The Woman Who Invented Rock & Roll Played a Guitar Made in Kalamazoo
Playing a Gibson guitar made in Kalamazoo, Sister Rosetta Tharpe shaped the history of music. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame calls her "one of the essential figures in the history of rock and roll," and will induct her with the Class of 2018.
Kalamazoo has a rich musical heritage with the Gibson factory making noise by manufacturing mandolins in the late 1800's and adapting to the changing styles with banjos, ukuleles, and the guitar becoming more popular by the 1920s. The downtown plant would continue churning out axes until closing in 1984.
Fast-forward to 2017 when it is announced that Sister Rosetta Tharpe will be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Who?
Sister Rosetta Tharpe is one of the essential figures in the history of rock and roll.
If she had not been there as a model and inspiration, Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and other rock originators would have had different careers. No one deserves more to be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Sister Rosetta became famous in 1938 with a record called “Rock Me.” She was a star through the 1940’s, a black woman singing gospel music to the accompaniment of her own driving electric guitar – howling and stamping. Her 1945 recording “Strange Things Happening Every Day” has been credited as the first gospel song to cross over to the “race” (later called “R&B”) charts – reaching Number Two and becoming an early model for rock and roll.
This woman made her mark before the men we recognize as the pioneers and architects of rock & roll. In fact, she was the first to put Little Richard on a stage and gave the 14-year-old a dream. She did it all playing her made-in-Kalamazoo Gibson guitar like nobody had before.