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Everything About Ernestine Campbell, Little Richard’s Wife

This article unveils the off-stage life of Rock 'n' Roll pioneer Little Richard, focusing on his relationship with his wife, Ernestine Campbell, and the detailed story of their adopted son.
by Rob Gillham | Dec 27 2023
Credits: Briefly

American artist Little Richard carved a unique path in the world of rock music. His chart-topping hits—Tutti Frutti, Long Tall Sally, and Good Golly Miss Molly—catapulted him to fame in the mid-1950s.

Alongside him, his wife Ernestine Campbell attracted her own following. This is their shared journey.

Meet Ernestine Campbell: Partner and Muse of a Musical Legend

His captivating personal life matched Little Richard’s high-flying career. He married Ernestine Harvin, a woman he met at a religious rally in 1957.

Ernestine was a secretary from Washington DC at the time, and they married in 1959. While they didn’t have biological children, they did adopt a boy named Danny Jones Penniman.

Sadly, the couple divorced in 1964. Ernestine felt Richard’s fame made life hard, whereas Richard attributed it to his neglect and his own sexuality.

Both denied Richard’s subsequent claims of being gay. Richard argued they simply didn’t know because of his virility during their marriage.

After they separated, their son Danny stayed close to Richard, and he even worked as his bodyguard at times. Ernestine later remarried and became Mrs. Mcdonald Campbell. 

Little Richard’s Last Goodbye

The music world said goodbye to Little Richard on May 9, 2020, when he died at 87 due to bone cancer. 

Little Richard was laid to rest at Oakwood Memorial Gardens in Alabama, a touching tribute to his remarkable life and achievements.

Despite the desire for a grand sendoff, the COVID-19 pandemic forced us to do a private memorial. This fact let family and friends say their farewells but left fans worldwide unable to do the same.

Yet, the simplicity of the ceremony didn’t reduce the impact of Little Richard’s legacy on rock ‘n’ roll. His passing was felt deeply in the music world and beyond, honoring his extraordinary influence on popular culture.

From Richard Wayne to Little Richard

Born in 1932 as Richard Wayne Penniman, he was known to many as Little Richard. He belonged to a significant family of 11 children.

Music provided Richard a refuge from the trials he faced in his early days. His father was a brick mason and a church deacon and his mother was deeply religious and a dedicated member of the church, as well. 

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Take the plunge and go beyond the music surface of Little Richard to understand the man behind the rock ‘n’ roll icon.

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