‘Long Tall Sally’ was written by Robert ‘Bumps’ Blackwell, Enotris Johnson, and Richard Wayne Penniman (Little Richard’s real name).  Little Richard was born in Macon, GA., on December 5, 1932, and he was raised as a Baptist in a very religious family, singing gospel music with his family at various churches around his home town.  He was the third of twelve children and he rose from a young Georgia gospel singer to become the biggest pioneer in Southern rock ‘n’ roll.  From a young age he said that he always felt feminine, wearing his mother’s makeup and clothes, before getting kicked out of the house at age 15 by his deacon father.  Little Richard was lucky enough to be taken in by Enotris Johnson and his wife, Ann Johnson,  and he was able to thank them by giving Enotris writing credits on some of his songs and recording a song titled ‘Miss Ann’.  He began performing at different venues around Atlanta and began traveling what became known as the Chitlin’ Circuit (performance venues throughout the South that were safe and acceptable for black musicians, comedians and other entertainers to perform in during the segregation era) and he also was featured as a drag performer in some vaudeville shows.

On 16 October 1951, in Atlanta, young Richard Penniman made his first-ever recordings, but he found it difficult to break into the recording scene.  He took the stage name ‘Little Richard’, and learned how to play boogie-woogie piano, and fronted a band called The Upsetters.  Singer Billy Wright introduced Little Richard to Zenas Sears, a DJ who championed R&B music on the state-owned radio station WGST.  Richard recorded the blues ballad ‘Every Hour’, which became the first whiff of success for him.  He signed with RCA Records in 1951 and then Peacock Records in 1953, although he hadn’t dented the charts during these years.  In 1955 he sent a demo to Specialty Records who decided to purchase his contract from Peacock Records and put him in contact with their A&R man Robert Blackwell.  Robert Blackwell led a jazz group in the 1940’s that featured Ray Charles and Quincy Jones.  He later took the job at Specialty Records as an arranger and producer and eventually became head of A&R for the label.  Blackwell had previously worked with R&B legend Ray Charles, and Blackwell believed that Little Richard had the potential to be as successful as Charles.  He produced the first Little Richard single ‘Tutti Frutti’ in 1955, which became a huge national smash hit (#2 on the R&B charts and #17 on the pop charts).

Crooner Pat Boone released a cover of ‘Tutti Frutti’, and although many black artists would have been thrilled that their record was covered by a teen idol such as Pat Boone, Little Richard was not.  He was offended that Boone’s cover out-sold his own record and Richard felt that he had more talent and the only reason Pat’s version out sold his was because Boone was more acceptable to the main stream.  The white radio stations wouldn’t play Richard’s version of ‘Tutti-Frutti’ and this made Boone’s cover Number One.  Richard’s producer, Bumps Blackwell had him record the vocal for ‘Long Tall Sally’ in an exceptionally fast up tempo, an effort that was aimed squarely to disrupt pop singer Pat Boone.  They thought that if they could get the lyrics going so fast that Boone wouldn’t be able to keep up with them, that this would make it very difficult for Boone to copy.  Bumps had Richard work on the line “duck back down the alley” over and over until he was able to sing it very fast and ‘Long Tall Sally’ proved to be Little Richard’s biggest hit.  Boone also recorded the song, and he took it to Number Eight.

Richard wrote this while he was working as a dishwasher at a Greyhound bus station in Macon, Georgia.  He also wrote ‘Tutti Frutti’ and ‘Good Golly Miss Molly’ while he was working there.  Little Richard was not huge on the charts, but he was a rock ‘n’ roll innovator and he is famous for his stirring performances.  ‘Long Tall Sally’ charted #3 in the UK and #6 in the US.  Little Richard’s version of ‘Long Tall Sally’ is ranked #55 on Rolling Stone’s definitive list of the 500 greatest songs of all time.  This song earned Richard his first R&B chart-topper and his first Top 10 pop hit.  This song featured a saxophone solo by Lee Allen (as did ‘Tutti Frutti’).  Along with Little Richard on vocals and piano and Lee Allen playing tenor saxophone, Alvin ‘Red’ Tyler played baritone saxophone, Frank Fields was on double bass, Earl Palmer played the drums and Edgar Blanchard played guitar.  Fields was a jazzer that had considerable skill on upright bass, and a reputation for playing the right stuff with a great time feel.  ‘Long Tall Sally’ was the best-selling 45 in the history of Specialty Records.  Before he had a title for this song Little Richard referred to it as ‘The Thing’, then the title was changed to be ‘Bald Head Sally’.

There really was a woman called Long Tall Sally, who was a friend of Little Richard’s family known for always drinking whiskey.  She would claim to have a cold and would drink hot toddies all day.  Little Richard described her as being tall and ugly, with just two teeth and she was cockeyed.  Sally was having an affair with John, who was married to Mary, who they called ‘Short Fat Fanny’.  In large southern families, the people that they were close to were often called uncle or aunt even if they weren’t related, so John was known as Uncle John and he had a short fat woman at home and a tall ugly one when he went out.  John and Mary would get in fights on the weekends, and when he saw her coming, he would duck back into a little alley to avoid her.  Little Richard spots Uncle John sneaking Sally through the alley and then he claims that he’s gonna tattle to Aunt Mary.  Whatever perverse thing these two were doing in that alley isn’t very clear, but the mention of Sally’s bald head suggests something rather freaky.  The alley is not a place where most guys go to have sex, but Long Tall Sally was built for speed, so this was only going to be a quickie for Uncle John.

Little Richard became involved in voyeurism in his early twenties, when a 16 year old female friend named Audrey Robinson would drive him around and pick up men who would allow him to watch them have sex in the backseat of cars.  While on the road in the mid-50s, Penniman was known to 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 Angel Lee.  She became his girlfriend and started travelling on the road with him.  Penniman would invite attractive men to his parties and would enjoy watching them having sex with his girlfriend, while he was literally busy doing his own thing.  Little Richard was known to play with everyone, guys, girls and groups, although he deemed his homosexual encounters to be unnatural.

During a tour of Australia in 1957, Little Richard shocked his supporters by announcing that he was retiring from rock ‘n roll in order to enter the ministry.  A number of incidents convinced Richard that God was sending him a message.  In addition, Little Richard became seriously dependent on drugs at one point, particularly heroin, PCP and cocaine.  His work in the ministry was an important element in weaning him from drug addiction.  As a reverend, he married Bruce Willis and Demi Moore.  Little Richard appeared in the 1956 musical comedy The Girl Can’t Help It which starred Jayne Mansfield and the 1957 movie Mister Rock and Roll starring Alan Freed.  Little Richard underwent hip surgery in 2009 and like many 85 year olds, it is not feasible for him to be rocking it out like he once did.

Although many people considered Little Richard to be radical, no one objected to Pat Boone’s music, because he was a handsome crooner from a previous generation that acted in a wholesome manner. At this time in the South, audiences were strictly segregated by race with whites on the main floor and blacks confined to the balcony, however, at his performances members of the audience frequently jumped into the aisles to dance.  Little Richard ran into some trouble with a few white supremacist groups that put out public service announcements warning against the multiple dangers of rock music saying that, “Rock n Roll is part of a test to undermine the morals of the youth of our nation.”  They thought it was too  sexually suggestive and unmoral because it brought people of both races together.  In 1956 a rock ‘n roll movie was made called Don’t Knock The Rock, that featured Little Richard doing ‘Long Tall Sally’.  Weary of the road, rock star Arnie Haines (Alan Dale) returns to his small town to relax. But when he learns that his hometown has banned rock ‘n’ roll, Haines doesn’t take it lying down.  He tries to prove to the adults that the kids are all right and rock music is okay getting help from Bill Haley and the Comets and singer Little Richard.

Elvis recorded ‘Long Tall Sally’ on September 2, 1956, at Radio Recorders.

The Beatles were greatly influenced by Little Richard and they usually ended their concerts with ‘Long Tall Sally’.

The Kinks’ debut is a note-perfect cover of the Beatles’ cover of the Little Richard original and it reached #42 in the charts.

Gonna tell Aunt Mary ‘bout Uncle John
He claim he has the misery but he’s havin’ a lot of fun
Oh baby, yeah baby, woo
Havin’ me some fun tonight, yeah

Well long, tall Sally
She’s built for speed, she got
Everything that Uncle John need, oh baby
Yeah baby, woo baby
Havin’ me some fun tonight, yeah

Well, I saw Uncle John with long tall Sally
He saw Aunt Mary comin’ and he ducked back in the alley oh baby
Yeah baby, woo baby
Havin’ me some fun tonight, yeah, ow

Well, long, tall Sally
She’s built for speed, she got
Everything that Uncle John need, oh baby
Yeah baby, woo baby
Havin’ me some fun tonight, yeah

Well, I saw Uncle John with bald-head Sally
He saw Aunt Mary comin’ and he ducked back in the alley, oh, baby
Yeah baby, woo, baby
Havin’ me some fun tonight, yeah

We gonna have some fun tonight
We gonna have some fun tonight, woo
Have some fun tonight, everything’s all right
Have some fun, have me some fun tonight

Written for Daily Addictions prompt – Feasible, for FOWC with Fandango – Disrupt, for Ragtag Community – Skill and for Word of the Day Challenge Prompt – Whiff.

5 thoughts on “Have Some Fun Tonight

  1. While we’re on the topic, sort of, “Jenny Jenny” reminded me of this (although I don’t think it’s the same song or directly related). Since you’ll likely never come across it:

    Zayra Alvarez – 867-5309/Jenny

    I see influences
    after watching your
    chosen video links — plus
    reading the history you included.

    What stood out to me most was the idea
    ruining the morals of the youth was mixing “races” more
    than what someone more naive would likely think was the “moral” concern.

    Liked by 1 person

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