Little Richard on Drugs: 'They Shoulda Called Me Little Cocaine'

Little Richard 1932-2020 (image via Film Magic)

The back-to-back Little Richard documentaries – PBS' Little Richard: The King and Queen of Rock & Roll (2022) and Lisa Cortes' Little Richard: I Am Everything (2023) – confirm the singer's place in the creation of rock & roll in the '50s with a major focus on his gayness. But not much is said about Richard's prodigious drug use.

In this famous clip from 1981, the singer revealed:

"I started with a little bit of marijuana. Somebody said, 'Try it, you'll like it, a little dab will do it.' I got my dab. I went from marijuana to angel dust, and boy I want to tell you the angels had nothing to do with that dust. I smoked that angel dust and it had me paranoid. It had me hallucinating. I went from angel dust to all types of pills. And I started drinking, all kinds of liquors. Then I went into cocaine. I used to take so much cocaine, my nose was big enough to park diesel trucks in."

In a 1979 article, People reported:

He dropped acid, chipped heroin and took pep pills and angel dust (“Man, they think they just discovered that stuff, but it ain’t nothing but elephant tranquilizer and it’s been around for years”). “I was also blowing about $1,000 of cocaine a day,” he recalls. “Every time I blew my nose, there was flesh and blood on my handkerchief, where it had eaten out my membranes.”

On the date of his death in 2020, Rolling Stone published an article quoting Richard saying:

• "All I was interested in was getting high. I'd be riding all over the city of Los Angeles looking for cocaine. I just had to be froze. They shoulda called me Little Cocaine, was sniffing so much of the stuff."

• "A habit like mine cost a lot of money. I was smoking marijuana and angel dust, and I was mixing heroin with coke. It was costing me about $1,000 a day – and there was always trouble with the dealers. I became very nasty, which I never used to be. Cocaine made me paranoid. It made me think evil. The drugs brought me to realize what homosexuality had made me. When I felt that, I wanted to hurt. I wanted to kill. I wanted to fight those boys who didn't want to do what I wanted them to do."

"I just had to be froze. They shoulda called me Little Cocaine."

Richard was eventually able to kick drugs with the help of religion. 

Watch I Am Everything via numerous outlets and The King and Queen on PBS.


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Steve Bloom

Steve Bloom

Publisher of, former editor of High Times and Freedom Leaf and co-author of Pot Culture and Reefer Movie Madness.