Ever wonder what's the big deal about Rosetta Tharpe?
Ever even heard of Rosetta Tharpe?
Don't let it get you down, few have.
Born Arkansas in 1914, Tharpe was the daughter of Katie Bell Nubin, a popular touring gospel singer of the time. Alleged to have “mastered’ the guitar by the age of six, she was certainly performing with her mother by that age, mastery or not, and continued to earn her living performing for the next 50-ish years.
She signed with Decca records in her early twenties and immediately began making hit Gospel records. She would later cross over from Billboard’s Gospel charts to the “Race” charts on several occasions, a feat that to my knowledge had never been accomplished before and rarely since.
If you like Gospel Music and the Blues, two things we clearly love around here, Sister Rosetta Tharpe is well worth looking into.
You can start here.
This performance was recorded in Manchester, England in 1964 as part of the American Folk Blues Festival recordings of the early 60s, which we keep encouraging people to go out and buy mostly because we just love it.
This is Sister Rosetta Tharpe on her 1963 Gibson SG Custom guitar, which I don't think anybody even bothered to plug in. I can't figure out anyone else in the band ... yet.
Conceived by German jazz publicist Joachim-Ernst Berendt, The American Folk Blues Festival was an annual fall tour of Europe by American blues musicians.
Jazz having become very popular in Europe, and with rock and roll just beginning to gain a foothold there, the fact that both genres drew influences from the blues caused Berendt to think that European audiences would jump at the chance to see live performances by American blues artists.
Promoters Horst Lippmann and Fritz Rau brought Berendt’s idea to fruition by entering into a relationship with the great Willie Dixon that would enable them to book the greatest and most influential of America’s blues musicians.
The first festival was held in 1962.
It continued mostly annually until 1972.
After an eight year hiatus it was revived in 1980 and ran until 1985.
During the course of these tours, Lippman and Rau were able to arrange very high quality, live in the studio performances by these great artists for German television.
One of which follows here.
Famed German poster artist Gunther Kieser did the poster art and show bills for the 1964 tour from which the following performance was taken.
Click on the poster to link up to Amazon’s offering of Reelin in the Years Productions’ DVD collection of these historic performances.
Here’s the great Chester Burnett, also know as Howlin' Wolf on vocals and accoustic guitar, the equally great Hubert Sumlin on the electric guitar, Sunnyland Slim on piano, along with Willie Dixon (who you never see) playing bass, with an introduction from what appears to be a fairly well buzzed Mae Mercer.
Shake for Me.
It seems we've just completed our second unpaid product endorsement.
Born Henry Roeland Byrd on December 19, 1980 in Bogalusa Louisiana, Professor Longhair began his show business career at age 11 as a medicine show shill on the streets of New Orleans.
He soon graduated to tap dancing for change.
Legend has it that he found a couple junked pianos sheltered from the rain in a back alley somewhere and started teaching himself how to play while working around the broken keys.
It is alleged that he picked up a lesson or two from Champion Jack Dupree in exchange for singing lessons.
Which is a hoot and a half in and of itself ..... you'll see.
Tuts Washington eventually took him on as a student and taught him the fundamentals of New Orleans Piano.
He began his professional career as a piano man at Caledonia's with the Midriffs, who quickly became Professor Longhair and His Four Hairs Combo.
That band recorded Longhair's only charted hit Baldhead, which reached #5 on Billboard's R&B chart in 1950.
Professor Longhair spent the 50's recording what they like to call in the music business, "Groundbreaking Records", while flat out inventing an easy dozen left hand patterns, turnarounds, rhythms, riffs, and walkups.
He wrote and recorded what has now become the Mardi Gras anthem, Mardi Gras in New Orleans.
While struggling to get paid for his music in New Orleans, he was influencing Rock and Roll musicians throughout the world, from the entirety of the Sun Records Company, to The Beatles, The Stones, and many who followed.
And then there's the piano players; he was and is a/the major influence on every New Orleans piano player, bar none.
It is my strongly held opinion that there is not one piano guy on this earth with an ounce of boogie in him that hasn't spent some hours with Tipitina.
Allen Toussaint dubbed him "The Bach of Rock"
Albert Goldman called him "The Satchel Paige of the Piano"
He spent the 60's working at odd jobs between local gigs; during one period, his health failing and too broke to get his piano fixed, he gave up on his music entirely taking a job sweeping floors and running errands at the One Stop record store on Rampart Street in New Orleans.
Having been "rediscovered" in the early 70s, both he and his piano were repaired and he obtained the first record contract of his life that paid, enabling him finally to earn a living from his music.
He passed in his sleep January 30, 1980.
In 1981 he was inducted into the "Blues Hall of Fame"
He received a posthumous Grammy in 1987 for a collection of his early recordings titled House Party New Orleans Style.
He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992.
From the PBS series Soundstage, who you would have thought could have got a better sound out of the vocal mic, backed by The Meters, here is one of the greatest and most influential musicians of the 20th Century regardless of genre,