Little Richard, the flamboyant rocker whose rise to fame passed through Nashville and later retired here, has died at age 87.
Little Richard was born Richard Penniman in Macon, Ga., and began performing as a teenager. His unmistakable style was honed in R&B nightclubs in the segregated South, including those along Nashville’s Jefferson Street. Little Richard was a popular performer there in the early 1950s, recalling later that he could earn the seemingly huge sum of $100 a week.
“I wasn’t famous,” he would recall in an interview with The Tennessean. “I thought I was, but I wasn’t — no records yet. I packed the house. You couldn’t get in.”
Little Richard became internationally famous when his recording of a cleaned-up version of his nightclub staple “Tutti Frutti” sold 3 million copies. He would frequently return to Nashville while touring, and by the 2000s, had settled down here, living quietly part-time at a Lower Broadway hotel.
Little Richard’s death was confirmed to the Associated Press by a minister close to his family. The cause is not being released.