The Unparelled Sister Rosetta Tharpe

Posted in Sister Rosetta Tharpe on September 23rd, 2012 by Willie

For those who have never heard of, or seen Sister Rosetta Tharpe, welcome to your baptism by fire. Sister Rosetta Tharpe is the first superstar of gospel, known as “the original soul sister,” and ever since her life was tragically cut short at the too young age of 58, her feats and persona have never been topped, let alone repeated. Rosetta was a landmark figure in the history of gospel, blues, and popular music, as she was the first person to dare and combine secular music styles of rhythm and blues with gospel music and lyrics. She was a mean guitar player too, one of the most overlooked pioneers of rock guitar, peeling off dozens of incredible Chuck Berry like licks before there was a Chuck Berry. Her influence was powerful, extending to legends like Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Little Richard. For Little Richard, who is often referred to as the Father of Rock and Roll, Sister Rosetta was a childhood favorite. He saw her perform at the Macon City Auditorium in 1945, and the 15 year old Little Richard was lucky enough to be invited on stage to sing with her. According to legend, she paid him after the show. Johnny Cash also identified Rosetta as his favorite singer, and made a point of mentioning her as a childhood favorite in his Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction speech. For all her acclaim an notoriety, she died in obscurity, and was buried in an unmarked grave in Northwood Cemetery in Philadelphia. Her lost reputation was later rectified by people who never forgot her thunderous ability and unforgettable stage presence. Below I have a video of Rosetta performing “Didn’t it Rain,” and “Joshua.” I first heard “Didn’t it Rain” off the Bob Dylan radio show. The recorded version is a spectacular thing featuring dueling Rosetta vocal takes harmonizing and flying all over the place and just incredible guitar overdubs. The live version is understandably more raw, but just as good. I’ll let you judge for yourself.

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Carl Perkins and Friends, Rockabilly School

Posted in Carl Perkins, Eric Clapton, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Youtube Favs on June 22nd, 2011 by Willie

It’s a star studded part 97 on my youtube countdown, and the stakes are getting higher, and the stars are getting hotter as we close in on 100!  This time I have the undeniably fantastic performance of Carl Perkins and his super friends from the 1985 concert Blue Suede Shoes: A Rockabilly Session.  Get this.  It’s iconic 50s guitar master Carl Perkins leading Beatles George Harrison and Ringo Starr, psychedelic Cream guitarist Eric Clapton, Johnny Cash’s daughter Rosanne, Dave Edmunds, and a SLEW of other slick stars of rock and rockabilly through a medley of joyous numbers.  Carl calls it his rock school, and boy, he is the greatest headmaster ever.  The greatest thing about this jam is that everybody, especially George Harrison, is just beaming with enthusiasm and excitement as they rock and bash their way through “It’s Alright Mama,” “Blue Moon of Kentucky,” “Night Train to Memphis,” and “Whole Lotta Shakin Going On.”  It’s just about the greatest fun in rockabilly ever caught on film, and you’ll want to replay it over and over.  So don’t let me stop you now.  Go cat go!

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Willie Simpson, I Threw it All Away

Posted in Bob Dylan, Willie's Live Youtube Performances on April 16th, 2011 by Willie

This will be the last Dylan song I perform for a while.  In my experiments with recording myself for youtube this week, Bob just offered the perfect songs for me to play with.  This one, I Threw it All Away, from his Nashville Skyline record, I just couldn’t pass up.  It is one of my all time favorite songs of any artist.  It’s a golden flower of a song.  The words are perfect, etched in eternal ice with no superfluous imagery, and no sentiment anyone could possibly disagree with.  His melody and phrasing with the song are some of his best ever, driving his message strait to your soul.  It is worth checking out his performance of it on the Johnny Cash Show, which lucky for you I am posting, to of course foolishly shatter my own soft performance, but fuck it, lets just celebrate the song, and not me being a jackass.  Enjoy.


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