Sister Rosetta Tharpe
Sister Rosetta was the first guitar heroine of rock & roll.
Her heartfelt gospel folksiness gave way to her roaring mastery of her trusty Gibson SG, which she wielded on a level that rivaled the best of her male contemporaries.
Sister Rosetta Tharpe is one of the essential figures in the history of rock and roll.
If she had not been there as a model and inspiration, Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and other rock originators would have had different careers. No one deserves more to be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Sister Rosetta became famous in 1938 with a record called “Rock Me.” She was a star through the 1940’s, a black woman singing gospel music to the accompaniment of her own driving electric guitar – howling and stamping. Her 1945 recording “Strange Things Happening Every Day” has been credited as the first gospel song to cross over to the “race” (later called “R&B”) charts – reaching Number Two and becoming an early model for rock and roll.
She was a sensation, selling out arenas into the 1950’s. In 1947, Sister Rosetta was the first person to put a 14-year-old boy named Little Richard Penniman on a stage. It changed Little Richard’s life – he decided right then to become a performer.
In 1951, twenty-five thousand fans paid to attend her on-stage wedding at Griffith Stadium in Washington DC. She was the hottest act on stage with a guitar. She became a model for Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis. Johnny Cash called her his favorite singer and biggest inspiration.
By the early Sixties the musical revolution she inspired had forgotten her – so Sister Rosetta went to England and played electric guitar for the young blues fans of London and Liverpool. Without Sister Rosetta Tharpe, rock and roll would be a different music. She is the founding mother who gave rock’s founding fathers the idea.
“Rock Me,” “That’s All,” “The Lonesome Road” • (1938) “Shout, Sister, Shout!” • (1942) “Strange Things Happening Every Day” (1945) • “Nobody’s Fault But Mine” (1949) • Gospel Train (1956) • Sister On Tour (1961)