From 'Tutti Frutti' to 'Twinkle, Twinkle'

October 22, 1992

WEST HOLLYWOOD -- Little Richard is proof that rock and roll will never die.

The self-styled "Architect of Rock 'n' Roll" has had as many comebacks as hit singles.

After such 1950s pop chart hits as "Good Golly, Miss Molly," "Lucille," and "Tutti Frutti," he drifted in and out of the rock scene while doing stints as a preacher, a gospel singer, a spokesman for various products and an actor.

But he's back doing what he does best.

Little Richard has plunged into the exploding kids' music market to make a hard-driving rock record for children, free from any coochy-coo phrases or melodies.

Little Richard (born Richard Wayne Penniman in Macon, Ga., Dec. 5, 1935) said he chose to cut a kids' album rather than accept an offer to make another adult-oriented one because he doesn't want to keep a-knockin' on the same career door.

"This is a new high for me," Little Richard said. "It is a challenge to do something for another generation. I used to sing for their mothers and fathers.

Walt Disney Records has released the rock pioneer's "Shake It All About," along with its "On Top Of Spaghetti" promotional video that will be shown on the Disney Channel. The 12-song disc also features "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star," "If You're Happy and You know It," "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah," and "Keep A Knockin," a Little Richard classic with knock-knock jokes told by kids.

It might be a new generation audience, but it's the same outrageous Little Richard who caused a seismic stir in 1956 with a cleaned-up version of the sexually suggestive "Tutti Frutti," which sold 3 million copies, and with "Lucille" a year later.

Decked out in a purple jacket, black shirt and black pants, with his curly hair cascading past his shoulders, Little Richard turns heads even while sequestered in a glass-enclosed conference room in a West Hollywood hotel.

But the passers-by who see him from the waist up miss the best part of his wardrobe: black suede boots with strips and squares of inlaid silver. His perfectly coiffed hair frames that familiar face with its signature pencil-thin mustache and pancake makeup.

Tully Garrett, a young musician who earlier passed by the window and waved, returned for an autograph. Little Richard signs: "God Cares for You."

"What was that movie you were in," Mr. Garrett asked.

"Down and Out in Beverly Hills," Little Richard replies gently, adding that he is discussing his latest rock album for children.

"Oh, is it an educational album?" Mr. Garrett's girlfriend asked, eliciting woops of laughter from Little Richard.

Those trademark woops, woos and shrieking vocal style are stamped all over the Disney album, which also contains bits of rap and several references to African-Americans and whites living peacefully together.

"That black and white [reference on the new album] came from nowhere," Little Richard said. "I didn't feel a need to throw that in. It must have been given to me for it to come out."

The disc also includes "When the Saints Go Marching In" and "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands," an inclusion inspired by gospel singer Mahalia Jackson. "I felt it when I did that song," Little Richard said of the spirituality he gets from gospel.

Little Richard, who grew up with 11 siblings, said working with the kids who sing on the new album was an enlightening experience.

"Being raised with a lot of brothers and sisters, I enjoyed it," he said of the recording sessions. "They are so honest and so sincere. I was energized by them."

The album combines Creole, gospel, rock and blues music to reinvent the way traditional children's folk and party songs have been sung.

Little Richard said he borrowed from his musical idols for the album -- Fats Domino, Chuck Berry and Sonny Boy Williamson.

Known for his energetic stage antics, wild-eyed expressions and robust piano playing, Little Richard (even his name should give you a clue) probably always was, and always will be, considered a big kid.

"I keep screamin' and steamin' and beamin,' " he said. "It's been a long time comin.

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