"So much about the 'architect of rock 'n' roll' defies linear logic that his life and work lend themselves to a more digressive and intuitive chronicle. It takes a poet, in other words, to convey the miracle of Little Richard. David Kirby limns his subject with the loop-de-loops of wonder, mischief, and insight that characterize his verse, and the resulting account sings in a way that, like the singer's hammy, barn-storming performances, makes you gyrate with pleasure. It is less a straightforward biography than a meditation on art, music, and culture through a lens lined heavily with kohl and 'Pancake 31' makeup. Kirby's hagiography fits his subject like a sequined cape. Its fringe of odd details and learned asides affirms his contention that, 'All new music changes the world, but no music changed the world the way this song did.'" (Candice Dyer, author of "Street Singers, Soul Shakers, and Rebels With a Cause: Music from Macon") "In Kirby's book, Elvis and Chuck Berry are milquetoasts next to Little Richard: The former Richard Penniman channeled Baudelaire, hard bop and juke-joint hoodoo, and invented rock & roll in two and a half minutes with 'Tutti Frutti.' The Georgia Peach is well and truly buffed." (Rolling Stone) "In the poem "The House of Blue Light" - whose eponym is where Miss Molly does her rockin', dontcha know - Kirby says that when he, a la Whitman, hears America singing, it "sounds like Little Richard." He sticks to his line in this high-spirited, ambulatory meditation on Richard's America. Ambulatory literally as Kirby pinballs mostly around Macon, Georgia, Richard's hometown, but also New Orleans, where Richard recorded his first big hit, and L.A., home of Specialty Records, which Richard made a major independent label. Ambulatory spiritually, too, because Kirby adopts Greil Marcus' canny conception of Old, Weird America - poor, superstitious, culturally "backward," but always striving - as the homeground of rock 'n' roll (along with the other vernacular American pop musics: gospel, blues, country) to explain Richard's artistic roots. Kirby insists that that first big hit, "Tutti Frutti," a cleaned-up "paean to heinie-poking" howled by "a gay black cripple from a town nobody ever heard of," is the first 100-proof rock 'n' roll song and devotes the central chapter here to its creation and impact. Kirby packs his prose as fully as he does his verse and likewise runs it on high octane, pedal to the metal. He beats all the professional rock scribes hollow with this light-footed but profound little book." (Booklist, STARRED Review) "David Kirby, a poet and professor in Tallahassee, Florida, is on an uphill, uproarious mission to rewrite the legacy of Macon's outsize Little Richard. "'Tutti Frutti' occupies a finite space smack in the middle of our huge-ass Crab Nebula of a culture," Kirby writes. "It's like the skinniest part of an hourglass; everything that came before flows into this narrow pass, and the world we live in today flows out the other side." Even if you don't agree with the sentiment, you have to admire Kirby's enthusiasm. This is a very personal biography, full of good-humored energy and insightful wit." (Theresa Weaver, Atlanta Magazine) "Kirby isn't interested in stolidly documenting all of Little Richard's life; he's interested in him as a transformative figure who embodies a whole array of antitheses in one pompadoured, satin-and-glitter-clad person, like some trickster god of 20th century pop culture....A rich subject for a scholar and poet, and Kirby has a ball with it." (St. Petersberg Times) "...it's hard to imagine [Little Richard] will ever find himself championed by a more enthusiastic and persuasive advocate." (Washington Post Sunday, December 2009) "...a huge cultural shift that Richard, unlike Elvis, say, has never been given full credit for. With one foot firmly planted in academia, and concentrating on that one song, Kirby makes a valiant attempt to right that perceived wrong." (Q Magazine, February 2010) "An entertaining read." (Total Music, February 2010. Read the full review at http://www.totalmusicmagazine.com/bookreviews.htm) "[Kirby] writes with the fast-talking charm of the music he loves...a hymn of praise to the emancipatory power of nonsense." (Times Literary Supplement, March 2010) 'The contentiousness of [this book] is refreshing, and a welcome alternative to merely rehashing facts and figures.' (Record Collector Terry Staunton)"
In June, 2007, Little Richard's 1955 Specialty Records single, Tutti Frutti, topped Mojo magazine's list of 100 Records That Changed the World. But back in the early 1950s, nobody gave Little Richard a second glance, unless you count staring at a gay black cripple (one of Richard's legs is shorter than the other) from the wrong side of the tracks as a second glance. It was a time in America where the black and white worlds had co-existed separately for nearly two centuries. After Tutti Frutti, Little Richard began garnering fans from both sides of the civil rights divide. He brought black and white youngsters together on the dance floor and even helped to transform race relations. Little Richard: The Birth of Rock 'n' Roll begins by grounding the reader in the fertile soil from which Little Richard's music sprang. In Macon Georgia, David Kirby interviews local characters, who knew Little Richard way back when, citing church and family as his true inspiration.