How Little Richard Inspired The Beatles

Long Tall Sally by Little Richard
Long Tall Sally by Little Richard

With the news of the sad death of Little Richard, what was the true impact of this rock ‘n’ roll icon?

Long Tall Sally

“Long Tall Sally” by Little Richard was covered so many times over the years, but it was especially important to John Lennon, which is featured in a fantastic book by Michael Hill.

John Lennon: The Boy Who Became A Legend
John Lennon: The Boy Who Became A Legend

A few years ago, some friends of mine told me about Michael’s story and how it should be published, as it was such a good story. I was therefore more than happy to help it get published. His book, “John Lennon, The Boy Who Became A Legend“, tells the story of how Michael bought “Long Tall Sally” on a school trip to Amsterdam, brought it back to Liverpool and played it for John Lennon at Michael’s home. John’s reaction was silence, followed by an incredible quote:

John Lennon on Long Tall Sally

“Little Richard was one of the all-time greats. The first time I heard him, a friend of mine (Mike Hill) had been to Holland and brought back a 78 with ‘Long Tall Sally’. That’s the music that brought me from the provinces of England to the world. That’s what made me what I am.”

Michael’s story is unique, having been a friend of John’s from the age of 5 at Dovedale School continuing through Quarry Bank too. I recommend the book, which you can get here.

Long Tall Sally and The Beatles

The Beatles with Little Richard
The Beatles with Little Richard at New Brighton Tower Ballroom

The song features at some many important events throughout Beatles history. When Paul auditions for John on 6th July 1957 at the Woolton Fete, Paul performed some of “Long Tall Sally”. On the stages of Hamburg, it was an important part of their set.

When The Beatles returned from Hamburg in 1960, their iconic performance at Litherland Town Hall began with “Long Tall Sally”. When The Beatles travel to America in February 1964, they perform “Long Tall Sally”. At their last concert at Candlestick Park on 29th August 1966, their final song was “Long Tall Sally”. The song, in a way, defines The Beatles career.

Little Richard was a true rock ‘n’ roll hero for The Beatles and the rest of the world too.

When I Met Little Richard

I had the quite unexpected privilege of seeing Little Richard in person when I travelled to Memphis and Nashville a few years ago. I had heard that he was living in the Hilton Hotel in Nashville. I had checked my suitcase into the Hilton while I was sightseeing, before heading to Memphis.

When I checked my bag out, the door of the hotel opened, and in came Little Richard! I was dumbstruck, which doesn’t often happen. He was now in a wheelchair, but wearing a smart three-piece suit and tie, being pushed in his chair. I looked at him and he just looked up and smiled, so I smiled too and then he was wheeled away. I had seen one of my musical heroes close up. If only had the presence of mine to speak to him, but I was so shocked at seeing him I was unable to speak!

Little Richard will forever be connected with the birth of rock ‘n’ roll and The Beatles.

David Bedford

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Author: David Bedford

David Bedford grew up in The Dingle, attended the primary school that Ringo Starr did, before moving to Penny Lane, where his three daughters attended Dovedale Primary School, where John Lennon and George Harrison had previously attended.His first book, "Liddypool" was published in 2009, now in its third edition. His second book, "The Fab one hundred and Four" was published in 2013, and his third book, "Finding the Fourth Beatle" was published in 2018. He was also the Associate Producer and Beatles historian for the documentary feature film, "Looking for Lennon".He is working on several other projects at the moment,

4 thoughts on “How Little Richard Inspired The Beatles”

  1. Very nicely written David, as always. I would love to have had the opportunity to tell him face to face how much he meant to a whole generation of young people growing up in the 1950s and 60s and to one young man in particular, John Lennon. But I guess he knew that. Another giant of rock ‘n’ roll has left us but his musical legacy will live on.

    1. Thanks Michael. This is why your story is so important and I love telling people about it. Having grown up in the generation that already had this music, I can’t imagine what it would have been like for you, John and your friends to hear this for the first time. Mind blowing! Another sad loss to the music world.

  2. Nice job David! Might be worth a Liddypod episode with Mike! With Little Richard gone, now Jerry Lee Lewis is about the only one left from the first era of Rock ‘n Roll.

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