Angus Young, co-founder of AC/DC, has always embodied the essence of pure, unadulterated rock and roll. From the outset, he and his brother Malcolm were dedicated to forging music that electrified listeners with its raw, powerful guitar riffs. Despite AC/DC being a hardcore rock and roll band, Angus regards this music icon as epitomizing the pinnacle of rock music.
In the formative Bronze Age of rock, the Young brothers embarked on their musical odyssey in Australia, building on a foundation laid by pioneers like Chuck Berry. Berry’s initial reliance on the classic I-IV-V blues progression evolved as he infused his music with relatable narratives about school life and the exhilaration of guitar playing, capturing hearts worldwide. His influence extended to legends like John Lennon, but it was Little Richard’s arrival that introduced audiences to something exhilaratingly wild.
Little Richard, renowned for his dynamic stage presence even with limited piano use, dazzled audiences with his flamboyant attire, impassioned singing, and a voice that strained with intensity in each performance. His powerful, impactful sound would later influence countless hard rock vocalists.
Angus Young, while incorporating Chuck Berry’s famous ‘duckwalk’ into his shows, always held Little Richard in high esteem as a rock music luminary. Speaking to Forbes, Young expressed his admiration for Little Richard’s energy and punchy songs, viewing him as a source of enduring rock and roll inspiration.
AC/DC’s musical style, particularly influenced by Little Richard, saw the band regarding him as an unofficial mentor. The raspy, raw vocal style adopted by AC/DC’s Bon Scott and Brian Johnson, reminiscent of songs like ‘Tutti Frutti’ and ‘Good Golly Miss Molly’, was directly inspired by Richard’s approach.
Young acknowledged Little Richard’s influence on both Bon Scott and Brian Johnson in a Rolling Stone interview. He recounted Scott’s admiration for Little Richard as a rock and roll singer and an anecdote about Brian Johnson passionately performing a Little Richard song, highlighting the lasting impact on AC/DC’s vocal style.
Both Little Richard and AC/DC are celebrated for their straightforward, fast-paced chord progressions, eschewing complex musical techniques in favor of creating an animated, vibrant musical and performance atmosphere. Angus Young’s own magnetic stage presence was in part a reflection of Little Richard’s iconic style, embodying the spirit of rock and roll.