Sister Rosetta Tharpe: electric guitar trailblazer

Sister Rosetta Tharpe (public domain).

Keith Richards and Eric Clapton worshipped her solos, and Elvis idolized her sound. Denny Ilett profiles the great Sister Rosette Tharpe for Guitarist.

Excerpt: Tharpe joined Lucky Millinder’s orchestra for her first recordings at the end of October 1938 waxing four sides for Decca. That’s All and My Man And I feature just Tharpe’s voice and Delta-infused National guitar. Sounding for all the world like a female Robert Johnson, Rosetta’s sparkling voice soared over her accompaniment, demonstrating her mastery of the country blues style perfectly.

The Lonesome Road – an evergreen jazz standard with a gospel-leaning lyric later recorded by the likes of Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole – sees Rosetta performing solely as vocalist, her church-influenced yet blues-drenched voice perfect for this material.

It’s with Rock Me, however, that we hear Tharpe’s electric guitar for the first time and, significantly, this is the very record that had such a profound influence on future rock ’n’ rollers such as Elvis, Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis.

The entire Guitarist article can be read HERE.

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