What Happened When Little Richard Tried to Show He Was the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Not Elvis Presley


Little Richard raising his hands


Little Richard tried to reclaim Elvis Presley’s dubious “King of Rock ‘n’ Roll” title. He discussed meeting Elvis in Las Vegas.

Though he certainly didn’t invent the genre, Elvis Presley became widely known as the King of Rock’ n’ Roll. Little Richard tried to reclaim that title during the 1970s with an album called King of Rock and Roll. Sadly, it didn’t work out well for him. Little Richard discussed why the album performed so poorly.

Little Richard tried to reclaim ‘King of Rock ‘n’ Roll’ from Elvis Presley with a covers album

There’s no broad agreement as to who invented rock ‘n’ roll. Some of the artists named as the genre’s progenitor include Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Robert Johnson, Chuck Berry, and Little Richard. The latter released an album called King of Rock and Roll in 1971, well after that title had been applied to Elvis. The album largely featured covers of songs by other stars such as Martha and the Vandellas, Three Dog Night, and The Rolling Stones.

Despite its roster of famous songs, King of Rock and Roll wasn’t much of a hit. The record reached No. 193 on the Billboard 200. It only lasted on the chart for four weeks. King of Rock and Roll was the singer’s only record to reach the Billboard 200 except for Little Richard’s Greatest Hits, which performed about the same.

Little Richard discussed why ‘King of Rock and Roll’ wasn’t a radio hit

In the 1984 book The Life and Times of Little Richard: The Authorised Biography, the “Long Tall Sally” singer said the radio ignored King of Rock and Roll. “They wouldn’t play my stuff, you know?” he said. “I think they were afraid that I would hit. There was still a lot of prejudice going on. A lot of people in management didn’t like it ‘cuz I was a white attraction.

“If I’d been a Black attraction, like James Brown or Otis Redding, it would have been different,” Little Richard explained. “I think I scared them. I would have had the same stature as The Beatles and Mick Jagger. They’d let some of the songs through. A few Black stations played them, but I didn’t record for Blacks. Blacks didn’t want my sound, you know?”

The ‘Tutti Frutti’ discussed how Elvis Presley and other stars interacted with him in Vegas

The “Tutti Frutti” singer discussed facing discrimination. “Racism has always been so heavy against me in America,” he said. “Even when I was doing Las Vegas, they somehow never wanted to give me the money they gave the other artists. Yet they all came to see me — Debbie Reynolds, Ann-Margret, Glen Campbell, Elvis Presley, Tom Jones, Dinah Shore, all the top people.”

Little Richard said venues in Las Vegas didn’t treat him the same as other acts. Unlike other artists, he was never offered a suite unless he asked for one. He was also expected to catch cabs while he was staying there. Little Richard said if it weren’t for racism, he would have been in more movies.

King of Rock and Roll wasn’t a hit album but Little Richard will always be more deserving of that title than Elvis.

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