(featuring Little Richard, Dan Gardner, Ingram Hill and Francine Reed)

December 31, 2002
Underground Atlanta


Francine Reed:

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Ingram Hill:

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Little Richard:

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"Womp bop a loo bop a womp bam boom! Not Pat Boone, BAM BOOM!” So exclaimed legend and “rock & roll architect” Little Richard as he slammed into “Tutti Frutti,” the song that the balladeer whitened, lightened and massacred to make bucks that Richard should’ve had. The Georgia native doesn’t forget, even if a lot of people overlook him and his contributions to music culture over the past fifty years. Not only is Little Richard one of the inventors of rock, he taught one of his opening acts to go “WOOOO!” just right. Then they used it over and over again. They were The Beatles. David Bowie’s original music aspiration and childhood dream was to be Little Richard’s sax man. Jimi Hendrix was in Richard’s band before his axis was as bold as love, and has anyone seen a split screen of Little Richard in 1958 and Prince in 1985? Please! From the time the seventy-year old icon took the stage after an extended intro by his amazing band, it was clear that the man could still deliver. He looked great, he danced, he preened, he joked, he rocked. Opening with “Good Golly Miss Molly” and barreling through his and others’ hits, he displayed every bit of the good humor and style that you would expect. He re-claimed his yell on The Beatles’ “I Saw Her Standing There” and delivered an energetic version of Ray Charles’ “I Got A Woman.” This was all before midnight, which just so happened to be New Year. The governor-elect and mayor of Atlanta were on hand to help Little Richard with the Peach Drop and fireworks as Fox network affiliates broadcast the show around the country. After stating, “Happy New Year, mama,” he led us all in “Auld Lang Syne” while he worked the stage.

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After a few more rockers, the Macon-born innovator sat back and took in the sight of the town where he was raised. He reminisced about washing dishes a few blocks away from where the stage now stood. “I’ve been everywhere. The peaches ain’t the same,” he said wistfully before admitting that he had been scheduled to play in Singapore on this night. When he got the invitation to play here instead (“Y’all don’t invite me enough. Why don’t y’all invite me to play?”), he cancelled his plans and came home for possibly the last time. Little Richard then explained that he’s retiring from music this year and probably won’t make it back. Therefore, he was going to play as long as he liked. About this time, an extremely cold January rain began falling on the crowd. Against the advice of his badgering road crew, he kept playing. “Lucille” and “I Hear You Knockin’” kicked ass with the assistance of a virtual Noah’s ark of musicians. There were two bassists, two drummers, two guitarists…you get the picture. Many of the less sturdy audience members started heading home as the cold rain and early morning time got to them, but Richard kept pushing. At one point, he invited a dozen or so girls on stage to dance. Not long after this, the camera crews and other workers packed up and left. Richard kept on going. The man was having a good time and relishing the time in his home state. About a half-hour after he was supposed to have finished, he tore through “Long Tall Sally” with the same fervor as the opening song. It was an amazing performance. I hope he does manage to make it back. If he does, don’t miss it. This was undoubtedly one of the most memorable concerts and New Year’s Eve celebrations of my life.

(Chris McKay/

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Little Richard "Dancers":

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