On June 2, 2015, Specialty Records, a unit of Concord Music Group, celebrates one of the founders of rock-and-roll with the release of a new box set from the inimitable Little Richard. Directly from My Heart: The Best of the Specialty & Vee-Jay Years brings together 64 tracks on three CDs from the piano-pounding legend, including all of Richard's early classics as well as B-sides and rarities. This deluxe package puts the music in context with a 30+-page booklet containing new liner notes by Billy Vera plus rare photographs.
The Macon, Georgia native actually began his career at RCA Victor, but his four singles under the RCA imprimatur failed to capture what made him so special. The same went for his next stint, at the Houston-based Duke/Peacock labels. But when Bumps Blackwell of Specialty Records spotted Richard in New Orleans' J&M Music Shop, the A&R man sensed that there was untapped potential in the young man. He brought Richard to the attention of Specialty's Art Rupe. Yet his first recordings for the label were, once again, unexceptional. Then during one fateful lunch break, Richard decided to pull out a bawdy little favorite of his, which he had sometimes performed in drag extolling the virtues of "good booty." The song was "Tutti Frutti." After enlisting songwriter Dorothy LaBostrie to pen some crucial changes to its ribald lyrics, Richard made history in just 15 minutes and three takes.
"Tutti Frutti" peaked at No. 2 on the R&B singles chart and was a No. 17 crossover pop hit; follow-up "Long Tall Sally" bested its predecessor, reaching No. 6 Pop and No. 1 R&B. ("Slippin' and Slidin'" and "Rip It Up"/"Ready Teddy" were also Top 10 singles on the R&B chart.) Over the next two years, Little Richard placed fourteen songs in the R&B Top 10, in the process laying much of the foundation of rock-and-roll. These seminal early hits include "Lucille," "Jenny Jenny," "Keep a Knockin'" and "Good Golly Miss Molly." His songs were covered (and often sanitized) by everybody from Elvis Presley to Pat Boone.
Little Richard's first burst of rock-and-roll fame was short-lived, however, when he turned to evangelism and gospel music in 1958. In the ensuing years he recorded for labels including Mercury and Atlantic before returning to his rock roots and the Specialty label. In mid-1964, he began recording for Chicago's Vee-Jay Records - freshly relocated to the West Coast but still bereft from the loss of both The Beatles and The Four Seasons. At Vee-Jay, Richard recorded with his touring band The Upsetters, whose line-up at one point included the young Jimi Hendrix. With the brash young guitar-slinger, Richard recorded Don Covay's "I Don't Know What You've Got But It's Got Me," a No. 12 R&B hit redolent of the James Brown sound.
Following his time at Vee-Jay, Little Richard continued to make records for Modern Records, CBS' R&B imprint OKeh, Brunswick, and briefly, Specialty again (in 1971), before signing to Reprise for a well-received 1970-1992 stint. In the ensuing years, he's sporadically returned to the recording studio for labels including K-Tel, gospel label Word Records, and even Walt Disney Records!
Directly From My Heart: The Best of the Specialty and Vee-Jay Years, a testament to the finest work of a true rock-and-roll original, is due on June 2 from the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer. It can be pre-ordered at the links below!
Little Richard, Directly From My Heart: The Best of the Specialty and Vee-Jay Years (Specialty, 2015) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)
- Lonesome and Blue (2:15)
- Wonderin' (2:50)
- All Night Long (2:13)
- Maybe I'm Right (2:13)
- Directly From My Heart (2:19)
- Baby (2:05)
- I'm Just a Lonely Guy (All Alone) (2:36)
- Tutti Frutti (2:23)
- Chicken Little Baby (1:42)
- True, Fine Mama (2:40)
- Kansas City (2:37)
- Wonderin' (2:59)
- Slippin' and Slidin' (Peepin' and Hidin') (2:41)
- Long Tall Sally (The Thing) (2:08)
- Miss Ann (2:15)
- The Most I Can Offer (Just My Heart) (2:24)
- Oh Why? (2:07)
- Heeby-Jeebies Love (2:09)
- I Got It (2:19)
- Ready Teddy (2:06)
- Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey (2:06)
- Rip It Up (2:20)
- Lucille (2:24)
- Heeby-Jeebies (2:10)
- All Around the World (2:24)
- Shake a Hand (2:51)
- Can't Believe You Wanna Leave (2:26)
- She's Got It (2:24)
- Jenny, Jenny (2:01)
- Good Golly, Miss Molly (2:08)
- Baby Face (2:14)
- The Girl Can't Help It (2:30)
- By the Light of the Silvery Moon (2:04)
- Send Me Some Lovin' (2:17)
- Keep a Knockin' (2:11)
- Ooh! My Soul (2:10)
- I'll Never Let You Go (Boo Hoo Hoo Hoo) (2:19)
- Early One Morning (2:12)
- She Knows How to Rock (1:59)
- Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On (1:52)
- Bama Lama Bama Loo (2:13)
- Poor Boy Paul (2:03)
- Annie Is Back (1:57)
- Goin' Home Tomorrow (3:09)
- Goodnight Irene (2:37)
- Money Honey (2:18)
- Lawdy Miss Clawdy (2:17)
- Blueberry Hill (1:48)
- Cherry Red (2:33)
- Only You (2:24)
- Memories Are Made of This (2:12)
- Groovy Little Suzy (2:14)
- Short Fat Fanny (2:10)
- Cross Over (2:40)
- My Wheels They Are Slippin' All the Way (2:24)
- It Ain't Whatcha Do (It's the Way How You Do It) (2:20)
- Something Moves in My Heart (2:12)
- Without Love (3:16)
- Dance What You Wanna (2:16)
- Talkin' 'Bout Soul (2:08)
- Dancing All Around the World (2:56)
- You Better Stop (3:05)
- I Don't Know What You've Got but It's Got Me (4:05)
- Why Don't You Love Me (Like You Used to Do) (3:06)
Does Concord control the old Vee-Jay recordings now?
thanks. but control what? are there stereo versions laying in a box in the garage? are there any alternate takes? same old stuff, no? 🙂
Michael Edwards says
First two discs look amazing, but I bet the third disc doesn't get spun too often. On the plus side, I don't ever recall seeing a Vee-Jay comp that didn't include re-recordings of his Specialty stuff.
Concord has now earned a reputation for some very poor remasters (through the Sinatra series) which are far worse than previous CD issues. I'll leave this alone. I am still hoping that Bear Family can do Little Richard some justice.
why in holy heck can't Concord put out some kind of CD on The Complete Little Richard Little Star Sessions? Mr. Barnum is on Facebook. 🙂 don't hurt to ask!
not thrilled with prev. released stuff as good as it sounds today. been a Richard collector since 1967, and have proudly shelled out big bucks on LR boxed sets over the years. there have been some surprising things out since the Ace box in 1989, things like Get Down With It: Okeh Sessions, and the Complete REprise Sessions. I am just a little bummed out after years and years of reading about "good to go" masters of new material, now collecting more dust than the sphinx. probably at least 3 full albums of material , uncollected from Mercury, Atlantic, Modern, Okeh, Reprise. imagine 40 or so masters on ice from Elvis Presley? Chuck Berry? I think the Modern records live material, never on CD, covering at least two shows, would be a start.
same old nonsense: track 21 was recorded in 1971! no Vee Jay!