Tutti frutti, all rooty…
I got a gal named Sue, she know just what to do…/ she rocks to the east, she rocks to the west, she’s the gal that I love best
I got a gal named Daisy, she almost drive me crazy…/ she know how to love me yes indeed, boy you don’t know what she do to me
The words make no sense unless you know who sang them, who changed them, and who threw them vehemently into the modern English lexicon. To the average American teen in 1956, it didn’t matter; they activated the primal need for contact and movement. Parents were scared and kids were thrilled. Tutti Frutti was the song that put Little Richard on the turn tables across America and forever cemented New Orleans into the building blocks of rock n’ roll.
Little Richard Penniman was no stranger to the recording studio, but he hadn’t shaken hands with success before late 1955. Struggling to sell the singles he had cut for RCA and Peacock, he sent a demo to Specialty Records, where producer Robert “Bumps” Blackwell got a hold of it. Liking what he heard, a session was organized at J & M Studio in New Orleans for September 1955. Fats Domino’s band was hired for the job and what resulted was nothing less than earth shattering.
Tutti Frutti was the result of a long, unproductive session; Little Richard wasn’t getting across what he laid out in his demo tape. The feeling wasn’t there, the songs weren’t right and the spark hadn’t been lit. In a moment of frustration, he launched into a song he had honed in the gay clubs throughout the south. It was just what Blackwell wanted, but if it was going to get any airplay, it had to be cleaned up. The original lyrics Little Richard sang live included lines such as:
“Tutti Frutti, good booty/ If it don’t fit, don’t force it/ You can grease it, make it easy”
Dorothy LaBostrie was brought in to make the words suitable for radio and record sales, while not losing the feel pushing them out of the speakers. So here’s what she came up with:
“Tutti frutti, all rooty” (“all rooty” was slang for “all right”)
Also changed was the end of the opening line, which was originally “wop-bom-a-loo-bop-a-good-Goddamn”.
The song hit the charts in November, 1955 and by the beginning of 1956 had reached #2 on the Billboard Rhythm and Blues chart, and #17 on the Billboard Pop chart. Like many songs originated by black artists, it was subsequently recorded and popularized by white artists, such as Pat Boone and Elvis Presley. None of the other recordings come close to the Little Richard version in terms of feeling. If you don’t believe me, listen for yourselves:
When most people think of the birth of Rock n’ Roll, they think of Elvis, Sun Records, “That’s All Right” and “Rock Around The Clock”. All of the above are a huge part of the recipe, but the pie has a lot of ingredients. Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Jackie Brenston and countless others were all right there at the forefront stirring the pot, but don’t get quite the same amount of recognition. In all honesty, I grew up with the Elvis versions of the Little Richard and Chuck Berry songs which are ground breaking. But the flavor is found when all the ingredients are added and accounted for.
For more info, here’s where I went:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tutti_Frutti_%28song%29 (specifically look at the references of this article)
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- February 17, 2010 / 12:00 pm