Little Richard: A Rock Legend Passes


Earlier this month, the world lost a rock n’ roll legend in Little Richard. Richard, born Richard Wayne Penniman in Macon’s Historic Pleasant Hill Neighborhood, passed away surrounded by family in his Nashville home at the age of 87.

The Georgia native burst into the ‘60s rock scene with style. He stood out in the glitter rock era with his flamboyant costumes, eyeliner, pencil mustache, and pompadour. His non-binary gender appearance did strike a chord with some viewers, as it did with his father earlier in life when he forced Richard to leave home at 14 due to suspicions surrounding his sexuality.

Richard was the third of 12 children born to a Seventh-Day Adventist deacon, which firmly grounded him in the church and gospel music. Before he was forced to leave home, he sang in the church with his siblings as the Penniman Singers.

After opening for Sister Rosetta Tharpe at the Macon City Auditorium in 1947, he joined the band Buster Brown’s Orchestra in 1950 and picked up the name “Little Richard.” He received a big break after cleaning up the originally racy song, “Tutti Frutti”, which crossed racial barriers and topped the billboards in the U.S. and England. He was inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame (1984), the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1986), and he received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award (1993).

Richard Penniman’s name is synonymous with some notable places throughout the city of Macon like the previously mentioned Macon City Auditorium or the Seventh-Day Adventist Church on Edna Place where he was ordained as a minister. There’s also the downtown Tic Toc Room, formally Ann’s Tic Toc Lounge, where Little Richard performed. He wrote “Miss Ann” as a tribute to the original owner. However, there is no place more well-known than his original childhood home in Pleasant Hill.

Little Richard grew up in a shotgun-style home on Fifth Ave. in the Historic Pleasant Hill Neighborhood, a historic black community developed in the 1870s that was dispersed after Interstate 75 expanded through the neighborhood in the 1960s. In 2013, it was announced that his home would be relocated to the Vineville Historic District and converted into a neighborhood resource center. It was dedicated The Little Richard House in March 2019 and it offers community services including job preparation, technology training, and assistance with resumes and cover letters.

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