Sure like to ball

Good Golly Miss Molly, indeed.

In the year 2000, or thereabouts, I shook my maraca with London Ontario’s rockabilly rebels, The Black Holes. On the bass, Jedd House. On guitar, Tom Hillborn. On vocals and rhythm guitar, Vince Braca and, behind the drum kit, the madman who was part Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich and Keith Moon…ladies and gentleman, music lovers of all ages, Sean Anderson.

Sean was my co-worker at CFOS/Mix 106.5 in Owen Sound and, soon after his arrival in town, he dared to enter what was then a dive with a Capital D….the Coach Inn. The Coach booked mostly country bands on weekends but Sean managed to get the Holes a gig in a room where, if you could lift your head for just a few seconds, you could get another drink. To this day, I can picture a a young fella somehow standing between two tall tables, passed out, arms outstretched like a drunken Icarus.

It was usually during the Holes second set, after I’d downed a few Formosa Springs (I miss that beer) that Sean would call me up to the stage, hand me that giant maraca (it was two the first time but I found swinging one in a hammer-like fashion did the trick) and the band would rip into Johnny B Goode.

My repertoire grew to include Buddy Holly’s Not Fade Away, done more like the Stones version, and Little Richard’s Good Golly Miss Molly.

A year or so after my Coach Inn debut, the Holes and I drove to Casino Rama to see Little Richard.

The self-proclaimed architect of rock and roll was in his late ’60s. Moving gingerly, but game. And gay. Very gay. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But Richard, who has spent over 60 years being gay, getting religion, denouncing homosexuality, accepting it and…what day is it? On that night, the man born Richard Penniman expressed his desire for one of his band mates, a young African American sax player.

And Michael Jordan.

Sean’s girlfriend Jennifer was part of our group. She was thrilled when Richard sang “Jenny, Jenny,” and though Jenn and Sean broke up later, they eventually got back together and are the proud parents of 5-year-old Ruth.

The Holes always included Richard’s “Rip it Up” in their shows. Richard did not play that one at Casino Rama that night despite our repeated shoutouts. Fair enough. I’m sure Richard and his band had rehearsed their set list over and over and if the singer preferred Fats Domino’s Blueberry Hill over one his own tunes, hey, it’s his show.

Little Richard turned 85 today. Witnessing his frail state nearly two decades ago, I would not have bet on Richard making it this far. So glad I was wrong in that assessment.

Happy Birthday, Richard Wayne Penniman, born December 5th, 1932 in Macon, Georgia.

Thanks for the music. My radio friend Handsome Dick Manitoba calls Little Richard the greatest rock and roll singer of all time and, considering Richard’s influence on The Beatles and many other performers, I would agree. A force of nature. A talent like no other. If not the architect of rock and roll, Little Richard is part of the foundation.

About johnnymaraca

host of Johnny Maraca's Rock & Roll Riot, the rockingest show on the radio. 60 years of rockin' rhythm and blues, from the late '40s pioneers like Louis Jordan to Elvis, Chuck Berry, CCR, Stray Cats, Ramones and tons more. Friday and Saturday nights at 7 on 97.7 the Beach, listen live at http://977thebeach.ca, and WRSG in Middlebourne, West Virginia, Tuesdays 6-8 pm.
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