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Many consider Little Richard Wayne Penniman (born in Georgia in 1932) to be the originator of rock ’n’ roll. He learned piano at church, singing and playing gospel music, but at the age of 13 he was thrown out of the house for playing “the devil’s music.” Soon after, he signed with RCA Records and recorded several innovative records. In 1955, he signed with Specialty Records and recorded his first big hit, “Tutti Frutti.” Surprisingly, he quit the music business in 1957 to become a minister, making sporadic returns to rock ’n’ roll from 1964 to the present. Little Richard was one of the first ten performers to be inducted into the Rock and Roll (“Devil’s Music”) Hall of Fame.
Wild about their recordings
Even without a live audience, these flashy performers couldn’t contain themselves when they played. A recording studio simply became another venue to showcase their talents:
.k Jerry Lee Lewis: All Killer, No Filler (Rhino).
- Liberace: 16 Most Requested Songs (CBS).
- ' Little Richard: The Specialty Sessions (Specialty).
Chapter 18: Ten Types of Performers and Their Recordings 281
Turn on the radio and, within a half an hour or so, you’re likely to hear a song performed by one of these chart-topping pianists. Each has his or her own distinct style, and these artists have helped blur the lines between pop and rock music.
Myra Ellen Amos (born in North Carolina in 1963) studied classical piano as a child and attended the prestigious Peabody Conservatory at the age of five. When she insisted on playing her own compositions for the school examination board — a real no-no — her scholarship was not renewed. At the ripe old age of 13, she began playing in clubs in Washington, D.C., followed by a move to Los Angeles in 1984. Three years later, she was signed to Atlantic Records, but her first album was considered a failure. Finally, with a solo album called Little Earthquakes, Amos received the fame she deserves.
Not your average kid, Bill Joel (born in New York in 1949) was a classically-trained musician, member of a street gang, and a boxer. He once broke his nose in the boxing ring, but I’m sure it had absolutely nothing to do with the piano-playing thing. His first album, released in 1971, was titled Cold Spring Harbor After its release, he moved to the West Coast and played in piano bars. Appropriately enough, his first big seller was a song titled “Piano Man,” followed by “The Entertainer.” He continues to sell out concerts around the world and has recently focused his attention on composing concert music for the piano, a slightly less aggressive career than boxing, wouldn’t you say?
At the age of 11, Reginald Kenneth Dwight (born in England in 1947) studied piano at the Royal Academy of Music. He auditioned for Liberty Records, who suggested he team with another auditioner, lyricist Bernie Taupin. Publisher Dick James signed the songwriting team as house songwriters. Since his American debut in 1970, John has set many chart-topping records: first album to enter the charts at #1, first artist since The Beatles to have four albums in the Top Ten at once, and best-selling single record in the history of recorded music for “Candle in the Wind 1997.” Not too shabby, huh? His highly acclaimed work on Disney’s animated film, The Lion King, won an Oscar for Best Original Song.
282 Part VII: The Part of Tens
Topping the charts
You can’t have a #1 record without recording one first. The following list features some of the albums that won these artists the gold:
. Tori Amos: Little Earthquakes (Atlantic); From the Choirsirl Hotel (Atlantic).
J' Billy Joel: Greatest Hits, Volumes I & II (Columbia).
J1 Elton John: Greatest Hits (MCA); The One (MCA).
New Orleans is well known for Mardi Gras, crawfish, and a particular brand of jazz. But what about the rest of the South? Get on the bus and travel to other Southern locales that have given the world some unforgettable pianists, new musical styles, and .. . rhubarb pie.
Blind since childhood, Ray Charles Robinson (born in Georgia in 1930) began playing piano at the age of 5. He attended the St. Augustine School for the Blind and learned to read music in Braille. In 1945, he left school and toured with a band through Florida. As his notoriety grew, he decided to shorten his name to Ray Charles to avoid any confusion with boxer Sugar Ray Robinson. In 1955, he had his first big hit, titled “I’ve Got a Woman.” He is credited as the main influence behind the transformation of R&B into what’s now considered Soul music. Through his music, Charles is a legend; with his trademark smile, he is an icon.
Upon graduation from high school in Arkansas, young Cramer (1933-1997) moved to Shreveport, Louisiana, and joined a band for the radio show The Louisiana Hayride. Soon after, he became a highly sought-after session player for such legendary artists as Elvis Presley, Patsy Cline, Roy Orbison, and The Everly Brothers. Wisely taking the advice of Chet Atkins, he moved to Nashville In the mid-1950s and quickly established himself as a legend — he will be forever remembered as the person who successfully adapted country guitar style to the piano ... and without plucking the strings!