"Try to imagine Muhammad Ali without Little Richard’s winking persona, his swing and swagger ('I am the King!')."

"Try to imagine James Brown, the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Otis Redding, Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, David Bowie, Janis Joplin, Elton John, and Prince without his electrical charge. Little Richard was an original, and he did not hesitate to remind his students of their debt. He once looked into a television camera and, with affection, told Prince, 'I was wearing purple before you was wearing it!'... Richard Penniman was born in 1932 into a large, poor Christian family, in Macon, Georgia. His father was a brick mason and a bootlegger. One of Richard’s legs was shorter than the other, making him a source of mockery among other children. 'They thought I was trying to twist and walk feminine... The kids would call me faggot, sissy, freak.'... Even as a child singer, Richard was known for his high range and incredible volume. But, in his father’s eyes, he was unbearably effeminate and not to be tolerated. When Richard was a teen-ager, he was thrown out of the house and went to live with Ann and Johnny Johnson, a white couple who ran a local venue, the Tick Tock Club.... Throughout his teens, he was in and out of outfits like Buster Brown’s Orchestra (where he got the name Little Richard) and the Tidy Jolly Steppers. He sang, sometimes wearing a red evening gown, under the name Princess Lavonne, in Sugarfoot Sam’s Minstrel Show."

From "Little Richard, the Great Innovator of Rock and Roll" by David Remnick (The New Yorker).

I wanted to find a photograph of Little Richard in the Princess Lavonne persona. I did find this description at Talkhouse, "Pour on the Steam: Little Richard at Age 19/Adam Weiner (Low Cut Connie) tells a tale of magical personhood in a Macon, Georgia bus station":
It was a medicine show spiritualist pseudo-psychic passing through town named Doctor Nobilio who was the first to tell Richard he would be massively famous—he just needed to get the hell out of Macon. He quit high school and joined up with a series of amazingly-titled rinky-dink traveling shows, initially billed as Little Richard, and then as the great Princess Lavonne. He performed with Dr. Hudson’s Medicine Show, Sugarfoot Sam from Alabam, the Tidy Jolly Steppers, and the Broadway Follies. Princess Lavonne was an intense, hilarious Queen in Pancake 31 makeup. He worked on his schtick, but ultimately was an awkward drag performer. He had a natural gift to electrify and seduce, but with his mismatched legs, he couldn’t figure out how to walk or dance in heels so he would just stand still and wait for someone to open and close the curtain...
I'd also love to hear the story from the perspective of Ann and Johnny Johnson. Who were these white people who took in Little Richard when his father was so cruel to him? Or was his father cruel to him?
Bud Penniman. What voice did that man have?

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