Boxoffice Insider: Highlights From Little Richard’s Seven Decades Of Live
AP Photo / Patrick Semansky – Little Richard
Little Richard performs at The Domino Effect, a tribute concert to New Orleans rock and roll musician Fats Domino, at the New Orleans Arena on May 30, 2009.
Little Richard’s legacy as a rock ’n’ roll pioneer lands him among those iconic figures who most impacted popular music in the 20th century – so much so that he was one of the 10 performers inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s first class in 1986. The legendary entertainer, who died May 9 in Tennessee, was a road warrior dating back to his heyday in the 1950s.
When Pollstar was founded in 1981 and subsequently began tracking ticket sales and gross revenue at live concerts, Little Richard was well past the era that produced his highest activity on recorded music charts and his early years as a touring artist, but our box office archives still show notable highlights from the last decades of his storied live career.
The first of his concerts tracked by Pollstar was a headlining performance at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles June 8, 1991. A total of 4,976 fans were in attendance that night, about 80% of the house. With tickets priced from $22 to $27, the Nederlander Concerts-produced event grossed $110,141 (or about $207,000 in 2020 dollars). It followed another L.A. performance four days earlier at the Pantages Theatre.
Another concert of note from the 1990s was a co-bill with Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin on July 27, 1996. The pair headlined an event at the Pittsburgh-area outdoor venue Coca-Cola Star Lake Amphitheater (now called S&T Bank Music Park) with a crowd of 10,747. He also co-headlined a show with James Brown on Aug. 23 the following year, performing together at the New York State Fair in Syracuse with almost 4,000 in attendance.
Of all the Little Richard appearances recorded in the concert archives, the best-attended event was a June 12, 1993, performance at Tad Gormley Stadium in New Orleans with headliner Jimmy Buffett. Ticket sales reached 18,207 for the concert billed as the “Primo Parrothead Party,” which also featured a support stint by Michael McDonald. With a $519,038 gross, the show was part of Buffett’s “Chameleon Caravan” tour that played North American venues that year.
In the 2000s, Little Richard’s box office presence includes numerous joint appearances with other rock ’n’ roll veterans such as Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis, among others. One of the most successful at the box office was a co-bill with Berry at the now-demolished Gibson Amphitheatre at Universal City, Calif., on Jan. 26, 2002. With a sellout crowd of 5,563, the show grossed $231,773 (or $330,000, accounting for inflation).
His best-selling outing as a headliner in that decade came in 2005 on July 2 at Coors Amphitheatre (now Fiddler’s Green Amphitheatre) in Denver. It was that year’s edition of radio station Kool 105.1 FM’s “KOOL Koncert” that also featured stints by a reunited Raspberries, Paul Revere and the Raiders, the Spinners, B.J. Thomas, the Box Tops, and Gary Lewis and the Playboys. The show drew a crowd of 5,879 with a $136,329 take.
Little Richard’s final reported concerts were in 2009, the year he underwent a hip surgery that quite significantly affected his ability to tour and perform consistently.
But prior to that event, he participated in the annual Moondog Coronation Ball in March at Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena (now Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse) as well as a tribute concert honoring Fats Domino called The Domino Effect on May 30 at New Orleans Arena (now Smoothie King Center). His final three archived shows are solo dates at Harrah’s Cherokee (N.C.) Casino (Oct. 18), The Birchmere in Alexandria, Va. (Oct. 19), and Rams Head On Stage in Annapolis, Md. (Oct. 20).