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"Tutti Frutti" is a song co-written by Little Richard, which was recorded in 1955 and became his first major hit record. With its opening cry of "A-wop-bom-a-loo-mop-a-lomp-bom-bom!" (a verbal rendition of a drum pattern that Little Richard had imagined)[1] and its hard-driving sound and wild lyrics, it became not only a model for many future Little Richard songs, but also a model for rock and roll itself.[2]

In 2007, an eclectic panel of renowned recording artists voted "Tutti Frutti" number 1 on Mojo's The Top 100 Records That Changed The World, hailing the recording as "the sound of the birth of rock and roll." In 2010, the US Library of Congress National Recording Registry added the recording to its registry, claiming the "unique vocalizing over the irresistible beat announced a new era in music".[3][4] In April 2012, Rolling Stone magazine declared that the song "still contains what has to be considered the most inspired rock lyric ever recorded: ""A-wop-bom-a-loo-mop-a-lomp-bom-bom!!"

Original recording by Little Richard[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Although Little Richard Penniman had recorded for RCA and Peacock Records since 1951, his records had been relatively undistinguished and had not resulted in the commercial success that his producers had hoped for. In February 1955, he sent a demo tape to Specialty Records, which was heard by Specialty owner Art Rupe. Rupe heard promise in the tapes and arranged a recording session for Little Richard at Cosimo Matassa's J & M Studio in New Orleans in September 1955, with Fats Domino's backing band and Robert 'Bumps' Blackwell as producer. The band included Lee Allen and Alvin "Red" Tyler on saxophones, Frank Fields on guitar, and Earl Palmer on drums.[6][7]

However, as the session wore on, Little Richard's anarchic performance style was not being fully captured on tape. In frustration during a lunch break, he started pounding a piano and singing a ribald song that he had written and had been performing live for a few years.[8] Rumor has it that he worked doing washing up in a bus station, and he performed this song while doing the washing up there.[8]The song that he sang was a piece of music that he “had polished in clubs across the South."[9] Little Richard sang:

""A-wop-bom-a-loo-mop-a-lomp-bom-bom!!
Tutti Frutti, good booty"

After this lively performance, Blackwell knew the song was going to be a hit, but recognized that the lyrics, with their "minstrel modes and sexual humor" needed to be cleaned up.[9]

Blackwell contacted local songwriter Dorothy LaBostrie to revise the lyrics, with Little Richard still playing in his characteristic style. According to Blackwell, Dorothy La Bostrie "didn't understand melody", but was definitely a “prolific writer".[10] The original lyrics, "Tutti Frutti, good booty / If it don't fit, don't force it / You can grease it, make it easy",[11] were replaced with "Tutti Frutti, aw rooty! Tutti Frutti, aw rooty". In addition to Penniman and LaBostrie, a third name—Lubin—is credited as co-writer. Some sources considered this to be a pseudonym used by Specialty label owner Art Rupe to claim royalties on some of his label's songs,[6] but others refer to songwriter Joe Lubin.[12] Songwriter LaBostrie was quoted as saying that "Little Richard didn't write none of 'Tutti Frutti'." She was still receiving royalty checks on the average of $5,000 every three to six months from the song in the 80s.[13]

Blackwell stated that time constraints didn't permit a new arrangement, so Little Richard recorded the revised song in three takes, taking about fifteen minutes, with the original piano part. The song was recorded on September 14, 1955.[6] Released on Specialty 561, the record entered the Billboard Rhythm and Blues chart at the end of November 1955, and rose to # 2 early in 1956. It also reached # 17 on the Billboard pop chart. In the UK, it only scraped into the top 30 in 1957, as the B-side of "Long Tall Sally". The song, with its twelve-bar blues chord progression,[14] provided the foundation of Little Richard's career. It was seen as a very aggressive song that contained more features of African American vernacular music than any other past recordings in this style.[7]

Richard's contract with Peacock had been purchased by Specialty Records owner Art Rupe, who also owned the publishing company that bought Richard's songs. Specialty's deal with Richard was typical of most record company's' dealings with their artists.[15][16]

Impact[edit source | editbeta]Edit

"Tutti Frutti" provided the title for one of the earliest books about the development of rock and roll and pop music from the 1950s, Nik Cohn's "Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom" (1969). In 2010, the US Library of Congress National Recording Registry added the recording to its registry, stating that the hit, with its original a cappella introduction, heralded a new era in music.[17]

In 2007, an eclectic panel of renowned recording artists voted "Tutti Frutti" number 1 on Mojo's The Top 100 Records That Changed The World, hailing the recording as "the sound of the birth of rock and roll."[18] The song is #43 inRolling Stones list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.[19] It is #1 in Mojo Music Magazines list of 100 records that changed the world. In April 2012, Rolling Stone magazine declared that the song "still has the most inspired rock lyric on record." [20]

Early cover versions[edit source | editbeta]Edit

The song has been covered by many musicians. Recording cover versions of songs was standard industry practice during the 1940s and 1950s. A hit song could generate many different versions: pop and instrumental, polka, blues, hillbilly, and others by a variety of artists.[21]

After Pat Boone's success with "Ain't That a Shame", his next single was "Tutti Frutti", markedly toned down from the already reworked Blackwell version. Boone's version made no. 12 on the national pop chart, with Little Richard's trailing behind only reaching no. 17.[22] Pat Boone himself admitted that he did not wish to do a cover of "Tutti Frutti" because "it didn't make sense" to him; however, the producers persuaded him into making a different version by claiming that the record would generate attention and money.[23]

Little Richard admitted that though Pat Boone "took [his] music", Boone made it more popular due to his high status in the white music industry.[24] Nevertheless, a Washington Post Staff Writer, Richard Harrington, quoted Richard in an article:

They didn’t want me to be in the white guys' way ... I felt I was pushed into a rhythm and blues corner to keep out of rockers' way, because that’s where the money is. When 'Tutti Frutti' came out ... They needed a rock star to block me out of white homes because I was a hero to white kids. The white kids would have Pat Boone upon the dresser and me in the drawer 'cause they liked my version better, but the families didn't want me because of the image that I was projecting.[25]

Elvis Presley recorded the song and it was included in his first RCA album Elvis Presley March 23, 1956. Presley's version uses "A-wop-bop-a-loo-bop-a-lop-bam-boom!" for every verse, finishing the phrase with "bam-boom" instead of "bom-bom."

Later recordings and performances[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Queen played it every gig during their live Magic Tour shows in 1986. It is also featured during the T.Rex jam session with Elton John during the 1972 rock film Born to Boogie. It is the first song on the MC5 album, Back in the USA. The song was covered by Fair Weather in 1970. Sting recorded the tune for the original soundtrack of the 1982 film Party Party.

The Disney Channel ran a DTV music video of the song, set mostly to clips from the 1940 Donald Duck cartoon Mr. Duck Steps Out (Daisy Duck represents the character of the same name in the lyrics), but also the 1942 cartoonMickey's Birthday Party (with Clara Cluck representing Sue in the lyrics). The song is also featured in the 1987 movie The Brave Little Toaster. The song is featured on the California Raisins soundtrack from their first special, Meet the Raisins. It is sung by Val Kilmer in Top Secret!, and is featured in DJ Hero mixed with "Beats" by Shlomo. WWE's Mean Gene Okerlund covered it, and uses it as his entrance tune. It appears on 1985's The Wrestling Album. The song is performed in Rock 'n' Roll High School ForeverAlvin and the Chipmunks did their rendition of the song in their 1990 T.V. documentary special Rockin' Through the Decades starring Will Smith, and their full version can be heard in their album of the same name. In the 1991 film FlirtingThandie Newton recites the song lyrics in full at a school debate on the relative importance of the intellectual and physical spheres of human experience. In Season 7 of the American Dancing with the StarsLance Bass & Lacey Schwimmer danced the Jive to this song in week 6 of competition and on Season 13 of the American Dancing with the StarsJ.R. Martinez & Karina Smirnoff danced an instant jiveto this song in week 8 of competition.

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