Famous Arkansan: Sister Rosetta Tharpe

Several well-known people have roots in Arkansas. The list
runs the gamut from Johnny Cash to Jermain Taylor. Check here every Monday as
we highlight a new Famous Arkansan each week. Today, Meet Sister Rosetta Tharpe

Zoie Clift


Born Rosetta Nubin in Cotton
Plant around 1915, Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s early training was in religious
music. Her mother, Kate Bell “Mother Bell” Nubin was a traveling missionary and
“gospel shouter .”
Rosetta developed a unique vocal and guitar style
that caught the attention of Decca Records who signed her in 1938. She was an
overnight sensation and is considered by many to be gospel music’s first
superstar. Her recordings were the first gospel recordings to top the charts. She
was an especially strong guitarist who incorporated instrumental techniques
borrowed from jazz and blues.
Also a crossover performer, she influenced
numerous rock musicians such as Bob Dylan, Little Richard, Elvis Presley and
fellow Arkansan Johnny Cash. She appeared with such legendary performers as Cab
Calloway, Benny Goodman, Louis Jordan and took the stage at the Cotton Club and
Café Society. Shortly after the death of Johnny Cash in
2003,  Larry King asked his
daughter who her father’s favorite singer was. The answer was Sister
Rosetta Tharpe.  Her biography, by George Washington University scholar Gayle
Wald, is Shout, Sister, Shout: The Untold Story of Rock-and-Roll
Trailblazer Sister Rosetta Tharpe
. Tharpe passed away in 1973 and in 2007 was
inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame. 

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