Boosler and Little Richard at Florida Sunfest
Years ago, I was hired to emcee a three day music festival in Fort Lauderdale. I ran back and forth between multiple stages all day and all night. All the concert goers were seeing me constantly, over and over again, and I had to keep it fresh, so I did. Comics will tell you the crowd gets restless when waiting for the music act they came to see, so I had to be funny/honest; when an act was delayed, I told them I wished I would get off too, but we were all waiting for the music, right?
Sunday night, Little Richard was to be the closing act on one of the main stages. Anticipation was high of course. By now the audiences and I were old friends, so it was going well, but Richard just never came out, and the crowd was getting restless. So I turned it all into a bit, “I’m gonna run backstage to see what’s what”, and I’d bring them updates when I ran back out. “Ten minutes tops. Want to just talk to each other and I’ll come back to introduce him?” “No! Stay!” “Okay.” Ten minutes, twenty, thirty. Again, the crowd wanted answers. “I’m going backstage, be right back.” I did and came back out. “He’s coming! I actually saw him leave his dressing room and start to walk the hallway, he’s coming!!” Everyone clapped and whooped and I was so relieved. And then: nothing. No Little Richard. Nothing. “I’m gonna go backstage and see what’s what.” I went all the way back to his dressing room, passing a phalanx of Little Richard bodyguards in suits, all speaking into their walkie-talkies as I made my way down the line, one after another relaying the information: “Little Richard doesn’t like his pants.” “Little Richard doesn’t like his pants.” “Little Richard doesn’t like his pants….”
I went back onstage and said the only thing I could, “Little Richard doesn’t like his pants”… to the sounds of agonized groans. To this day when my husband yells to me “Come on! We’re gonna be late!” I yell back, “Little Richard doesn’t like his pants!”
This Little Richard story comes from John Brower.
“Toronto September 13, 1969; “The Rock and Roll Revival”. Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee, Gene Vincent and Bo Diddley, with a few other acts thrown in: The Doors, John Lennon with the first iteration of The Plastic Ono Band, Alice Cooper (who brought a chicken), Chicago and a few others I’m missing.
Lennon was a late addition, The Doors were booked to close, but outside John’s dressing room Jim, and Bill Siddons, were trying to explain to John that The Doors wanted him to close. Backstory, the Saturday show was a ticket sales bomb on the Monday, it was almost cancelled and everyone but John knew it. He had been signed on at the last minute and agreed to come only if they could play, brought Eric, Klaus and Alan White on drums. Siddons and Jim were afraid everyone would leave after John, who was incredulous and kept saying, “But you’re the headliners. I’m worried everyone will leave after you if we close”. Richard was within earshot in a narrow hallway under the bleachers and came over in his most regal and commanding presence and proclaimed, “I will close the show, the way it should be closed by me The King. You know that Mr Doors, you know that Mr Promoter, you know that Mr Lennon.”
The four of us stood speechless and I saw in Jim and John’s faces a reverence and respect that they most likely would not muster up for few if any others. Rock and roll had been called, claimed and owned by Little Richard. He was due on next and graciously agreed to do so but as he walked down the canopy towards the stage, in his lilting falsetto he almost sang. “I am The King.” The Doors did close, no one left after John played and the rest is history. Richard gave a performance that many publications acknowledged owned the festival and some said it relaunched a career that as we know never ended.
I have seen some things in my time but this moment of Little Richard getting Jim and John to almost bow their heads in respect and stand in star-struck silence was the best. You can see his performance and the other original rock legends in the doc Sweet Toronto by Pennebaker. It’s worth it to see Little Richard who knew that both John and Jim were in the wings watching, give a performance that left fans and critics alike on their feet the whole time and in the palm of the hand of a master.”