Growing up attending Baptist and Holiness churches, young Richard Penniman sang gospel and played the piano at a local church. At 13, he moved in with a family, Ann and Johnny Johnson, who ran Miss Anne’s Tic Toc, where he first performed.
In 1951, Penniman signed a contract with RCA, but none of his recordings made much of a commercial impression. In 1955, he sent a demo tape to Art Rupe of Specialty Records in Los Angeles. He was looking for a raspy voice like Penniman’s and brought him in for a session. There, he recorded "Tutti Frutti." The single sold over three million copies and appealed to both black and white fans. Out of the 36 songs he recorded with Speciality, seven were gold: "Tutti Frutti," "Long Tall Sally," "Rip It Up," "Lucille," "Jenny, Jenny," "Keep A Knockin," and "Good Golly, Miss Molly." His electrifying performances, charged by his pounding piano style, screams and shouts and high pompadour, ushered in a new era of music.
During the height of his popularity, Little Richard appeared in three movies: Don’t Knock the Rock (1956), The Girl Can’t Help It (1956), and Mister Rock ‘n’ Roll (1957). He also appeared in several television shows like Hollywood a Go Go, Shindig!, and Happy Days.
Touring through Britain, among his fans were the Rolling Stones and the Beatles. Paul McCartney of the Beatles considered Little Richard to be one of his music inspirations, even recording "Long Tall Sally" in 1964. Despite the music and acting success, Richard quit the entertainment industry for the first time in 1957 to attend religious college and become a minister, but later returned.