Rock Singer Little Richard Hurt in Crash

Times Staff Writer

Little Richard, a flamboyant singer in the early days of rock ‘n’ roll, was listed in fair condition Tuesday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center after his sports car crashed into a telephone pole in West Hollywood, a hospital spokesman said.

The 52-year-old singer, whose real name is Richard Penniman, suffered a broken right leg, bruised ribs and head and facial injuries in the 12:05 a.m. accident, Ron Wise reported.

“He is awake, conscious and alert,” Wise said.

Witnesses told sheriff’s deputies that Penniman, best known for his hits “Tutti Frutti” and “Good Golly Miss Molly,” was driving his 1984 Nissan 300ZX at approximately 60 m.p.h. on Santa Monica Boulevard when he struck a telephone pole at Curson Avenue, Deputy George Moak said. Speed limit in the area is 30 m.p.h.


There is no evidence that Penniman was under the influence of any drugs or alcohol, Moak said. He said deputies hope to complete their investigation of the accident by Thursday.

The singer was trapped in the car for 30 minutes while county firefighters used the “jaws of life,” a metal-cutting device, to pry him loose. Penniman was alone in the car.

As Little Richard, Penniman earned nationwide recognition in 1955 with “Tutti Frutti” and continued with a string of hit records through 1958, including “Lucille” and “Slippin’ and Slidin’.”

In the late 1950s, he left the music industry for a career in the ministry, prompted by a near-accident on a plane trip overseas.

He returned to music in the early 1960s in rock ‘n’ roll revival shows, and his most recent performances have been dedicated to the ministry.