Little Richard’s Family: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

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Little Richard died at the age of 87 on May 9.  The music icon passed away after a battle with bone cancer. He leaves behind a family who will miss him dearly, including his son, Danny Jones Penniman. Here’s what you need to know about Little Richard’s family.


1. His Son, Danny Jones Penniman, Confirmed His Father’s Death

Little Richard

Little Richard’s son, Danny Jones Penniman, confirmed his father’s death with Rolling Stone. Little Richard’s real name was Richard Penniman.

Little Richard adopted Danny Jones Penniman when he was one-year-old after his mother, a church associate, died, GQ Magazine reported. In 2012 at the age of 39, Danny Penniman was a rap artist.


2. Little Richard Was Married to Ernestine Campbell for Four Years

Little Richard and Ernestine Campbell were married in the early 1960s. Campbell was a Bible student when they met and were married. GQ reported that they were married from 1959 to 1961.

The book “The Life and Times of Little Richard” noted that Little Richard said he was neglectful as a husband to Ernestine and he loved her more as a sister than a wife. In the same book, Ernestine said: “I don’t regret that we didn’t have children because we always had each other. We’re still very close. It doesn’t matter who comes or goes, I’m usually in touch with him and he stays in touch with me.”

The book also shared that Ernestine was the daughter of a Navy family and was working at the Department of Navy when she met Little Richard in 1957 when he spoke at an evangelical meeting. She said she never could really adjust to his lifestyle and sharing him with so many fans.


3. Little Richard Was Living with His Brother When He Died

GettyLittle Richard in 1972

When he died after a battle with bone cancer, Little Richard was living with a brother in Nashville.

His agent Dick Alen said in a statement to People:  “Little Richard passed away this morning from bone cancer in Nashville. He was living with his brother in Nashville. He was battling for a good while, many years. I last spoke to him about two or three weeks ago. I knew he wasn’t well but he never really got into it, he just would say ‘I’m not well.’ He’s been suffering for many years with various aches and pains. He just wouldn’t talk about it much.”


4. He Had 11 Siblings

GettyHonoree Cathy Hughes TV One/Radio One Chairman (L), speaks with recording artist Little Richard in 2016.

Little Richard was born to Leva Mae and Charles Penniman in 1932. He was one of 12 children. His father, Charles Penniman, was a brick mason and church deacon and he sold moonshine, The New York Times reported. Little Richard also had an uncle, grandfather, and cousin who were preachers.

He grew up in Macon, Georgia and his family nicknamed him Lil’ Richard because he was so small and skinny. His family raised him with a religious background, including attending Baptist, Holiness, and Seventh-Day Adventist churches.

In the early 1970s, Little Richard formed a management company called Bud Hole Incorporated with three of his brothers.


5. His Friend Shot & Killed His Father When He Was 19

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Little Richard dealt with tragedy in his life. His brother, Tony Penniman, died in the 1970s of a heart attack, a loss that devastated Little Richard. That same year, his nephew was accidentally shot. He and his nephew were very close —  he loved him like a son. Two of his close friends were also murdered within the same year. All this led to Little Richard giving up drugs and alcohol and going back to ministry, The Guardian reported.

Years before that, Little Richard lost his dad at the age of 19, BBC News reported. Little Richard was kicked out of his home at the age of 15, which is when he began singing. He was seen by RCA Victor in a talent competition when he was 18. He said the sales of his single helped improve the relationship with his dad. But then when he was 19, his best friend Frank shot and killed his dad outside a bar. He said his friend was released from jail a week later and he never learned exactly what happened.

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