Little Richard was in good company on this date 58 years ago. Among the entries to Billboard’s Top 100 Sides chart (almost exactly a year before the introduction of the Hot 100), the Georgia Peach rocked into action with ‘Keep A Knockin,’’ in the same week that the Everly Brothers took their bow with the future No. 1 ‘Wake Up Little Susie.’
At the time, Richard’s British audience was catching up with his last American hit, ‘Jenny, Jenny,’ a No. 11 hit there. In the States, ‘Keep A Knockin’’ also entered the R&B Best Sellers In Stores chart for September 30, 1957 at No. 11. Soon, it had the benefit of being featured in the film Mister Rock ‘n’ Roll, which came out soon after the single charted.
Another movie designed to cash in on the new music craze, it starred DJ Alan Freed and featured performance cameos by Richard, Chuck Berry, Frankie Lymon, Brook Benton, Clyde McPhatter and others. A Billboard news story reported a September press screening, and described it as “the first of a deluge of swinging cinema.”
Richard’s version of ‘Keep A Knockin’’ was a trademark, raucous interpretation of a song that dated from the 1920s, and had been recorded by many artists both then and in the ‘30s, including Louis Jordan. Appropriately, his chart neighbours the Everlys did their own rendition in 1959.
The Specialty single opened on Top 100 Sides for Richard at No. 65, and went on to reach No. 8, second only in his catalogue of hits to ‘Long Tall Sally’ from 1956. “Looks like another big one for the shoutin’ cat,” wrote Billboard.
But, even as it climbed, the unpredictable entertainer was telling the audience at his October 12 concert in Sydney, Australia that he was his renouncing rock ‘n’ roll and turning to God.