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Little Richard

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This song began as a ballad Richard wrote called "Directly From My Heart to You," which he recorded as a member of The Johnny Otis band in 1955. "Directly From My Heart to You" was released by Peacock Records as a B-side, and when Little Richard recorded for Specialty Records in September, 1955, he tried recording the song for his first album. It didn't make the cut, but Richard's career took off, and when he needed another single in 1957, he revived the song, but gave it the sound that made him a star, speeding up the tempo considerably.

The lyrics were completely rewritten, and Richard went to a common theme for his hits: a girl's name. If Lucille was based on a real woman who broke Richard's heart, he isn't saying - he told Rolling Stone in 1970: "I don't know what inspired me to write it, it may have been the rhythm." Certainly, the lyrics serve the rhythm, with the nonsensical first line "Lucille, won't you do your sister's will" scanning to the beat.

If there was a real Lucille, it would probably be either Richard's (female) lover Lee Angel, or his mentor Steve Reeder Jr., who performed under the name Esquerita. Little Richard hasn't kept a lot of secrets, so it's more likely that he did make up Lucille. His next single was also named after a girl: "Jenny, Jenny."
In a 1999 interview with Mojo magazine, Richard explained: "The effects and rhythms you hear on my songs, I got 'em from the trains that passed by my house. Like 'Lucille' came from a train – Dadas-dada-dada-dada, I got that from the train."
This was released at a time when Richard was hot - he sold 32 million records in 1956 and 1957. His songs were also very successful for other artists, who sometimes outsold him with his own songs. "Lucille" was covered by The Everly Brothers, who matched Richard's #21 peak position with their version in 1960. Waylon Jennings had a #1 Country hit when he recorded this on his 1983 album It's Only Rock and Roll, and other artists to cover the song include Van Halen, Deep Purple, Johnny Winter, Bill Haley & His Comets, Otis Redding, AC/DC and The Hollies. (thanks, Julian - Oakland, AR)
Other popular Lucille's in music: B.B. King's guitar is named Lucille, and Kenny Rogers had a hit with different song with the same title in 1977 - his is the one that goes, "You picked a fine time to leave me Lucille..."
Little Richard
Little Richard Artistfacts
More Little Richard songs
More songs with girls' names in the title

Comments (11):

Back in '57 when "Lucille" was a big hit on the charts, I was 10 yrs. old & had been listening to rock & roll only for a few years. Those were great times. It sure beat listening to Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Patty Page, Perry Como, & the "pop" music of that era. I recall when my grandma got a new radio/record player combo, I loved visiting her and getting to listen to the R&B and Rock & Roll music stations in our area. I loved the music of Little Richard, Fats Domino, Bo Diddley, and Chuck Berry. Now, in 2014, listening to their music again keeps me "charged up" and interested in life. Rock on.....!
- Raunchy, Tulsa, OK
If you haven't heard the version by the Everly Brothers, it's very good. When I first read that they recorded this, it was not something I could imagine though. This is especially since Little Richard's performance is so hard to copy; luckily, the Everly Brothers adapted to fit their style.
- Stefanie, Rock Hill, SC
Recorded J&M studios New Orleans July 1956 - Specialty 598 (Billboard R&B #1)
Max Weinberg: 'When the pulse of rock'n'roll grabs you and won't let go, it becomes the Big Beat. That's how it was when Earl Palmer laid into Lucille sounding as if he were using baseball bats and kicking a thirty-foot bass drum.' This where Earl Palmer really did get hold of that rock beat. Out went the jazz shuffle, replaced by the sound of an insistent, pounding parade band. Palmer recalls, 'Little Richard moved from a shuffle to that straight eighth-note feeling...the only reason I started playing what they come to call a rock'n'roll beat came from trying to match Richard's right hand.' Tony Scherman, 'his achievement was to overhaul pop music's rhythmic foundation, discarding an old fashioned, jazz-based sound for something new'. The Girl Can't Help It, Keep a-Knockin', Good Golly Miss Molly, they've all got that solid backbeat. Eddie Cochran was listening to it; he poached Earl Palmer and got him to pound his way through Summertime Blues, C'mon Everybody and Something Else. Music would never quite be the same again. Billboard March 1957: "The first disk by the dynamic stylist in a number of weeks is a wild wailing smash."

Nick Duckett
- Nick, london, United Kingdom
Bruce Springsteen has performed this song in concert 38 times...
- Barry, Sauquoit, NY
The man in Scotland may be right, however, it doesn't matter if Little Richard is gay or not. He brought happiness to millions of people and that's what matters. Same for Elton.
- gregg, OKC Oklahoma, OK
I love this song, and I think the way Little Richard says Lucille is very cool!!
- Stefanie, Rock Hill, SC
maybe it was the lippy and mascara
- pete, nowra, Australia
The Beatles covered this song; it's on the "Live at the BBC" disc.
- Amanda, New York City, NY
Yeah! Little richard and Chuck Berry are very under-rated.
- Stefanie magura, Rock Hill, SC
So the self-styled Georgia Peach is gay? What tipped you off? Everthing about him?
- Calum, Edinburgh, Scotland
Little Richard and Chuck Berry are the real innovators of rock 'n roll. They don't get enough credit.
- Richard, Louisville, KY
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