Here’s Little Richard! Specialty Records is celebrating the career of the rock and roll pioneer with the July 15 release of Mono Box: The Complete Specialty and Vee-Jay Albums. This new, 5-LP vinyl box set collects all of the studio albums that Little Richard recorded for both the Specialty and Vee-Jay labels between 1957 and 1965. The mono albums, each replicating the original label and jacket art, have been remastered from analog tapes. A 16-page booklet featuring new liner notes by Bill Dahl, plus era-specific photos, rounds out this collection.
Mono Box traces Richard Penniman’s career from the early, groundbreaking hits which established his thrillingly flamboyant persona through his first “comeback” after having abandoned secular music for the sacred. It contains:
- Here’s Little Richard (Specialty, 1957) – featuring “Tutti Frutti” and “Long Tall Sally”
- Little Richard (Specialty, 1958) – featuring “Lucille,” “Good Golly Miss Molly” and “The Girl Can’t Help It”
- The Fabulous Little Richard (Specialty, 1959) – featuring “Kansas City” and “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On”
- Little Richard is Back (Vee-Jay, 1964) – featuring “Hound Dog,” “Blueberry Hill” and “Memories Are Made of This”
- His Greatest Hits (Vee-Jay, 1965) – featuring new recordings of his classic Specialty hits
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.
Following Here’s Little Richard and Little Richard, the Specialty label assembled The Fabulous Little Richard in 1959 from 1955-1957 sessions; it wasn’t until 1964’s Vee-Jay debut Little Richard is Back that that the piano-pounding artist returned to pure rock-and-roll. The young guitar slinger Jimi Hendrix backed Richard on several of his Vee-Jay sessions, which found the singer revisiting his classic hits in addition to cutting new material in soulful, gritty style.
Music still doesn’t get much more exciting than in the hands of Little Richard, and Mono Box looks to present his seminal catalogue in lavish fashion. It follows last year’s CD release of Directly from My Heart, which presented selected cuts from the same era. Mono Box is due on July 15 from Specialty, now a division of Concord Bicycle Music, and it can be pre-ordered at the links below!
Little Richard, Mono Box: The Complete Specialty and Vee-Jay Albums (Specialty, 2016)