Guitar Hero

Only in a society handicapped by racism and misogyny could someone like Elvis wind up being a bigger and better-remembered star than Sister Rosetta Tharpe, whose birthday is today.

She was born in Cotton Plant Arkansas. They say her father could sing and her mother was a musician and preacher. The apple didn’t fall far from the tree and she was wowing them as a prodigy in Chicago by the time she was ten.

All that talent, stage time and encouragement led to something truly wonderful. Tharpe had dominating stage presence and ample skill. The voice and the phrasing catch you right away, but note the guitar solo here – she has serious chops.

Oddly, Tharpe is not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, though many who were inspired by her, including Johnny Cash, are.

But when I hear Sister Rosetta Tharpe sing and play the guitar and read about her precocious youth, it suddenly becomes easier to believe that certain people are put on Earth to do a particular thing, and when opportunity and talent align, it’s a sight (and sound) to behold.

What were you good at when you were very young?

93 thoughts on “Guitar Hero”

  1. If you were in Los Angeles in the 50s and early 60, you listened to Hunter Hancock on AM radio. He was a white disk jockey who played black RB and RR. He also played Rosetta Thorpe. Music was segregated in those days, so you had to know where on the radio dial these weak signal stations lay, often hidden by static. For some reason, Hunter’s show came through loud and clear at Will Rogers state beach. I think know often of those long, lazy summer’s days, of my often blissful, clueless adolescence, and I thank Hunter Hancock for his pioneering spirit in bringing Rosetta Tharpe, Chuck Berry, Johnny Otis, The Penguins, The Crows and oh so many others to those of us who longed for something that spoke to our souls.

    Thanks, Dale, for reminding me.

    Liked by 5 people

  2. Good morning. When was a kid I was very interested the small creatures that live in pond water. I had jars in the windows of my bed room filled with pond water containing snails, aquatic insects, aquatic worms, hydra, and small crustaceans.

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  3. I was good a riding bike, playing with friends, combing my hair so it went real high and listeing to one of those little transistor radios made in japan. playing ball in the neighborhood, getting homework done fast so I could go out and looking forward to tomorrow.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Jump rope. I could do forwards and backwards spinning, cross overs, double-dutch. I also played a mean game of hopscotch and made awesome mud pies (the leaves off the spirea or the honeysuckle added the extra bit of texture needed).

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I was good at reading. I learned to read before and during kindergarten. When I got to first grade, they figured I would have wasted much of my time in first-grade reading, so I got promoted to second grade after about a month. After that, I wasn’t good at much, especially sports-wise because I competed against kids a year older than me all the time.

    Chris in Owatonna

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    1. they forget about the life part of the equation at that age. it may have been a blessing to have sports sart out with two strikes against you. it kind of prepares you for the real deal.
      with your picture I will now know when you ad I are in the same clubhouse during a rainstorm. did you see what happened to meadowbrook after the floods this last year.. it almost killed them.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, I heard about the Mpls. courses taking a hit last year. haven’t been past Meadowbrook in ages, but my sister lives near Hiawatha and I go past there once in a while. Looked pretty punky last fall.

        C in O

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    2. Our local library encouraged reading during the summer by building a castle with various colored (bronze, silver, gold) knights. The more books you read, the better quality color of knight you received and the farther you advanced to the highest turret of the castle.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. I was good at what we called Indian wrestling, where you and your opponent lie on the ground, your feet at your opponents head, and see who can flip the other by wrapping your leg around their leg.

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      1. Yes. Heads in opposite directions. You raised your leg that was next to your opponent, who did the same , and at the count of three you hooked your raised leg around the opponent’s raised leg and tried to flip them over before they flipped you over.

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    1. When I was in high school, Renee, there was a surge of interest in arm wrestling. All the jocks were going around testing each other to see who could “pin” the arm of the others. Then, just as a sort of joke, Margie asked to have a contest with one of the guys. Margie was a beautiful girl, tall and willowy, a girl who would always be nominated for Homecoming Queen and similar things. You’ve guessed already: Margie pinned the first guy she went against. Suddenly all the jocks were nervously lining up to go against Margie and her delicate, thin arms. Guy after guy went down in defeat. I think one of the big football players finally bested Margie, but by that time her dominance had already become a legend.

      Liked by 4 people

    1. you might see if the tunes are still in her head. I saw a thing on how alzheimers folks remember the words to all the songs and it feels so good to be able to plug into those memories for them.

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        1. One thing that stayed with my dad until his last days was music. He could play songs on the piano when he was at a stage that he couldn’t remember that my brother and I didn’t live at home anymore. When he went into the hospital for the last time, he sang “You Are My Sunshine” to Darling Daughter – I think because that was one thing he could give her to show his love. Hymn tunes were really well and stuck – my mom was able to pick out specific hymns that he sang and hummed while he was in hospice. My last memory of him was of him lying in his hospice bed, appearing to be unaware of the world around him, but his fingers were running along the bedspread like he was playing the piano. The irony was that for years he had volunteered at a nursing home and played piano for the “old folks” (some of whom were younger than him) and he commented often about the ones who seemed “out of it” but would start singing when he played. Music really does stay in the muscle memory in wonderful and magical ways.

          Liked by 5 people

    2. I had a strange singing experience yesterday, BiR. I went to this big room to apply for my Oregon driver’s license. There was a cheerful guy, a sort of greeter. When he heard I was from MN he got excited. “Sing the Minnesota song!” he cried. So there I was, surrounded by startled strangers, singing, “Minnesota, hat’s off to thee! To your colors I will loyal be!!” It is a strange and terrible thing whenever I sing. And when I sing the Minnesota song in an Oregon bureaucracy, things have gotten more than normally weird!

      Liked by 3 people

  7. I was a dreamy kid, a kid given to vivid daydreams. I thought of that as my secret shame, the secret I had to keep from the rest of the world. All that daydreaming was just an early version of storytelling, which seems to be the thing I was put on earth to do.

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    1. I had ongoing stories in my head, too, stories that evolved over time, that I would replay over and over with variations, and that I wouldn’t have told anyone about, ever. I often used plots I saw in movies or read in books and put myself in the daydream versions.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. I was good at reading, not so good that I was promoted to the next grade, but enough that I was bored out of my skull reading those stupid books they had us reading in 1st grade. Once I read ahead and found out the last chapter’s new word was IT. I was disgusted that such a simple, easy word was introduced in the last chapter. For some reason, the teacher found out that I already KNEW this new word and gushed about it. I was sooo embarrassed that she made such a big deal out of such a small word. Also very confused: why did she act as if I had figured out a really hard word, when it was actually one of the easiest words in the english language? still trying to figure that one out.

    Other than that – no talents other than wandering around the woods and fields by myself or with my friend; climbing trees; and annoying people. I am still good at that last one, although I try to restrain it to only making smart-aleck comments (that I hope are mostly funny and not too annoying) as inspiration hits.

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    1. it took me a long time to realize that many of the people I looked to as keys to knowledge were just getting by and not the superstars you assumed them to be when you were a kid. some people are born to be teachers some show up for work. I had plenty of both. insights and scars. its the way it works.

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  9. I especially appreciate your post today, Dale. The stupidity of not including this woman in the Rock Hall of Fame is something we can hope will not stand. I grew up fascinated by Elvis for mostly wrong reasons. He is such an interesting guy when viewed in the history of rock music. The Elvis we know so well was a cheesy figure, and yet Elvis was more of a pure musician than most folks understand. He loved music too much to indulge in the musical racism of his time, denigrating black musicians and their music. How odd that a pretty white boy from the south would be so daring and inclusive in his musical tastes that he would shatter the walls that once existed between musical genres.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Perhaps there is something wrong with me, but I have never, ever, liked Elvis. I like his music when other people do it, but I find him intensely annoying.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. so whats your point renee. yes there is somethig wrong with you, but htere is something wrong with all of us. elvis is great. annoying yes but he was a poor trailer trash kid who made it to the top in a time when there were no role models to learn from. superstar status was little understood at that time even more than today and elvis was not a whiz kid he was a neurotic little man who could sing and had to do it with girls squealing at him while he was trying. the beatles quit performing because they couldnt stand the girls. elvis hung in there with his one trick pony routine and made the most of it in his first cocky then pathetic versions of superstar personna. but man that guy could sing.

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    2. He was never my cup of tea either, Renee. Didn’t find him outright annoying, just didn’t seek his music out. One memorable Christmas present from two small boys I took care of when I was 15 was a single 45 rpm of “Let Me Be Your Teddy Bear” by Elvis. Don’t recall what was on the flip side.

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      1. I understand why many folks find Elvis odd, for he was really odd, but what a fascinating guy he was. He synthesized three musical traditions: pop, rhythm & blues (“race music”) and gospel. When he was in high school kids mocked him for his strangeness, but just a short time later those idiosyncratic mannerisms gave him a devastating impact on young women. I’ve never understood how anybody could start where he started and end where he ended.

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  11. what i was particularly good at as a kid was social networking. i was 1 when we moved form fargo to brainerd and 3 when we moved from brainerd to bloomington across the street from the cornfield. before we moved to bloomington i had worn the tires off my tractor. i had been given a tractor instead of a tricycle because i was always going too fast on the tricycle and tipping over so the tractor with a lower center of gravity was magic. i got it and started rifding to whereever my heart desired. i didnt know you were supposed to have concerns about this. in brainerd my parents got reports about the churches i would stop into on a regular basis and introduce myself and attempt to find new friends to play with. i rode all over brainerd and had a wide spread socail network. this seems funny now because we elft when i was 3 and i cant imagine letting a 3 year old loose today but those were different times.when we moved to bloomington my mom recalls that the day we moved in i brought one of the new neighbors by who had lived near us in brainerd and happened to live in the new neighborhood. i met them by going up and knocking at the door and introducing myself as tim jones your new neighbor who just moved here from brainerd and the recognized me as the son of pat and mickey. i enjoy gettign out and meeting people today and my kids think i still do the equivilant of knocking on random doors when i start up cinversations with people in line at the grocery store or where ever we happen to be. the internet makes it super easy. bloggin g is the best example there is. what a wonderful group of people to cohabitate the universe with.

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  12. I was “good at school”. Reading, math, writing, sitting still.

    Unfortunately, was also very “good” at wuestioning authority, and this was very “bad”.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That independent streak of skepticism is fascinating to me, mig. I experienced the same thing. On the outside I was an apple-polisher, a good kid who respected authority. On the inside, however, there was a stubborn little voice that kept saying, “That’s bullshit!” For me, growing up meant transitioning from the conformist to a young man who began to say “That’s bullshit!” out loud.

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        1. Me too, though I knew enough not to sass a teacher. But I did question things that didn’t make sense to me.

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        2. Pj, where I came from, questioning WAS sassing. Correcting most definitely was, especially if you were right.

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        3. Wow, that’s too bad. Had that been the case where I went to school, no doubt I would have been kicked out. I think my teachers took it as a sign that I was interested and engaged, they encouraged that kind of interaction.

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  13. Greetings! When I was young I was great at sports, dancing, playing alone despite having 6 siblings (I would play all the parts in my little skits) so I probably looked like a neurotic spaz jumping back and forth. I also enjoyed drawing immensely and had a notebook full of my artwork. Have not put pencil to paper since high school, though. I was an excellent reader, sat still in school and was totally obedient — important skills to get through Catholic grade school — although I questioned many things in my mind. Too quiet and shy to dare to verbalize them.

    Liked by 3 people

  14. I was always well coordinated and excelled at sports when I was young, and I loved participating in all kinds of school-district-wide athletic meets. By the time I graduated from high school, I held every single record set in our school for girls in the 60 and 100 meter dash, high and long jump, javelin and shot putt. Now, that sounds impressive – unless you know this: My school was a brand new, my class was the first to graduate from it, and there were only 5 girls in my graduating class. Also, only one other was athletically inclined. But since I’ve never set a record since, I’ll take it.

    Actually come to think of it, I may well be the world record holder in “number of letters written in my head but never put to paper and mailed” but that’s hard to verify.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Click on your Gravatar, Cb, that should take you to your Gravatar profile and photo gallery. Click on whichever photo you want as your new Gravatar to select it. Should be reasonably simple. Good luck.

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  15. Just remembered another thing I was good at – the hoola-hoop. Could work that thing for hours, and did. Could work two at one time- going in different directions. Don’t ask me how. These days I can’t keep one circling my ample waist no matter how hard I try. 😦

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    1. I have that Wii Fit dealie, where you can pretend-hula hoop on the balance board while watching a little cartoon figure on the TV mimicking your movements. My cartoon counterpart usually ends up with the hoop around her ankles pretty quickly.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. OT Liam update. I spent time with the little guy yesterday. Everywhere he goes, he is reading anything he sees, counting things and asking questions. If adults are talking and he doesn’t say anything the logical assumption would be that he is not paying attention. Wrong. He is monitoring every word. When something pops up that he doesn’t understand, he is sure to ask a question.

    Example from yesterday: “Mamma, what is jury duty?”

    My daughter knows just how to explain things to him. She keeps the message straight and clear while sticking close to the truth. She doesn’t condescend, knowing that his interest is real. He listens patiently, processing it all. I love observing them together. They trust and respect each other. He apparently wants NO vagueness in his world. He wants to know everything.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. As I’ve mentioned before, look for The Wrecking Crew documentary to be released by Magnolia Pictures soon. A great story of the real musicians that created the rock ‘n roll sound.

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