Little Richard and Tom Jones Rip It Up

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Little Richard and his host performing “Rip It Up” on This Is Tom Jones

From 1969 to 1971, the U.K.-produced This is Tom Jones variety series aired in the U.S. Every week featured at least one A-List guest, sometimes two or three. We’re talking Sammy Davis Jr., the Bee Gees, Lulu, the Supremes, Herman’s Hermits, Nancy Sinatra, Joe Cocker and more. In some cases, they were still on the way up to acting or music stardom such as George Carlin, Blood, Sweat & Tears, and Jose Feliciano.

On the episode that aired on the ABC Television Network on November 27, 1969, Jones’ guest was Little Richard.

More than a decade earlier, Richard Penniman had sent a demo to Specialty Records, a fledgling Los Angeles label. The song, “Tutti Frutti,” reached #17 in 1956 and became his catalyst for success, leading to a run of pop and R&B hits over the next three years that included “Long Tall Sally,” “Rip It Up,” “Lucille,” “Jenny, Jenny,” “Keep A Knockin’” and “Good Golly, Miss Molly.” In the same period, he placed 14 songs in the Top 10 of the R&B chart.

Though he only earned four Top 10 pop singles in his career–“Long Tall Sally,” “Jenny, Jenny,” “Keep A Knockin’” and “Good Golly, Miss Molly”–his influence in the early days of rock and roll went far beyond the charts. Richard was an originator of rock and roll when he exploded into the American consciousness in the mid-’50s.

For this taping, Little Richard, born Dec. 5, 1932, was 36 years old. Jones, who hails from Wales, was a huge star at the time with a string of hits from 1965’s “It’s Not Unusual” and “What’s New, Pussycat?” through 1966’s “Green, Green Grass of Home” and 1967’s “Delilah.” In 1969, he was just 29 and at his commercial peak.

Little Richard originally released “Rip It Up” in June 1956. It reached #1 on Billboard‘s Rhythm & Blues chart. It peaked at #17 on the Hot 100 and at #30 in the U.K.

Richard became an ordained minister in 1970. In 2001, he officiated the wedding of Tom Petty and Dana York. A great performance of “Rip It Up” is included on the Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers’ Live at the Fillmore album, released in 2022.

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