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Long Tall Sally

by

Little Richard



Songfacts®:  You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.

There really was a "Long Tall Sally," but she was not a transvestite as sometimes reported. Little Richard explained that Sally was a friend of the family who was always drinking whiskey - she would claim to have a cold and would drink hot toddies all day. He described her as tall and ugly, with just two teeth and cockeyed. She was having an affair with John, who was married to Mary, who they called "Short Fat Fanny." John and Mary would get in fights on the weekends, and when he saw her coming, he would duck back into a little alley to avoid her.

Richard was one of 12 children, and in large southern families, they would call some of the people around them "uncle" or "aunt" even if they weren't related, so John was known as "Uncle John."
Richard wrote this while working as a dishwasher at a Greyhound bus station in Macon, Georgia. He also wrote "Tutti Frutti" and "Good Golly Miss Molly" while working there.
This was Little Richard's biggest hit. He was not huge on the charts, but was a Rock 'n' Roll innovator and famous for his stirring performances.
This was often performed by The Beatles, who were greatly influenced by Little Richard. Paul McCartney learned to "Woooo" in songs like "I Saw Her Standing There" from watching Little Richard. In their early days, The Beatles usually ended concerts with it.

Richard and The Beatles got together from time to time in the '60s, and in 1970, The Beatles tried to sign him to their label, Apple Records.
The Kinks released this in 1964. It was their first single.
Richard's producer, Bumps Blackwell, had him record the vocal exceptionally fast in an effort to thwart Pat Boone. Boone's version of "Tutti Frutti" sold better than Little Richard's, so Blackwell tried to make it very difficult for Boone to copy. He had Richard work on the line "Duck back down the alley" over and over until he could sing it very fast. He figured Boone could never match Richard's vocal dexterity.

Despite the efforts of Blackwell, Boone covered the song in 1956. His version was very clean and sterile, making it acceptable to white audiences who couldn't handle Little Richard. Unlike his cover of "Tutti Frutti," however, his version was not a bigger hit than the original - it hit #8 in the US.

Richard's delivery did help get his song past some censors, however. A stadards and practices guy at NBC once said: "How can I reject it when I can't even understand it?"
Besides Richard, Bumps Blackwell also got a writing credit on this song, as did Enotris Johnson, who Richard lived with after he was kicked out of his house at age 13.
Featuring a saxophone solo by Lee Allen (as did "Tutti Frutti"), "Long Tall Sally" was the best-selling 45 of the history of Specialty Records.
Before he had a title for this song Little Richard referred to it as "The Thing."
Elvis Presley did a cover of this at some of his concerts, including one that was made into the album Elvis Presley Live. He called Little Richard "my friend...(who) I've never met." (thanks, Brett - Edmonton, Canada)
Eddie Cochran recorded an answer song to this in 1956 called "Skinny Jim." He was 17 at the time and used the recording to help get a record deal. "Skinny Jim" was never a hit, but Cochran did very well with songs like "Summertime Blues" and "C'mon Everybody" before he died at age 21.
Little Richard
Little Richard Artistfacts
More Little Richard songs
More songs covered by The Beatles
More songs with girls' names in the title
More songs about affairs

Comments (11):

I first heard Little Richard's hits when I was 7 yrs old in 1955 & got hooked on rock & roll. At that time, it wasn't called "rock & roll" though. "Long Tall Sally" was Little Richard's first gold record award on Specialty Records. When I recently bought the CD "Little Richard: The Georgia Peach," the enclosed booklet mentioned his career highlights & a discography with chart rankings. Little Richard did have many top ten & top twenty hits on the Billboard R&B and Pop charts over a 3 to 4 year period. Little Richard's songs were very popular in my home state of Oklahoma and surrounding states where early rock & roll records and artists were getting increasingly more airplay on southern AM radio. Little Richard directly & indirectly influenced the evolution of rock & roll into rock and related musical genres.
- Elmer H, westville, OK
Dave Grohl almost got the chance to play with Little Richard on a cover of the song "Long Tall Sally" for the movie Backbeat: Grohl told NME, "Little Richard was living in a hotel just up the street from the studio, so we gave him a call, to see if he would come down and jam with us. He said he wanted $10,000 to do it. We were all like, 'Well, I'll put in $2,000...' but in the end we just decided, 'Nah.' I wish we'd have done it."
- DeeTheWriter, Saint Petersburg, Russia Federation
Love Little Richard; most of his songs had the same format. A great beginning, Richard's vocals, a scream, a killer sax solo, followed by a repeat of the lyrics. The sax solo I loved the best was the one on "Slippin' and Slidin'", especially the solo at the end of the record!!!
- Barry, Sauquoit, NY
I never heard the transvestite claim before, but who's to say? "Bald-headed Sally" Hmmmm???
- Rich, Tampa, FL
Scorpions played this in their Tokyo live at Sun Plaza Hall, 24th and 27th of april 1978.
- eric, Shanghai, China
Reading the lyrics, the transvestite claim is a stretch.
- Jayhonk, lawrence, KS
In another terrific scene from "Predator", Sergeant Mac (magnificently played by Bill Duke) deliriously recites a few particular verses of this hit tune while making his way through the jungle in search of the alien who's just killed Blaine, his brother-in-arms, and hunting for the rest of the commando team. Hearing "Gonna have some fun tonight" repeated over and over by the frenzied Mac electrifies the viewer during this intrepid soldier's episode of do or die.
- Leya Qwest, Anchorage, AK
This smash hit is featured in the ever-popular sci-fi movie "Predator" starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers, Bill Duke and Jesse Ventura. Little Richard's music is blaring out of a boom box inside the helicopter where these elite commandos are being flown over the jungle on a clandestine assignment. In the scene, Blain (Ventura) expresses his machismo amongst the other soldiers, all whom are getting psyched up for the rescue mission. The song blasting from the tape player pumps so much testosterone that the viewer can't help but feel thrilled and exhilarated during the chopper ride in the classic action film, thanks to LR's LTS.
- Leya Qwest, Anchorage, AK
The lyrics on this are different from those on the Beatles' version.
- Stefanie, Rock Hill, SC
I think the lyrics on this site are completely wrong. Where's the line 'Long Tall Sally built for speed, She got every thing Uncle John Need'?
- Nathan, Defiance, OH
The line "sure like to ball" is from "Good Golly Miss Molly", not this song. Read the lyrics!
- Mike, New Point, VA
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