Strawberry Field remembers Little Richard

15th May, 2020

We are deeply saddened at the passing of Richard Wayne Penniman, known as ‘Little Richard’ and send our thoughts and prayers to his family and friends at this sad time.

At Strawberry Field, our interactive and immersive exhibition covers many themes, including that of the influences on John Lennon. He is one of the most influential songwriters and musicians that the world has ever seen; but who inspired him to take up music as a career? Our exhibition explores this question, and one of the candidates is Little Richard.

Little Richard was playing rock and roll music in the fifties – before the phrase “rock and roll” had been invented. John’s school friend, Mike Hill was there when John first heard his hit, Long Tall Sally and tells how he feels John was inspired by the record.

When asked about her feelings on Little Richard’s passing, Julia Baird, John Lennon’s sister, said this:


“Little Richard.

This is a sad farewell to the self-styled King and Queen of both gospel and Rock n Roll! Yes, he topped both of those musical categories.

He was the biggest musical influence on all the sixties bands, including The Beatles. Beatles fans will know that Paul's audition to The Quarrymen, at the Woolton Fete, back in 1957, was a rendition of 'Long,Tall Sally.' John was more than impressed that Paul knew the chords and even some of the words. He was in.

I saw Little Richard headlining a concert at the Liverpool Empire in October 1962, with my family. Brian Epstein had arranged for The Beatles to showcase their new single, 'Love Me Do.' making The Beatles one of the support acts. Little Richard said, later, that Brian had offered to manage The Beatles 50/50 with him!

In 2014, I was in the Holiday Inn Downtown in Nashville, Tennesse. Little Richard was residing in the penthouse suite! I never expected to see him, but one afternoon, as I was waiting for coffee, I saw a man pushing a wheelchair towards the lift. I just knew it was Little Richard and I couldn't let the opportunity go. I met him just as the doors opened and said, 'Sir. I am John Lennon's sister. Please let me tell you that John thought you were a rock god. Without you, The Beatles may never have happened.' He smiled and said, 'Why, thank you' and his son took him into the lift.

No, indeed. The Beatles, The Stones, The Who, The Anybody...they may never have happened without the glory of Little Richard.”


Rest In Peace, Little Richard. Forever ‘promoted to glory’. We salute you.  

“The plan to open Strawberry Field to the public for the first time - so people can see a unique exhibition about the home, how and why the song was written by John, and allow visitors to explore the grounds as John did as a child - is very exciting.”

Lady Judy Martin OBE