I Don’t Know What You’ve Got But It’s Got Me (Part 2) by Little Richard: Great B-Sides

Little Richard emerged in the first wave of rock and roll in the 1950s, with hits like ‘Tutti Frutti’ and ‘Long Tall Sally’. He and his contemporaries lost steam by the late 1950s; Elvis joined the army, Buddy Holly perished in a plane crash, while Jerry Lee Lewis’s career faltered after he married his 13-year-old cousin. Little Richard quit the music business, studied theology, and formed the Little Richard Evangelistic Team in 1958.

In the early 1960s, Little Richard released some gospel singles, and eventually toured and recorded more secular music. By the mid-1960s he had been pushed to the side of the mainstream by emerging new artists but was still touring with a band that included organist Billy Preston and a young Jimi Hendrix. Hendrix was only in Little Richard’s band for a few months – his stage antics, like playing the guitar with his teeth, hogged the limelight and he was fired – but he stuck around long enough to record the single ‘I Don’t Know What You’ve Got But It’s Got Me’.

The non-album single, with Part 1 on the a-side and Part 2 on the b-side, shows a different side to Little Richard. It’s a slow-burning soul number, written by Don Covay, that showcases Little Richard’s vocal chops. While Little Richard’s best known for his upbeat rock and roll songs, he could have made it as a soul balladeer, like Otis Redding or Sam Cooke. It’s fun to hear Hendrix and Preston before they made it big, and the soul ballad context is also unusual for Hendrix.

‘I Don’t Know What You’ve Got But It’s Got Me’ missed the pop charts, but deservedly reached #12 on the R&B charts.

Speaking of little Richards, there was an amazing news story in New Zealand this week. A community volunteer in the Tararua district cut a phallus from a Maori carving, recently installed on the Manawatu Gorge Reserve walking track. He initially used a handsaw but had to return with a mini-chainsaw to complete the job.

He clearly viewed himself as a moral watchdog, but his action was condemned by Maori – removing the phallus is a “symbolic neutering” of the Iwi.

The incident smacks of 19th-century cultural imperialism, but there’s comedic gold given that the incident took place near the town of Woodville, where the perpetrator owns an organ museum.

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  1. I’m happy you picked a ballad by him. You are right…he is known for his rocking songs…and there is nothing wrong with that but he could sing about anything. I always thought he could have made it in any era.

    Ok…just looked up the guy that…ah… neutered the statue doing an interview…he is not apologetic whatsoever. The rest is priceless.

    • To be honest, I didn’t know this song at all – I was trying to find a b-side that segued into the news story. But really glad I heard it – I didn’t know about Preston and Hendrix playing with him either, although I knew Hendrix was a gun for hire before he was famous.

      • Hendrix also played for The Isley Brothers… Yes Hendrix and Little Richard on the same stage… That wouldn’t last long. I didn’t know they recorded anything together though. Good sounding song and you have a point…he could have went in the Otis Redding direction.

        I like those clips of Little Richard in the early seventies touring Europe. He had great bands.

  2. Little Richard is one of those ‘one of a kind’ talents, eh? I’m not too familiar with much of his stuff and I haven’t ever heard this, but I’m always impressed by his performance and vocal. This being no different.

  3. I love the double entendrés. I sincerely hope this community volunteer – I’m assuming he’s an orthodox Christian – never visits Paris, France or Florence, Italy. Maybe Caucasian genitalia is acceptable, though.

    I knew Hendrix toured with Little Richard, but didn’t know he also recorded with him. And Billy Preston was everywhere, wasn’t he? Arthur Lee, The Beatles, Little Richard. You’re right, this song sounds a lot like Otis Redding.

    • I think his argument is that the nudity on those European things is OK because it’s inside museums.

      I knew Hendrix did stuff like The Isley Brothers and jamming with Randy California, but didn’t know about Little Richard. And didn’t know Billy Preston’s mid 1960s stuff at all.

      • Ahh. Inside a museum is acceptable. Good to have morality police like him determining these things for us. 🙂

        Preston was from L.A. and a school chum of Arthur Lee and Johnny Echols, who founded the band Love, one of my favorites.

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