Little Richard & His Saxophonist Grady Gaines

I sometimes get asked by my friends why I like the rock ‘n roll of the 50s so much. The answer is very simple: The saxophone played such a dominant role in those bands, that I’m automatically drawn to the music like that of no other decade. (Well perhaps the 80s, but that’s a whole other story…) ;)

One of the artists whose music I absolutely love is Little Richard. He was a true pioneer of rock ‘n roll. He of course used a horn section, and featured saxophone solos in many of his greatest hits.

One such hit was Keep On Knockin’, which featured the saxophone stylings of: Grady Gaines—who also did all the solo work—Clifford Burks, and Wilbert Smith AKA Lee Diamond.

Grady Gaines hails from Houston Texas, and when he met Richard Penniman, the two started recording together. Penniman would later become Little Richard, and ask Gaines to lead the Upsetters.

According to John Laughter and Steve D. Marshall:

They recorded many classics such as “Long Tall Sally,” “Send Me Some Lovin’,” and “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” and Grady appeared in three movies with Richard: Don’t Knock the Rock and The Girl Can’t Help It (both 1956) and Mister Rock and Roll (1957).

Source: The History Of Top 40 Saxophone Solos 1955 – 2005

Laughter and Marshal go on to say:

In the early years of rock ‘n’ roll, some songs and bands caused more alarm than others when the adult generation stood by and watched teens dance to the beat. “Keep a Knockin’” was one of those sounds that could get the teens very excited. Listen to the power and energy in Gaines’ solo on top of the band that had the perfect name, the Upsetters.

Source: The History Of Top 40 Saxophone Solos 1955 – 2005
…this is just my blog. My “real” website is If you’re looking for sax info, you should check it out too.There’s lots there!

© 2011, Helen. All rights reserved.


Helen Kahlke is a professional horn player and sax teacher who lives in Abbotsford, British Columbia. She plays soprano, alto, C melody, tenor, baritone, and bass saxophones.


  1. Hi,

    Would you mind sending me “The History of Top 40 Saxophone Solos-1955-2015” to email?

    Thank you

    • I’m sorry, it is not mine to give out. John Laughter worked very hard to create the list and keep it current—as a matter of fact, I don’t even have a current one myself.

      I recommend you contact John and ask for it through him. I suggest you reach out to him through Facebook via the Messenger app.

      As a matter of fact, I just checked, and he has a Facebook page set up dedicated to the document.

  2. Hey Helen. Hope all is well with you. We now have “The History of Top 40 Saxophone Solos-1955-2015” in PDF format for emailing. It is free to anyone who would like a copy. I also have a Facebook site set up with the same title (see below). Just send your email address to me and I will forward a copy of the PDF file which is over 500 pages.

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