Area resident saddened by death of rock and roll icon
One area resident found out about the death of Little Richard in a different way than most of us — from someone who used to play guitar for the rock and roll icon.
Madison “Redd Dawg” Bradley II of Granbury worked in the music industry for about 11 years, primarily as a roadie in Florida and Georgia.
After Richard Wayne Penniman — known as Little Richard, one of the founders of rock and roll — died at age 87, Bradley received the news in a Facebook message from an old friend. The note was sent by Kelvin Holly, who had played guitar for Little Richard for 22 years.
“I damn near cried,” Bradley, 74, said of the moment he learned of Richard’s death.
As a music lover who grew up listening to old-time gospel in Tennessee, Bradley grew to love little Richard’s high-energy rock music when he was at the pinnacle of his success in the late 1950s.
“I heard him on the radio … him, Ray Charles, Odis Redding before he ever got big. My life was this; when I was born, I was born into music.”
ON THE RADIO
Bradley said he was “entranced” by music, recalling his days as a child listening to his older sister play the piano.
“When I was born up in the hills of Tennessee, we didn’t have no TV,” he explained. “Only thing we could get was the Grand Ole Opry.
“And on radio, that’s where my uncles, both of them, were radio evangelists. And my two brothers, Paul and James, they played on KNOX (radio station) in Knoxville, Tennessee, they played with Lowell Blanchard (Hour).
“At that time, I liked real good gospel. Oh man, I mean I’d sing it … a little bitty tyke with bright red hair, freckled face, and my sister was on the piano.”
His recalled the first time he got to see Little Richard perform in concert, when he and three others traveled to Tampa, Florida, to see a show.
Upon arrival, they learned that, “we were the only whites in the building,” — but he indicated they fit right in with the other music lovers. “Them ladies, they put us up front where we could see it. They had Jackie Wilson, James Brown and the Famous Flames, Little Richard … I can’t remember all of them.”
Bradley’s emotional reaction to Richard’s passing hit him not just because of his love of the music. Although Bradley didn’t work as a roadie for Little Richard, he did get to see him perform and even met on several occasions.
“I couldn’t really say how many. Several times,” Bradley said. “And he was always just the nicest person. When I first met him was in Macon Georgia, on Cotton Avenue whenever I was up on Second Street and working for a used car dealer. He came in down there. But I knew who he was. I had just started to work selling used cars. It was when he was trying to preach.”
They later stopped to talk to each other in 1966 on a sidewalk in front of a restaurant, as Little Richard recognized Bradley and his distinctive red hair and freckled face.
“How are you gonna forget me … when I’m red-haired and freckle-faced and got a big mouth? He hugged me and all that stuff,” Bradley said of that encounter. “He was always real friendly whenever I was around him. I wasn’t around him that much, but what little I was, I respected him with the utmost.
“He was trying to save me. He was in that era, to where he didn’t know whether he wanted to be a musician, (or) a preacher.
“I told him I loved his music. He put his hand on my shoulder.”
Bradley said that the next time he saw him was when he was on a concert bill that included a band called Cowboy opening up, followed by the Allman Brothers, then Richard. He couldn’t recall the exact year, but it was likely the late 1960s.
Bradley said he encountered Little Richard “at least half dozen or so times in person and talked to him. He was very private in the earlier days, but not with his band. He was really a good person.
“And the things that he did, he was an icon. And if it hadn’t have been for Little Richard, there would have been no rock and roll.”
Then they stopped to talk to each other in 1966 on a sidewalk in Macon in 1966, Little Richard recognized Bradley and his distinctive red hair and freckled face.
“The last time I talked to him was over here in Dallas,” Bradley said. “I was living here (in Granbury). It was in 97, 98.”
Bradley packed a lifetime of musical memories in his 11-year span working as a roadie for a number of talented musical acts that included Gregg Allman, the Marshall Tucker Band, Wet Willie, the Amazing Rhythm Aces, Bonnie Bramlett, the Kentucky Headhunters, Rusty Weir, Cowboy, and Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Delbert McClinton of Fort Worth.
He also performed other tasks along the way, whenever needed. He said he once drove a drunken Joe Cocker to the airport, but didn’t particularly enjoy that meeting.
More recently, Bradley jumped at the chance to work as a roadie on the Rolling Stones crew when they played in Tampa and Miami (in November of 1994) during their Voodoo Lounge tour.
His experiences also led to meeting celebrities such as John Belushi, Linda Evans, Martin Mull, Ali McGraw and Kate Jackson.
When asked about losing his freckles while traveling in the fast lane, Bradley responded, “Yeah, (I) run too fast through life and they jumped off.”