"Long Tall Sally" is a rock and roll 12-bar blues song written by Robert "Bumps" Blackwell, Enotris Johnson, and Little Richard; recorded by Little Richard; and released in March 1956 on the Specialty Records label.

"Long Tall Sally"
Little Richard And His Band - Long Tall Sally.png
Single by Little Richard
from the album Here's Little Richard
B-side"Slippin' and Slidin'"
ReleasedMarch 1956
Format7-inch record
RecordedFebruary 10, 1956
StudioJ&M, New Orleans, US
GenreRock and roll
Producer(s)Robert Blackwell
Little Richard singles chronology
"Tutti Frutti"
"Long Tall Sally"
"Rip It Up"

The flip side was "Slippin' and Slidin'". Both songs were subsequently released in the LP Here's Little Richard (Specialty, March 1957). The single reached number one on the Billboard rhythm and blues chart, staying at the top for six of 19 weeks,[1] while peaking at number six on the pop chart. It received the Cash Box Triple Crown Award in 1956.[2] The song as sung by Little Richard is #55 on Rolling Stone's list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.[3]

It became one of the singer's best-known hits and has become a rock and roll standard covered by hundreds of artists,[4] including the Beatles and Elvis Presley.

The song was originally called "The Thing", recorded in New Orleans by Little Richard.[5] Penniman's track was No. 45 on Billboard's year-end singles of 1956.[6]


"Tutti Frutti" had been a big hit for Little Richard and Specialty in early 1956, reaching No. 2 in the R&B charts. Pat Boone's cover version of the song reached No. 12 in the pop charts. Although this meant an unexpected cash income for the Specialty publishing firm, A&R man and producer "Bumps" Blackwell and a proud Richard decided to write a song that was so up-tempo and the lyrics so fast that Boone would not be able to handle it (Boone eventually did record his own version, however, getting it to No. 18[7]).[1]

According to Blackwell, he was introduced to a little girl by Honey Chile, a popular disc-jockey. Apparently, the girl had written a song for Little Richard to record so she could pay the treatment for her ailing aunt Mary. The song, actually a few lines on a piece of paper, went like this:

Saw Uncle John with Long Tall Sally
They saw Aunt Mary comin'
So they ducked back in the alley

Not wishing to upset an influential disc-jockey, Blackwell accepted the offer and took the idea to Richard, who was reluctant at first. Nevertheless, the line "ducked back in the alley" was exactly what they were looking for, and Richard kept practicing until he could sing it as fast as possible. They worked on the song, adding verses and a chorus, until they got the hit they wanted.[8] The credit to Enotris Johnson, Richard's adoptive father, was added, probably as an act of benevolence. Featuring a tenor saxophone solo by Lee Allen (as did "Tutti Frutti"), "Long Tall Sally" was the best-selling 45 of the history of Specialty Records.


The recording session took place on February 10, 1956 at J&M Studio in New Orleans, the legendary studio owned by Cosimo Matassa on the corner of Rampart and Dumaine where Fats Domino and many other New Orleans luminaries recorded. "Long Tall Sally", as well as many other Little Richard sides, was also recorded there.

The music was a fast uptempo number with Little Richard's hammering, boogie piano. Richard plays staccato eighth notes while Palmer plays a fast shuffle. The shuffle was the most common rhythm and blues beat; Richard added the eighth notes, much less common in that time, although now standard for rock music. Together this created an ambiguity in the ride rhythm—known to musicians as "playing in the crack" that came to characterize New Orleans rock and roll. In typical Little Richard style, he sang in the key of F, in a raw, aggressive, exhilarating style with lyrics being about self-centered fun.[4]

Well, Long Tall Sally
She's built for speed
She's got everything that Uncle John needs

Although the lyrics are light-weight, Little Richard's style triumphs over content and provides a wonderful vehicle for his enthusiastic exhibitionism.[9]

Notes on the lyricsEdit

  • On the original recording, the opening line states the singer is going to report to Aunt Mary that Uncle John does not, as he claims, have "the misery", a Southern expression meaning generalized weakness and illness.
  • The line in the original recorded version, "Long Tall Sally is built for speed", is a reference to the proverbial African-American distinction[clarification needed] in sexual types: "Built for comfort" or "built for speed", terms originally applied to passenger sailing ships[citation needed]. When sung rapidly, this line is sometimes rendered "built sweet"[citation needed], even by Little Richard in a recorded live performance[citation needed]. Though it is not a perfect rhyme with the word "need", it fits through assonance.[citation needed]


The Beatles versionEdit

"Long Tall Sally"
Cover of the song's sheet music
Song by the Beatles
from the EP Long Tall Sally
ReleasedJune 19, 1964
RecordedMarch 1, 1964
StudioEMI, London
GenreRock and roll
Producer(s)George Martin
Long Tall Sally track listing
4 tracks
  1. "Long Tall Sally"
  2. "I Call Your Name"
Side two
  1. "Slow Down"
  2. "Matchbox"

The Beatles were great admirers of Little Richard, and recorded many of his songs during their career. "Long Tall Sally" was the most durable song in their live repertoire, lasting from their earliest days as the Quarrymen in 1957 through to their last public concert in August 1966. As with the majority of their Little Richard remakes, Paul McCartney sang lead vocals, as he could most closely imitate Richard's vocal style.[10]

The group recorded "Long Tall Sally" at EMI Studios in London on 1 March 1964, during sessions for A Hard Day's Night, although it was ultimately not included on that album. The recording was produced by the Beatles' regular producer, George Martin, who also played piano on the track. Given the group's familiarity with the song, the recording was completed in a single take.[10]

In the United Kingdom, the track was released on the Long Tall Sally EP on 19 June 1964; however, it had been released earlier on two overseas albums, The Beatles' Second Album in the United States on 10 April, and The Beatles' Long Tall Sally in Canada on 11 May. Released as a single in Sweden, the song topped the Kvällstoppen Chart in July and August.[11]

The song appears on the film Backbeat. Upon viewing it, Paul McCartney was reported to say:

One of my annoyances about the film Backbeat is that they've actually taken my rock 'n' rollness off me. They give John "Long Tall Sally" to sing and he never sang it in his life. But now it's set in cement. ['Paul' sang Long Tall Sally in the Glasgow stage version]. It's like the Buddy Holly and Glenn Miller stories. The Buddy Holly Story does not even mention Norman Petty, and The Glenn Miller Story is a sugarcoated version of his life. Now Backbeat has done the same thing to the story of the Beatles. I was quite taken, however, with Stephen Dorff's astonishing performance as Stu.[12]


Other Beatles recordings and performancesEdit

In addition to their studio recording of the song, the Beatles recorded "Long Tall Sally" for BBC radio broadcasts on seven occasions during 1963 and 1964.[13] Two of these versions have been officially released, on the compilation albums Live at the BBC (1994) and On Air – Live at the BBC Volume 2 (2013). In addition, a studio version prerecorded specially from the 1964 television special Around the Beatles was included on the Anthology 1 compilation (1995). The live album The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl (1977) includes a 1964 concert recording of the song.

"Long Tall Sally" was the last song The Beatles ever performed live in front of a paying audience. The song was a frequent set closer during their 1966 world tour - which would turn out to be their last - and they used it to close out their final show at San Francisco's Candlestick Park on August 29, 1966. The band asked their press officer, Tony Barrow, to make an audio cassette recording of the concert for posterity (the recording has since circulated heavily among bootleggers), but the 30-minute tape ran out at the end of the second verse of "Long Tall Sally" - making the last moments of The Beatles' final live show lost to history. [14]

Popular cultureEdit

  • In the 1987 film Predator, the song is played while the group of soldiers are traveling in a helicopter. Later in the movie, the character Sergeant Mac Eliot shouts the lyrics "Long Tall Sally, she built sweet, she got everything, that Uncle John need. Aw baby, I'm gonna have me some fun, I'm gonna have me some fun, I'm gonna have me some fun" as a battle cry while pursuing the film's titular monster. A sequel, 2010's Predators, called back to the original film by playing the song over its closing credits.
  • There is a long discussion of the song in the 1997 novel Underworld by Don DeLillo. Specifically, characters argue over the ethnic identity of the titular girl.
  • "Long Tall Sally" was sung by Eddie Clendening, portraying Elvis Presley, in the Broadway musical Million Dollar Quartet, which opened in New York in April 2010.[15] Clendening also covered the song on the Million Dollar Quartet original Broadway cast recording, copyright 2010 by MDQ Merchandising, LLC.[16]
  • Makes an appearance in the game Mafia 2 on the Delta Radio station
  • Makes an appearance in the British show Rock & Chips spinoff Only Fools and Horses
  • On Season 9 of the American Dancing with the Stars, Melissa Joan Hart and Mark Ballas danced the Jive to this song in week 2 of the competition.
  • On Series 14 of Strictly Come Dancing, Danny Mac and Oti Mabuse danced the Jive to this song in week 7 of the competition.
  • On Season 13 of the American Dancing with the Stars, Kristin Cavallari and Mark Ballas danced the Jive to this song in the finale of season 13.
  • "Long Tall Sally" plays during the opening helicopter scene of Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon as an homage to the 1987 film Predator.
  • "Long Tall Sally" plays during the chase scene in the 1988 film Red Scorpion.
  • The song was used in the beginning of the game Saints Row IV (mission "Zero Saints Thirty"), once again as a homage to Predator.
  • John Sloman perfored the song in animated film Planet 51.
  • The song is used during a boat chase near the start of the 2016 video game Mafia III.
  • 2018 movie: The House with a Clock in Its Walls. Starring Jack Black, plays once in the movie and once in the credits scene.

Selective list of recorded versionsEdit

Year Artist Release Notes
1956 Little Richard (single)
1956 Pat Boone[17]
1956 Elvis Presley[17]
1956 Eddie Cochran[17] Never to Be Forgotten Recorded in May or June 1956, posthumously released in 1962
1958 Wanda Jackson[17] (single b/w "Party")[18]
1961 Buzz Clifford Baby Sittin' with Buzz Clifford[19]
1962 The Rivingtons Doin' the Bird[20] One of two Little Richard remakes on this debut Liberty album.
1963 Gene Vincent and His Blue Caps[17]
1964 The Kinks[17] (single) Their first single, produced by Shel Talmy
1964 The Beatles Long Tall Sally (EP) Released again in 1988 on the Past Masters compilation
1964 The Swinging Blue Jeans Blue Jeans a'Swinging One of two Little Richard remakes on this debut HMV album.
1965 Sam The Sham And The Pharaohs Wooly Bully Their first MGM release.
1971 Cactus One Way...Or Another Their second Atco release.
1973 Elvis Presley Aloha From Hawaii First ever satellite worldwide telecast concert
1977 James Booker Manchester '77 Recorded as part of a medley with "Rip It Up" in October 1977, posthumously released in 2007
1978 Scorpions Tokyo Tapes
1981 Molly Hatchet Take No Prisoners


  1. ^ a b "Long Tall Sally". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on October 2, 2007. Retrieved November 25, 2006.
  2. ^ "Little Richard". Kolumbus.fi. Retrieved August 21, 2011.
  3. ^ "The RS 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on April 16, 2007. Retrieved June 2, 2007.
  4. ^ a b Gillett, Charlie (1996). The Sound of the City: The Rise of Rock and Roll ((2nd Ed.) ed.). New York, N.Y.: Da Capo Press. p. 26. ISBN 0-306-80683-5.
  5. ^ "The Beatles - Long Tall Sally". Jpgr.co.uk. Retrieved August 21, 2011.
  6. ^ "Top 100 Songs of 1956 - Billboard Year End Charts". Retrieved January 7, 2019.
  7. ^ "All US Top 40 Singles for 1956". Top40Weekly.com. Retrieved January 7, 2019.
  8. ^ White, Charles (2003). The Life and Times of Little Richard. The Authorised Biography. London: Omnibus Press. pp. 60–62. ISBN 0-711997616.
  9. ^ Shaw, Arnold (1978). Honkers and Shouters. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company. pp. 189–193. ISBN 0-02-061740-2.
  10. ^ a b c MacDonald, Ian (2008). Revolution in the Head: The Beatles' Records and the Sixties (3rd revised ed.). London: Vintage. p. 112. ISBN 9780099526797.
  11. ^ "Swedish Charts 1962–March 1966/Kvällstoppen – Listresultaten vecka för vecka > Juli 1964" (PDF) (in Swedish). hitsallertijden.nl. Retrieved June 27, 2018.
  12. ^ "Beatles Musical "Backbeat" Opening In L.A. Before Broadway Run". Archived from the original on March 5, 2016. Retrieved December 22, 2017.
  13. ^ Lewisohn, Mark (1996). The Complete Beatles Chronicle. London: Chancellor Press. p. 356. ISBN 1851529756.
  14. ^ Lewisohn, Mark (1996). The Complete Beatles Chronicle. London: Chancellor Press. p. 230. ISBN 1851529756.
  15. ^ Zielinski, Peter James (April 12, 2010). "Photo Coverage: Million Dollar Quartet Opens on Broadway". broadwayworld.com.
  16. ^ MDQ Merchandising LLC (2010). “Song List” and “Performing Credits”. In Million Dollar Quartet (p. 5) [CD booklet]. New York City: Avatar Studios; and Chicago: Chicago Recording Company.
  17. ^ a b c d e f Birnbaum, Larry (2013). Before Elvis: The Prehistory of Rock 'n' Roll. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 335. ISBN 9780810886384.
  18. ^ "Italian Newsnotes", Billboard, page 11, August 1, 1960
  19. ^ Buzz Clifford, Baby Sittin' with Buzz Clifford Retrieved January 21, 2016.
  20. ^ "The Rivingtons - Doin' The Bird". Discogs.com. November 5, 2015. Retrieved November 9, 2015.

External linksEdit