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Billy Wright was a purveyor of the style of rhythm and blues that reached it's ultimate crystallization with the rise to stardom of Little Richard via the earth shattering sides issued by Specialty starting with Tutti Frutti 1955. Wright was gay and flamboyant, he had worked the tent shows in drag, a great southern, show biz tradition in itself and an important influence on rock'n'roll--hence the term "tent show queen". He sang the repertoire of said tradition, many of the same tunes Little Richard would clean up and take to the bank-- Tutti Frutti ( original lyrics-- "Tutti Frutti/Good bootie/if it don't fit/don't force it/just grease it/make it easy"), Busy Bootin' aka Keep A Knockin', Don't You Want A Man Like Me, etc. Other well known recording artists that came out what was a true underground movement of it's time included Frankie "Half Pint" Jackson, who recorded with Tampa Red in the 1930's, Esquerita, who taught Little Richard his piano style, Larry Darnell, and of course Little Richard, himself a protege of Billy Wright's back in Atlanta at the start of his career. A career that began with Richard performing in drag, balancing a chair on his chin while he sang.
Billy Wright is mostly forgotten today, if he's remembered at all it's because of his influence on Little Richard who has never been shy about recognizing Wright's importance, but in the years 1949-51 he had four top ten R&B hits, he was a good draw in nearly every city with a significant black population, and was a sizable star in his hometown of Atlanta.
-the hound
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