Sister Rosetta Tharpe: From Spirituals To Swing

Sister Rosetta Tharpe was considered one of the pioneers of early rock and roll music.

One of the great heroes of early rock and roll, Gospel, blues and swing was Sister Rosetta Tharpe. She rose to fame as one of the most popular Gospel singers of her time and it turned out she was just as famous for playing the electric guitar in after hours clubs as well. She managed to merge two forms of music that probably couldn’t have been considered further apart on the music spectrum at that time. Because of this unique mash up, she blossomed with audiences all around the country and should be considered a pioneer of rock and roll. Plus she was a great guitarist too, so who better to talk about here at Mike’s Guitar Talk? I found an article sharing a bit of history about Sister Rosetta Tharpe that I’m happy to share, which also includes a great Gospel performance with a full choir. Then I also came across a live recording from her show with Albert Ammons at Carnegie Hall called “From Spirituals to Swing,” in 1938. I really hope you enjoy all this stuff as much as I did!

Here’s a bit of the article I came across from Newsworks online that features some of her history and a some great music. See the full article now at

By the time Tharpe moved to Philadelphia in 1962, she was one of the most famous gospel singers in the country. She had an extraordinary presence, says Ira Tucker Jr. Tharpe played with Tucker’s father,  founder of the gospel group the Dixie Hummingbirds.

“She was a wonderful person, she was an artist,” Tucker said. “She reminds me of what Lady Gaga is today. That’s what she was  in gospel music. When I see pictures of Rosetta, today, I see the color of  hair, the orange the fiery red, the blond. She was quite an entertainer and quite a personality. She was very high key and a lot of up energy.”

Sister Rosetta Tharpe must have enjoyed playing in the after hours clubs as much as she did in in Gospel music. Here’s a live recording from her performance at Carnegie Hall with Albert Ammons at

I hope you enjoyed listening to all this great stuff from Sister Rosetta Tharpe. She was one of the great pioneers of early rock and roll music and one of the most popular Gospel performers of her time. Subscribe now to Mike’s Guitar Talk to hear about other great guitarists who have taken the stage in music history.

Thanks and stay tuned for more!


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