Whole Lotta Shakin’ to the End –
May 9, 2020 – “He played piano,” Cohn wrote, “and he’d stand knock-kneed at the keyboard, hammering away with two hands as if he wanted to bust the thing apart. At climactic moments, he’d lift one leg and rest it on the keys, banging away with his heel, and his trouser rims would billow like kites. “He’d scream and scream and scream. He had a freak voice, tireless, hysterical, completely indestructible, and he never in his life sang at anything lower than an enraged bull-like roar.”
He was born Richard Wayne Penniman in Macon, Ga. The third eldest of a dozen children, he was the son of a church deacon and sometime nightclub operator; his mother was a devout Baptist and sister in the Pentecostal church. His early vocal influences were gospel singers — Alex Bradford, Brother Joe May, Clarence Fountain of the Blind Boys of Alabama, Claude Jeter of the Swan Silvertones and, most importantly, Mahalia Jackson.