Little Richard indoctrinated Paul McCartney into the glamorous world of rock ‘n’ roll when he was a teenager growing up on Merseyside. Years later, they’d be playing the same clubs together in Hamburg, and it was during this period that The Beatles would begin to master their craft.
That crucial time in Germany for The Silver Beatles, as they were known back then, was invaluable. Gigs were scarce back home, and their residency at The Indra Club in Hamburg allowed the band to develop at a superior rate to any other group that had opted to remain in Britain.
It was a brave move to leave England behind, but, with nothing to lose, they had a burning desire to improve. They were paid 30 Deutschmarks a night for a seven-hour gig which would frequently last until the early hours of the morning. McCartney would later refer to the residency as “800 hours in the rehearsal room”.
When they were invited back to Hamburg in 1962, Brian Epstein arranged for Little Richard to also perform at the Star Club, and it was an experience that has stayed with McCartney for the rest of his life. Following the death of the iconic musician, McCartney reminisced: “Little Richard came screaming into my life when I was a teenager. I owe a lot of what I do to Little Richard and his style, and he knew it. He would say, ‘I taught Paul everything he knows'”.
The Beatle then transported his mind back to Germany, and added: “In the early days of The Beatles, we played with Richard in Hamburg and got to know him. He would let us hang out in his dressing room and we were witness to his pre-show rituals, with his head under a towel over a bowl of steaming hot water he would suddenly lift his head up to the mirror and say, ‘I can’t help it cos I’m so beautiful’. And he was”.
McCartney poetically concluded: “I thank him for all he taught me and the kindness he showed by letting me be his friend. Goodbye Richard and a-wop-bop-a-loo-bop.”
Macca also paid tribute to Little Richard when he made an appearance on Desert Island Discs in 1982, an occasion that arrived as a celebration of the 40th anniversary of the illustrious radio programme. During the show, he revealed that ‘Tutti Frutti’ by the singer would be one of the eight songs McCartney would want with him if stranded on a desert island. “Again, I’ve chosen just one to sum him up. But I like a lot of stuff he does, and he’s a friend of mine from the Hamburg days,” he explained about his decision.
Those holy days in Hamburg were a dream for The Beatles as they witnessed their hero perform every night from the side of the stage. However, after they exploded into the stratosphere, Richard would take pride in performing with ‘The Fab Four’ before they became famous.
“I’ve just finished a tour with The Beatles, in fact, I toured with The Beatles right before they made their first hit and I was the star of the show… you wouldn’t believe it,” he said with a smile during an interview in 1964. “They had never made a record at the time and I was with them for 15 days and that was right before they got their start,” he added before proudly displaying a picture of himself with the band and describing Ringo Starr as “a wonderful person”.
Little Richard only spent a short time with The Beatles in Germany, however, it was an intense period that elevated the Fab Four and raised their game astronomically. When they returned to England, they were ready to take over.