Author Options:

Would an Instructable on the Grandmother of Rock 'n' Roll be ok? Answered

I've been writing an Instructable on how to become a better guitar player and performer by getting to know the "Grandmother of Rock'n'Roll" Sister Rosetta Tharpe.

I was wondering if it was something Instructables would want.

I've been passionate about her for quite a while. She was an Electric Guitar legend and influenced everyone from Elvis to Keith Richards, but for some reason there are many people who don't know who she is.

I uploaded a couple of her videos on DailyMotion about a year ago. They have always been 5 stars. I was thinking about making some "music video" slide shows with some of her music, so I can put them in the Instructable. (I'd love to know what programs you would suggest to make them - open source is best)

There isn't much video of her. I've only seen about 7 clips. I was going to point out some of the passages in the songs, that I think illustrate her musical genius, and go through how her style evolved from Delta Blues, to Big Band, and into Gospel. Almost all of it Rocks also.

I'm actually not a guitar player but I have played other instruments and can hear what I think are a lot of the influential parts of her playing. I think I can identify the types of guitars also. She played acoustic back in the 20's, then went to a resonator in the 30's, and started playing Electric as soon as they were invented. She was a contemporary of Robert Johnson the "Grandfather of Rock'n'Roll". She started playing guitar at 4 years old in 1919. Yes, 4yo, no typo there. They stood her on a table. She is from the same Delta Blues tradition of Robert Johnson but went into Gospel.

I'm pretty sure she was the first black woman to ever play guitar in Carnegie Hall.

There are music historians that credit her with the 1st rock and roll song - "Strange Things Happen Everyday" in the mid 1940's. She recorded from the 1920's to the 70's.

I don't want to write the whole thing here, so I better stop now.

What do you think? Appropriate for an Instructable?

Check out the video to see what an amazing musician/performer she is. You can see another one from the 70's on my Dailymotion page. I'm SFHandyman there also. It's fun to see this middle aged church lady, in a long flowery dress, in front of a gospel choir, rock out on an electric guitar.


I think that as long as you keep it to being an instructional, instead of a biography, it's a great idea!

Yes I would. I would be highlighting passages in her music where you can hear some of her exceptional guitar work that would be worth emulating to improve a guitar player's skills. I'd also talk also about some of the aspects of her performing that I think made her exceptional and could be used by a performer to make their own performances better. It wouldn't just be a listening party. I'd select the music to illustrate points that I think are valuable, with specific minutes to point you to the part I'm talking about. That's the plan at least.

. That still sounds like a bio/review. More suitable for a topic in one of the music forums. How about an iBle teaching us how to play one of her songs?

I've actually worked it up and I'm editing it right now. Look for it in the next few days. I've taught public speaking for about 20 years. I've been giving historic architecture tours for 25 years. I know quite a lot about communicating effectively and connecting with an audience. I'm going to use the video only, and point out all of the superior communication and performance skills she utilizes. There will be a step on communication, one on emotional impact, one on guitar playing, and one or more on the mechanics involved in using your voice, and even the position of your head, to make sure you can easily be understood when in front of an audience. The tips can be used to improve any kind of public speaking or performing. It would help guitar players, singers or any musicians; actors, and public speakers of all types. You could apply the tips to speaking to 4 people at a board meeting, 3,000 at a conference, giving a book reading, teaching a class, or even telling a joke at a party. I'll give a little bio info, but mostly focus on the performance and communication skills that she exhibits. I've been analyzing the video. The breadth and depth of communication skills in just that single video will probably blow people away. At the end I'll give some links people can follow to view some other performances, or learn about her. I'll also mention the songs that I think illustrate her performing genius.

Naturally, I would say "go for it".

For the slide show, Windows MovieMaker should be up to the job (you can add stills as well as or instead of video, then add an audio track on top). I used it for the video in this Instructable, which has stills-with-music in it.


9 years ago

Yes, please.

Does the guitar in the second photo look like anything on my orangeboard? :-)

Oh my god. You have a National Duolian! You will correct me if I get the guitar type wrong won't you? I'm really not a guitar guy. I'm Sister Rosetta guy and I've tried to find out as much as I can about her. I knew a guy who built resonators also so I know what they sound like.

Yep, it's a 1935 National Duolian, which I acquired only about two or three weeks ago. An amazing guitar with a cool history. :-)

The guitar itself was hand-painted 40 or 50 years ago. It had such a odd mojo, I was going to leave it as-is. But the extra 3 or 4 layers paint were effecting the acoustics of the steel body, so I'm in the process of stripping the paint... (but retaining the original finish, which is scratched, but intact.)

It's rather difficult to say if Sister Rosetta is playing a Duolian or a Triolian, which are very similar. There were painting variations of each type. The Duolians seem to have a bit more cred with blues players like Son House, Blind Boy Fuller, etc.... (whether Robert Johnson played one is conjecture, I gather.)

Here's a good reference, as is this and this page is great.

That sounds really amazing, actually. I think it would be a nice instructable if you used the intro to give her background, and then used examples of her work as things you should be doing to be a better performer. (And seriously, how drop dead gorgeous is she in that picture? It's completely unrelated, but I can't get over it! Wow.)

Her background is going to have to come all through the piece. As I move through the periods of her music I'll fill you in on her. She led quite a life and touched many musicians. She pulled Little Richard up on stage from the audience, when he was 13. She'd heard him singing before the concert. He said she paid him more money than he had ever seen in his life just for coming up on stage and singing a couple of songs.

I completely agree about the photo. I think she is stunning. Gorgeous lady, gorgeous dress, and gorgeous guitar. Can't go wrong there.