Podcast #38: Sister Rosetta Tharpe

In Episode 38, we hear the sweet, sweet music of Sister Rosetta Tharpe, known as the godmother of rock’n’roll. 

DLS co-founder Florian Duijsens brings us the tale of this legendary guitarist and gospel singer who had a profound influence on musicians like Little Richard, Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, and Aretha Franklin. She took to the stage at the age of four, and never really left it. 
Sister Rosetta Tharpe made the first gospel record to hit the charts, played with Cab Calloway at the Cotton Club, attracted 25,000 paying customers to her third wedding, got in trouble with gospel purists and recorded a live album in Paris in 1964.

To start off the episode, Susan and Katy toast to the end of a strange year with the Dead Ladies Show signature tipple, affordable German bubbly Rotkäppchen (Red Riding Hood) and give thanks for the support we’ve had, and that yet to come. 

The presentation in this episode was recorded live with help from Brigitte Hamar at the Studiobühne der Universität Münster where we were invited by the Burg Hülshoff Center for Literature. Other talks from this event in German can be found in the Center’s Mediathek: https://www.burg-huelshoff.de/en/medien/mediathek/dead-ladies-show
Thanks also to Fiona, Kati, Tobias, Feline and Jörg for inviting and assisting us.
Here we are with our co-presenters Tarosh Kaha and Bernadette Hengst.

Show notes:

Here’s a headline on the big wedding
And the record made of it!
With her mother, Katie Bell Nubin
Playing at a secular venue…
…and in church.
Performing with Marie Knight…
…and signing in furs.
Having fun with some kids
Katie’s record
In later years
A late gravestone…
…and a late tribute
Sequinned and Gibsoned

Florian recommends two top resources: Gayle Wald’s biography Shout, Sister, Shout! and Mick Czasky’s film The Godmother or Rock’n’Roll.

AND! Check out Florian’s fabulous PLAYLIST for more sounds from Sister Rosetta Tharpe and the gang.

Our theme music is “Little Lily Swing” by Tri-Tachyon.
Thanks for listening! We’ll be back with a new episode next month. 

Don’t forget, we now have a Patreon! Please consider supporting our transcripts project and our ongoing work: www.patreon.com/deadladiesshowpodcast

If you’d prefer to make a one-time donation, here’s the link: paypal.me/dlspodcast

Dead Ladies Show #7

It’s practically summer! And to ring in this wonderfully sunny (and thunderstormy) season our very special literary cabaret is heading to Gay Paris – although not literally. Tuesday, 14 June, 8pm sees the seventh Dead Ladies Show at ACUD, featuring three fascinating women of yesteryear: Louise MichelDjuna Barnes, and Sister Rosetta Tharpe! From communard to bohemian writer to gospel legend, each of them rocked the city in their very own way.

As always, we will be celebrating them in German and English, with this edition’s presenters being author and journalist Jan Groh, translator Laura Radosh, and your co-host Florian Duijsens – all held together by Katy Derbyshire, of course.

By popular request we’ve moved upstairs to the ACUD Studio, where there’ll be a special drink available at the bar as ever. So whether you come say “Bonjour Paris” in your best Audrey Hepburn/Fred Astaire threads or pick a more down-and-out look, make sure you join us. It’s only €4 on the door – come on time to get the best seats!

p.s. Should you require a daily dose of dead-lady magic, check us out at @deadladiesshow.

LOUISE MICHEL (1830 – 1905) was an anarchist and animal lover, a feminist, a romantic, a passable writer and a teacher. Known as “the red she-wolf”, she was famed for attaching a protest poster to a policeman’s back and rescuing a cat from a hail of bullets mid-street battle. She fought for the Paris Commune and survived various prison sentences and exile in New Caledonia, where she became a fan of Kanak quarter-tone music. On her return to France she was lauded and lambasted as an agitator for freedom, equality and social justice. Her funeral drew a hundred thousand mourners onto the streets.

In 1912, DJUNA BARNES (1892 – 1982) walks into the Brooklyn Eagle office and declares: “I can write and I can draw and you’d be a fool not to hire me.” Thus began the literary career of the writer of one of *the* modern novels, Nightwood. From an unhappy childhood in a highly unconventional dysfunctional family, via the 1930s Parisian lesbian literary bohème, to a misanthropic recluse in the West Village, Djuna Barnes’ life was certainly never dull. Plus she was one of the only people in the famous circles she moved in who actually had to earn a living as a writer, illustrator, first-wave feminist, bisexual, and alcoholic.

Called the godmother of rock ‘n’ roll, SISTER ROSETTA THARPE (1915 – 1973) was a guitarist and gospel singer with a profound influence on musicians like Little Richard, Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, and Aretha Franklin. She took to the stage at the age of four and never really left it. Sister Rosetta Tharpe made the first gospel record to hit the charts, played with Cab Calloway at the Cotton Club, attracted 25,000 paying customers to her third wedding, got in trouble with gospel purists and recorded a live album in Paris in 1964. “With a Gibson SG in her hands, Sister Rosetta could raise the dead. And that was before she started to sing.”