Recording Date: May 9, 1956, J&M Recording Studio, 840 N. Rampart Street, New Orleans LA.
Richard Penniman, a/k/a Little Richard, age 24: Vocal, Piano
Lee Allen, age 29: Tenor Saxophone
Alvin “Red” Tyler, age 31: Baritone Saxophone
Edgar Blanchard, age 32: Electric Guitar
Frank Fields, age 42: Acoustic Double Bass
Earl Palmer, age 32: Drums
Robert “Bumps” Blackwell, age 38: Session Leader, Arranger
Songwriters: John Marascalo and Robert Blackwell
In May of 1956 Little Richard had been a professional musician for nine years, playing 200 or more dates every year in segregated Black venues on the “Chitlin’ Circuit”. For many of those years, he had been bound under a recording contract with Duke/Peacock records in Houston, Texas as a Blues, R&B or Gospel artist, with little success. In 1955 Robert Blackwell, a talent scout, bandleader, pianist, songwriter and arranger for Specialty Records in Los Angeles, CA, bought out Richard’s contract, went with him to New Orleans, and hired Allen, Tyler, Blanchard, Fields, and Palmer to play on Richard’s recording sessions. The rest, as they say, is Rock & Roll history. All those musicians were among the elite in New Orleans, with 15 to 25 years of experience playing live and in the recording studio, and their skill and professionalism can be easily heard on this selection. The session leader, Blackwell, had over 20 years of experience as a Jazz, R&B and Jump Blues piano player, bandleader, songwriter, arranger, and talent scout. Blackwell had a commercial musical ear for what was new and different, what would put money in the juke boxes and the record store cash registers, what was danceable, and what would entertain people when performed by elite musicians and vocalists. As Carl Perkins’ “Blue Suede Shoes” raced up the Billboard Hot 100, R&B and Country charts in February, March and April 1956, Blackwell was listening. The song structure and stop time breaks in “Ready Teddy” are very similar to “Blue Suede Shoes”, both records are in the new Rock & Roll form, but “Ready Teddy” has no electronic recording tricks. It is a recorded live performance in the studio by musical pros who had been playing six nights a week for the last 10, 20, 25 years. These cats could really play. What Blackwell was after was the same thing that Richard, Presley, Sam Phillips, Perkins and the others were after: Something musically new and different to energize an integrated radio audience, white and black , who would put the coins in the juke boxes and buy the records.
“Ready Teddy” was written by a 25 year old, unemployed, unknown Italian-American college dropout named John Marascalo, from Grenada, MS, who was a fan of Little Richard. He wrote the tune with Richard in mind, tracked down Robert Blackwell in New Orleans, and played the tune for him. Blackwell made a deal with Marascalo to share songwriters credit with him. Blackwell made changes to the arrangement, cut the record on May 9, and had the Specialty 45 in juke boxes, on the radio, and in the record stores by June of 1956.
Ready Teddy was a #1 Billboard R&B chart hit, and in a very conservative, segregated time, the record had enough sales to white customers to take it to the #44 position on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The record immediately began to be covered by Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly and ,to date, 43 other artists. During Presley’s first appearance on the CBS television Ed Sullivan Show, he performed “Ready Teddy”. The Sullivan show on that evening, September 9, 1956, received a Trendex percentage share of 82.6 (60 million viewers), the largest rating ever obtained in the history of U.S. television broadcasting.
John Marascalo became a very successful songwriter after “Ready Teddy”. Continuing his songwriting partnership with Robert Blackwell, he co-wrote “Rip It Up” , recorded by Little Richard and 92 other artists; “Good Golly Miss Molly”, recorded by Richard and 72 other artists; “Be My Guest”, recorded by Fats Domino and 26 other artists; and many other songs.
At age 89, John Marascalo is still with us, as is Little Richard, at age 88, living near Nashville, TN. Richard was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1986. He has received many other musical awards during his long career in the music business. Two of the most talented Guitarists in the history of Rock & Roll, Jimi Hendrix and Travis Wammack, led Little Richard’s band and toured the world with him in the 1960s.