Black History Music Month – 2022 – Rock
TLSC Radio celebrates Black History Music Month. Read the stories of some of the greatest legends of our time.
Charles Edward Anderson Berry (October 18, 1926 – March 18, 2017) in St. Louis, MO. was an American singer, songwriter and guitarist who pioneered rock and roll. Nicknamed the “Father of Rock and Roll”, he refined and developed rhythm and blues into the major elements that made rock and roll distinctive with songs such as “Maybellene” (1955), “Roll OverBeethoven” (1956), “Rock and Roll Music” (1957) and “Johnny B.Goode” (1958). Writing lyrics that focused on teen life and consumerism, and developing a music style that included guitar solos and showmanship, Berry was a major influence on subsequent rock music. Born into a middle-class black family in St. Louis, Berry had an interest in music from an early age and gave his first public performance at Sumner High School. While still a high school student he was convicted of armed robbery and was sent to a reformatory, where he was held from 1944 to 1947. After his release, Berry settled into married life and worked at an automobile assembly plant. By early 1953, influenced by the guitar riffs and showmanship techniques of the blues musician T-Bone Walker, Berry began performing with the Johnnie Johnson Trio. His break came when he traveled to Chicago in May 1955 and met Muddy Waters, who suggested he contact Leonard Chess, of Chess Records. With Chess, he recorded “Maybellene”— Berry’s adaptation of the country song “Ida Red”— which sold over a million copies, reaching number one on Billboard magazine’s rhythm and blues chart. By the end of the 1950s, Berry was an established star, with several hit records and film appearances and a lucrative touring career. He had also established his own St. Louis nightclub, Berry’s Club Bandstand. He was sentenced to three years in prison in January 1962 for offenses under the Mann Act—he had transported a 14-year-old girl across state lines for the purpose of having sexual intercourse. After his release in 1963, Berry had several more successful songs, including “No Particular Place to Go”, “You Never Can Tell”, and “Nadine”. However, these did not achieve the same success or lasting impact of his 1950s songs, and by the 1970s he was more in demand as a nostalgia performer, playing his past material with local backup bands of variable quality. In 1972 he reached a new level of achievement when a rendition of “My Ding-a-Ling” became his only record to top the charts. His insistence on being paid in cash led in 1979 to a four-month jail sentence and community service, for tax evasion. Berry was among the first musicians to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on its opening in 1986; he was cited for having “laid the groundwork for not only a rock and roll sound but a rock and roll stance.” Berry is included in several of Rolling Stone magazine’s “greatest of all time” lists; he was ranked fifth on its 2004 and 2011 lists of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll includes three of Berry’s: “Johnny B. Goode”, “Maybellene”, and “Rock and Roll Music”. Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode” is the only rock-and-roll song included on the Voyager Golden Record. Born in St. Louis, Berry was the youngest child. He grew up in the north St. Louis neighborhood known as the Ville, an area where many middle- class people lived. His father, Henry William Berry (1895–1987) was a contractor and deacon of a nearby Baptist church; his mother, Martha Bell (Banks) (1894–1980) was a certified public school principal. Berry’s upbringing allowed him to pursue his interest in music from an early age. He gave his first public performance in 1941 while still a student at Sumner High School; he was still a student there in 1944, when he was arrested for armed robbery after robbing three shops in Kansas City, Missouri, and then stealing a car at gunpoint with some friends.
Berry’s account in his autobiography is that his car broke down and he flagged down a passing car and stole it at gunpoint with a nonfunctional pistol. He was convicted and sent to the Intermediate Reformatory for Young Men at Algoa,near Jefferson City, Missouri, where he formed a singing quartet and did some boxing. The singing group became competent enough that the authorities allowed it to perform outside the detention facility. Berry was released from the reformatory on his 21st birthday in 1947. On October 28, 1948, Berry married Themetta “Toddy” Suggs, who gave birth to Darlin Ingrid Berry on October 3, 1950. Berry supported his family by taking various jobs in St. Louis, working briefly as a factory worker at two automobile assembly plants and as a janitor in the apartment building where he and his wife lived. Afterwards he trained as a beautician at the Poro College of Cosmetology, founded by Annie Turnbo Malone. He was doing well enough by 1950 to buy a “small three room brick cottage with a bath” on Whittier Street, which is now listed as the Chuck Berry House on the National Register of Historic Places.
By the early 1950s, Berry was working with local bands in clubs in St. Louis as an extra source of income. He had been playing blues since his teens, and he borrowed both guitar riffs and showmanship techniques from the blues musician T-Bone Walker. He also took guitar lessons from his friend Ira Harris, which laid the foundation for his guitar style.
By early 1953 Berry was performing with Johnnie Johnson’s trio, starting a long-time collaboration with the pianist. The band played blues and ballads as well as country. Berry wrote, “Curiosity provoked me to lay a lot of our country stuff on our predominantly black audience and some of our black audience began whispering ‘who is that black hillbilly at the Cosmo?’ After they laughed at me a few times they began requesting the hillbilly stuff and enjoyed dancing to it.” A pioneer of rock and roll, Berry was a significant influence on the development of both the music and the attitude associated with the rock music lifestyle. With songs such as “Maybellene” (1955), “Roll Over Beethoven” (1956), “Rock and Roll Music” (1957) and “Johnny B. Goode” (1958), Berry refined and developed rhythm and blues into the major elements that made rock and roll distinctive, with lyrics successfully aimed to appeal to the early teenage market by using graphic and humorous descriptions of teen dances, fast cars, high school life, and consumer culture, and utilizing guitar solos and showmanship that would be a major influence on subsequent rock music. Thus Berry, the songwriter, according to critic Jon Pareles, invented rock as “a music of teenage wishes fulfilled and good times (even with cops in pursuit).” Berry contributed three things to rock music: an irresistible swagger, a focus on the guitar riff as the primary melodic element and an emphasis on songwriting as storytelling. His records are a rich storehouse of the essential lyrical, showmanship and musical components of rock and roll. In addition to the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, a large number of significant popular-music performers have recorded Berry’s songs. Although not technically accomplished, his guitar style is distinctive —he incorporated electronic effects to mimic the sound of bottleneck blues guitarists and drew on the influence of guitar players such as Carl Hogan,  and T-Bone Walker to produce a clear and exciting sound that many later guitarists would acknowledge as an influence in their own style.  Berry’s showmanship has been influential on other rock guitarists,  particularly his one-legged hop routine, and the “duck walk”, which he first used as a child when he walked “stooping with full-bended knees, but with my back and head vertical” under a table to retrieve a ball and his family found it entertaining; he used it when “performing in New York for the first time and some journalist branded it the duck walk.”He has been cited as a major reference to a variety of some of the most influential acts of all time:
Elvis Presley covered “Memphis, Tennessee”, Too Much Monkey Business”, “Johnny B. Goode” and
Jimi Hendrix covered “Johnny B. Goode”
The Beatles covered “Rock and Roll Music”, “Roll Over Beethoven”
and “Memphis, Tennessee” among others
The Rolling Stones have covered “Around and Around”, “Bye Bye
Johnny”, “Carol”, “Come On”, “Let It Rock”, “Little Queenie”, “Talkin’
About You”, and “You Can’t Catch Me”, among others
The Beach Boys used the melody from “Sweet Little Sixteen” for
“Surfin’ U.S.A.” and later covered “Rock and Roll Music”
Carl Perkins covered “Roll Over Beethoven” and “Johnny B. Goode”
The Dave Clark Five covered “Reelin’ and Rockin'”
Electric Light Orchestra covered “Roll Over Beethoven”
Status Quo have covered “You Never Can Tell” and “Carol”
ACϟDC have covered “School Days”
Bryan Adams, Keith Richards and Dave Edmunds have covered “Run
Faces covered “Memphis, Tennessee”
David Bowie covered “Around and Around”
The Yardbirds covered “Guitar Boogie” as “Jeff’s Boogie”
The Kinks covered “Too Much Monkey Business”
Buddy Holly covered “Brown Eyed Handsome Man” On July 29, 2011, Berry was honored in a dedication of an eight-foot, in- motion Chuck Berry Statue in the Delmar Loop in St. Louis right across the street from Blueberry Hill. Berry said, “It’s glorious–I do appreciate it to the highest, no doubt about it. That sort of honor is seldom given out. But I don’t deserve it.”
Rock critic Robert Christgau considers Berry “the greatest of the rock and rollers”, and John Lennon said, “if you tried to give rock and roll another name, you might call it ‘Chuck Berry’.” Ted Nugent said, “If you don’t know every Chuck Berry lick, you can’t play rock guitar.” Bob Dylan called Berry “the Shakespeare of rock ‘n’ roll”. Bruce Springsteen tweeted, “Chuck Berry was rock’s greatest practitioner, guitarist, and the greatest pure rock ‘n’ roll writer who ever lived.” When asked what caused the explosion of the popularity of rock ‘n roll that took place in the 1950s, with him and a handful of others, mainly him, Berry said, “Well, actually they begin to listen to it, you see, because certain stations played certain music. The music that we, the blacks, played, the cultures were so far apart, we would have to have a play station in order to play it. The cultures begin to come together, and you begin to see one another’s vein of life, then the music came together.”
Among the honors Berry received were the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1984 and the Kennedy Center Honors in 2000. He was ranked seventh on Time magazine’s 2009 list of the 10 best electric guitar players of all time. On May 14, 2002, Berry was honored as one of the first BMI Icons at the 50th annual BMI Pop Awards. He was presented the award along with BMI affiliates Bo Diddley and Little Richard. In August 2014, Berry was made a laureate of the Polar Music Prize.
Berry is included in several of Rolling Stone magazine’s “Greatest of All Time” lists. In September 2003, the magazine ranked him number 6 in its list of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time”. In November his compilation album The Great Twenty-Eight was ranked 21st in Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. In March 2004, Berry was ranked fifth on the list of “The Immortals – The 100 Greatest Artists of All Time”. In December 2004, six of his songs were included in “Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time”: “Johnny B. Goode” (#7), “Maybellene” (#18), “Roll Over Beethoven” (#97), “Rock and Roll Music” (#128), “Sweet Little Sixteen” (#272) and “Brown Eyed Handsome Man” (#374). In June 2008,his song “Johnny B. Goode” was ranked first in the “100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time”.
The journalist Chuck Klosterman has argued that in 300 years Berry will still be remembered as the rock musician who most closely captured the essence of rock and roll. Time magazine stated, “There was no one like Elvis. But there was ‘definitely’ no one like Chuck Berry.” RollingStone called him “the father of rock & roll” who “gave the music its sound and its attitude, even as he battled racism – and his own misdeeds – all the way,” reporting that Leonard Cohen said, “All of us are footnotes to the words of Chuck Berry.” Kevin Strait, curator of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC, said that Berry is “one of the primary sonic architects of rock and roll.” According to Cleveland.com’s Troy L. Smith, “Chuck Berry didn’t invent rock and roll all by his lonesome. But he was the man who took rhythm and blues and transformed it into a new genre that would ever change popular music. Songs like ‘Maybellene,’ ‘Johnny B. Goode,’ ‘Roll Over Beethoven’ and ‘Rock and Roll Music’ would showcase the core elements of what rock and roll would become. The sound, the format and the style were built on the music Berry created. To some extent, everyone who followed was a copycat.” On March 18, 2017, Berry was found unresponsive at his home near Wentzville, Missouri. Emergency workers called to the scene were unable to revive him, and he was pronounced dead by his personal physician. Berry’s funeral was held on April 9, 2017, at The Pageant, in Berry’s hometown of St. Louis. He was remembered with a public viewing by family, friends, and fans in The Pageant, a music club where he often performed. He was viewed with his cherry-red Gibson ES-335 guitar bolted to the inside lid of the coffin and with flower arrangements that included one sent by the Rolling Stones in the shape of a guitar. Afterwards a private service was held in the club celebrating Berry’s life and musical career, with the Berry family inviting 300 members of the public into the service. Gene Simmons of Kiss gave an impromptu, unadvertised eulogy at the service, while Little Richard was scheduled to lead the funeral procession but was unable to attend due to an illness. The night before, many St. Louis area bars held a mass toast at 10 pm in Berry’s honor. One of Berry’s attorneys estimated that his estate was worth $50 million, including $17 million in music rights. Berry’s music publishing accounted for $13 million of the estate’s value. The Berry estate owned roughly half of his songwriting credits (mostly from his later career), while BMG Rights Management controlled the other half; most of Berry’s recordings are currently owned by Universal Music Group. In September 2017, Dualtone, the label which released Berry’s final album, Chuck, agreed to publish all his compositions in the United States. Berry is interred in a mausoleum in Bellerive Gardens Cemetery in St. Louis.
Ellas McDaniel (né Bates; some sources give his name as Otha Ellas Bates or as Elias Otha Bates; December 30, 1928 – June 2, 2008),born in McComb MS, known professionally as Bo Diddley, was an American singer, guitarist, songwriter and music producer who played a key role in the transition from the blues to rock and roll.
He influenced many artists, including Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Animals, George Thorogood, and the Clash. His use of African rhythms and a signature beat, a simple five- accent hambone rhythm, is a cornerstone of hip hop, rock, and pop music. In recognition of his achievements, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, the Blues Hall of Fame in 2003, and the Rhythm and Blues Music Hall of Fame in 2017.
He received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Rhythm and Blues Foundation and
the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. Diddley is also recognized for his technical innovations, including his use of tremolo and reverb effects to enhance the sound of his distinctive rectangular-shaped guitars. The origin of the stage name Bo Diddley is unclear. McDaniel claimed that his peers gave him the name, which he suspected was an insult. Diddly is a truncation of diddly squat, which means “absolutely nothing” Diddley also said that the name first belonged to a singer his adoptive mother knew. Harmonicist Billy Boy Arnold said that it was a local comedian’s name, which Leonard Chess adopted as McDaniel’s stage name and the title of his first single. McDaniel also stated that his school classmates in Chicago gave him the nickname, which he started using when sparring and boxing in the neighborhood with The Little Neighborhood Golden Gloves Bunch.
In the 1921 story “Black Death”, by Zora Neale Hurston, Beau Diddely was a womanizer who impregnates a young woman, disavows responsibility, and meets his undoing by the powers of the local hoodoo man. Hurston submitted it in a contest run by the academic journal Opportunity in 1925, where it won an honorable mention, but it was never published during her lifetime.
A diddley bow is a homemade single-string instrument that survived in the American Deep South, especially in Mississippi. Played mainly by children, the diddley bow in its simplest form was made by nailing a length of broom wire to the side of a house, using a rock placed under the string as a movable bridge, and played in the style of a bottleneck guitar, with various objects used as a slider. The apparent consensus among scholars is that the diddley bow is derived from the monochord zithers of central Africa. Diddley played his song “Bo Diddley” in one string fashion on the guitar, in the style of the children’s instrument.
On November 20, 1955, Diddley appeared on the popular television program The Ed Sullivan Show. According to legend, when someone on the show’s staff overheard him casually singing “Sixteen Tons” in the dressing room, he was asked to perform the song on the show. One of Diddley’s later versions of the story was that upon seeing “Bo Diddley” on the cue card, he thought he was to perform both his self-titled hit single and “Sixteen Tons”. Sullivan was furious and banned Diddley from his show, reputedly saying that he wouldn’t last six months. Chess Records included Diddley’s cover of “Sixteen Tons” on the 1963 album Bo Diddley Is a Gunslinger.
Diddley’s hit singles continued in the 1950s and 1960s: “PrettyThing” (1956), “Say Man” (1959), and “You Can’t Judge a Book by the Cover” (1962). He also released numerous albums, including Bo Diddley Is a Gunslinger and Have Guitar, Will Travel. These bolstered his self- invented legend. Between 1958 and 1963, Checker Records released eleven full-length Bo Diddley albums. In the 1960s, he broke through as a crossover artist with white audiences (appearing at the Alan Freed concerts, for example), but he rarely aimed his compositions at teenagers. Diddley was among those musicians who capitalized on the mid-1960s surfing and beach party craze in the United States, and released the albums Surfin’ with Bo Diddley and Bo Diddley’s Beach Party. These featured heavy, distorted blues, played on his Gretsch guitar with bended notes and minor key riffs, unlike the clean, undistorted sounds of the Fender guitars used by the California surf bands. The cover of Surfin’ with Bo Diddley had a photograph of two surfers riding a big wave.
In 1963, Diddley starred in a UK concert tour with the Everly Brothers and Little Richard along with the Rolling Stones (a little-known band at that time). Diddley wrote many songs for himself and also for others. In 1956, he and guitarist Jody Williams co-wrote the pop song “Love Is Strange”, a hit for Mickey & Sylvia in 1957, reaching number 11 on the chart. Mickey Baker claimed that he (Baker) and Bo Diddley’s wife, Ethel Smith, wrote the song. Diddley also wrote “Mama (Can I Go Out)”, which was a minor hit for the pioneering rockabilly singer Jo Ann Campbell, who performed the song in the 1959 rock and roll film Go Johnny Go. After moving from Chicago to Washington, D.C., Diddley built his first home recording studio in the basement of his home at 2614 Rhode Island Avenue NE. Frequented by several of Washington, D.C.’s musical luminaries, the studio was the site where he recorded the Checker LP (Checker LP-2977) Bo Diddley Is a Gunslinger. Diddley also produced and recorded several up-and-coming groups from the Washington, D.C. area. One of the first groups he recorded was local doo-wop group the Marquees, featuring Marvin Gaye and baritone-bass Chester Simmons, who mooonlighted as Diddley’s chaffeur.
The Marquees appeared in talent shows at the Lincoln Theatre, and Diddley, impressed by their smooth vocal delivery, let them rehearse in his studio. Diddley got the Marquees signed to Columbia subsidiary label OKeh Records after unsuccessfully attempting to get them a contract with his own label, Chess. The OKeh label rivaled Chess in the promotion of rhythm and blues. On September 25, 1957, Diddley drove the group to New York City to record “Wyatt Earp”, a novelty song written by Reese Palmer, lead singer of the Marquees. Diddley produced the session, with the group backed by his own band. They cut their first record, a single with “Wyatt Earp” on the A-side and “Hey Little School Girl” on the B-side, but it failed to become a hit. Diddley persuaded Moonglows founder and backing vocalist Harvey Fuqua to hire Gaye. Gaye joined the Moonglows as first tenor; the group then moved to Detroit with the hope of signing with Motown Records founder Berry Gordy Jr. Diddley included women in his band: Norma-Jean Wofford, also known as The Duchess; Gloria Jolivet; Peggy Jones, also known as Lady Bo, a lead guitarist (rare for a woman at that time); and Cornelia Redmond, also known as Cookie V. In early 1971, writer-musician Michael Lydon, a founding editor of Rolling Stone, conducted a lengthy, rambling interview of Diddley, at his then home in the San Fernando Valley, California. Lydon described him as a “protean genius” whose songs were “hymns to himself”, and led the published piece with a Diddley quote: “Everything I know I taught myself.” Diddley on tour in Japan with the Japanese band Bo Gumbos Over the decades, Diddley’s performing venues ranged from intimate clubs to stadiums. On March 25, 1972, he played with the Grateful Dead at the Academy of Music in New York City. The Grateful Dead released part of this concert as Volume 30 of the band’s concert album series, Dick’s Picks. Also in the early 1970s, the soundtrack of the ground-breaking animated film Fritz the Cat contained his song “Bo Diddley”, in which a crow dances and finger-pops to the track.
Diddley spent some years in New Mexico, living in Los Lunas from 1971 to 1978, while continuing his musical career. He served for two and a half years as a deputy sheriff in the Valencia County Citizens’ Patrol; during that time he purchased and donated three highway- patrol pursuit cars. In the late 1970s, he left Los Lunas and moved to Hawthorne, Florida, where he lived on a large estate in a custom-made log cabin, which he helped to build. For the remainder of his life he divided his time between Albuquerque and Florida, living the last 13 years of his life in Archer, Florida, a small farming town near Gainesville. In 1979, he appeared as an opening act for The Clash on their US tour.
In 1983, he made a cameo appearance as a Philadelphia pawn shop owner in the comedy film Trading Places. He also appeared in George Thorogood’s music video for the song “Bad to the Bone,” portraying a guitar-slinging pool shark. In 1985, he appeared on George Thorogood’s set, alongside fellow blues legend Albert Collins, on the Live Aid American stage to perform Thorogood’s popular cover of Diddley’s song Who Do You Love?”.
In 1989, Diddley entered into a licensing agreement with the sportswear brand Nike. The Wieden & Kennedy- produced commercial in the “Bo Knows” campaign teamed Diddley with dual sportsman Bo Jackson. The agreement ended in 1991, but in 1999, a T-shirt of Diddley’s image and “You don’t know diddley” slogan was purchased in a Gainesville, Florida, sports apparel store. Diddley felt that Nike should not continue to use the slogan or his likeness and fought Nike over the copyright infringement. Despite the fact that lawyers for both parties could not come to a renewed legal arrangement, Nike allegedly continued marketing the apparel and ignored cease-and-desist orders, and a lawsuit was filed on Diddley’s behalf, in Manhattan Federal Court.
Diddley played a blues and rock musician named Axman in the 1990 comedy film Rockula, directed by Luca Bercovici and starring Dean Cameron. In Legends of Guitar (filmed live in Spain in 1991), Diddley performed with B.B. King, Les Paul, Albert Collins, and George Benson, among others. He joined the Rolling Stones on their 1994 concert broadcast of Voodoo Lounge, performing “Who Do You Love?”.
He commented on racism in the music industry establishment during his early career, which deprived him of royalties from the most successful part of his career.[Bo Diddley was married four times. His first marriage, at 18, to Louise Willingham, lasted a year. Diddley married his second wife Ethel Mae Smith in 1949; they had two children. He met his third wife, Kay Reynolds, when she was 15, while performing in Birmingham, Alabama. They soon moved in together and married, despite taboos against interracial marriage. They had two daughters. He married his fourth wife, Sylvia Paiz, in 1992; they were divorced at the time of his death.
On May 13, 2007, Diddley was admitted to intensive care in Creighton University Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska, following a stroke after a concert the previous day in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Starting the show, he had complained that he did not feel well. He referred to smoke from the wildfires that were ravaging south Georgia and blowing south to the area near his home in Archer, Florida. The next day, as he was heading back home, he seemed dazed and confused at the airport; 911 and airport security were called, and he was immediately taken by ambulance to Creighton University Medical Center where he stayed for several days. After tests, it was confirmed that he had suffered a stroke. Diddley had a history of hypertension and diabetes, and the stroke affected the left side of his brain, causing receptive and expressive aphasia (speech impairment).The stroke was followed by a heart attack, which he suffered in Gainesville, Florida, on August 28, 2007. Bo Diddley died on June 2, 2008, of heart failure at his home in Archer, Florida at the age of 79. Garry Mitchell, his grandson and one of more than thirty-five family members at the musician’s home when he died at 1:45 am. EDT, said his death was not unexpected. “There was a gospel song that was sung [at his bedside] and [when it was done] he said ‘wow’ with a thumbs up,” Mitchell told Reuters, when asked to describe the scene at the deathbed. “The song was ‘Walk Around Heaven’ and in his last words he stated that he was going to heaven.”
He was survived by his children, Evelyn Kelly, Ellas A. McDaniel, Pamela Jacobs, Steven Jones, Terri Lynn McDaniel-Hines, and Tammi D. McDaniel; a brother, the Rev. Kenneth Haynes; and eighteen grandchildren, fifteen great-grandchildren and three great-great- grandchildren.
His funeral, a four-hour “homegoing” service, took place on June 7, 2008, at Showers of Blessings Church in Gainesville, Florida. Some in attendance chanted “Hey Bo Diddley” as the Archer Church of God in Christ gospel band played. A number of notable musicians sent flowers, including Little Richard, George Thorogood, Tom Petty and Jerry Lee Lewis. Little Richard, who had been asking his audiences to pray for Bo Diddley throughout his illness, had to fulfill concert commitments in Westbury and New York City the weekend of the funeral. He remembered Diddley at the concert, performing his namesake tune.
After the funeral service, a tribute concert was held at the Martin Luther King Center in Gainesville, Florida, and featured guest performances by his son and daughter, Ellas A. McDaniel and Evelyn “Tan” Cooper; long-time background vocalist and original Boette, Gloria Jolivet; long-time friend, co- producer, and former Bo Diddley & Offspring guitarist Scott “Skyntyte” Free; and Eric Burdon. In the days following his death, tributes were paid by then-President George W. Bush, the United States House of Representatives, and musicians and performers including B. B. King, Ronnie Hawkins, Mick Jagger, Ronnie Wood, George Thorogood, Eric Clapton, Tom Petty, Robert Plant, Elvis Costello, Bonnie Raitt, Robert Randolph and the Family Band and Eric Burdon. Burdon used video footage of the McDaniel family and friends in mourning for a video promoting his ABKCO Records release “Bo Diddley Special”.
In November 2009, the guitar used by Bo Diddley in his final stage performance sold for $60,000 at auction. In 2019, members of Bo Diddley’s family sued to regain control of the music catalog held in trust by attorney Charles Littell. The family was successful in appointing a new trustee, music industry veteran Kendall Minter.The family was represented by Charles David of Florida Probate Law Group in the 2019 lawsuit.
Bo Diddley was posthumously awarded a Doctor of Fine Arts degree by the University of Florida for his influence on American popular music. In its People in America radio series, about influential people in American history, the Voice of America radio service paid tribute to him, describing how “his influence was so widespread that it is hard to imagine what rock and roll would have sounded like without him.” Mick Jagger stated that “he was a wonderful, original musician who was an enormous force in music and was a big influence on the Rolling Stones. He was very generous to us in our early years and we learned a lot from him”. Jagger also praised the late star as a one-of- a-kind musician, adding, “We will never see his like again”. The documentary film Cheat You Fair: The Story of Maxwell Street by director Phil Ranstrom features Bo Diddley’s last on-camera interview.
He achieved numerous accolades in recognition of his significant role as one of the founding fathers of rock and roll.
1986: Inducted into the Washington Area Music Association’s Hall of Fame.
1987: Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
1987: Inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame
1990: Lifetime Achievement Award from Guitar Player magazine
1996: Lifetime Achievement Award from the Rhythm and Blues
1998: Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award
1999: His 1955 recording of his song “Bo Diddley” inducted into
the Grammy Hall of Fame
2000: Inducted into the Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame
2000: Inducted into the North Florida Music Association’s Hall of
2002: Pioneer in Entertainment Award from the National Association
of Black Owned Broadcasters
2002: Honored as one of the first BMI Icons at the 50th annual BMI
Pop Awards, along with BMI affiliates Chuck Berry and Little Richard. 
2003: Inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame
2008: Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree posthumously conferred
on Diddley by the University of Florida in August (the award had been
confirmed before his death in June).
2020: Induction into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame
2010: Induction into the Hit Parade Hall of Fame.
2017: Inducted into the Rhythm and Blues Music Hall of Fame.
2021: Inducted into the New Mexico Music Hall of Fame.
In 2003, U.S. Representative John Conyers paid tribute to Bo Diddley in the United States House of Representatives, describing him as “one of the true pioneers of rock and roll, who has influenced generations”.
In 2004, Mickey and Sylvia’s 1956 recording of “Love Is Strange” (a song first recorded by Bo Diddley but not released until a year before his death) was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame as a recording of qualitative or historical significance. Also in 2004, Bo Diddley was inducted into the Blues Foundation’s Blues Hall of Fame and was ranked number 20 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.
In 2005, Bo Diddley celebrated his 50th anniversary in music with successful tours of Australia and Europe and with coast-to-coast shows across North America. He performed his song “Bo Diddley” with Eric Clapton and Robbie Robertson at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 20th annual induction ceremony. In the UK, Uncut magazine included his 1957 debut album, Bo Diddley, in its listing of the ‘100 Music, Movie & TV Moments That Have Changed the World’.
Bo Diddley was honored by the Mississippi Blues Commission with
a Mississippi Blues Trail historic marker placed in McComb, his birthplace, in recognition of his enormous contribution to the development of the blues in Mississippi. On June 5, 2009, the city of Gainesville, Florida, officially renamed and dedicated its downtown plaza the Bo Diddley Community Plaza. The plaza was the site of a benefit concert at which Bo Diddley performed to raise awareness about the plight of the homeless in Alachua County and to raise money for local charities, including the Red Cross.
Chubby Checker (born Ernest Evans; October 3, 1941) born in Spring Guly, SC is an American rock and roll singer and dancer. He is widely known for popularizing many dance styles, including The Twist dance style, with his 1960 hit cover of Hank Ballard & The Midnighters’ R&B song “The
Twist”, and the Pony dance style with the 1961 cover of the song “Pony Time”. However, his best-known song is the hit “Let’s Twist Again”, released one year later (in 1962); that year he also popularized the song “Limbo Rock”, originally a previous year instrumental hit by the Champs to which he added lyrics, and its trademark Limbo dance, as well as others dance styles such as The Fly. In September 2008, “The Twist” topped Billboard’s list of the most popular singles to have appeared in the Hot 100 since its debut in 1960, an honor it maintained for an August 2013 update of the list.
In December 1958, Checker privately recorded a novelty single for Clark in which the singer portrayed a school teacher with an unruly classroom of musical performers. The premise allowed Checker to imitate such acts
as Fats Domino, The Coasters, Elvis Presley, Cozy Cole, and The Chipmunks, each singing “Mary Had a Little Lamb”. Clark sent the song out as his Christmas greeting, and it received such good response that Cameo- Parkway signed Checker to a recording contract. Titled “The Class”, the single became Checker’s first release, charting at No. 38 in the spring of 1959.
Checker introduced his version of “The Twist” at the age of 18 in July 1960 in Wildwood, New Jersey at the Rainbow Club. “The Twist” went on to top the Billboard Hot 100 not just once in 1960, but yet again in a separate chart run in late 1961. The first success was attributed to teens, and the unprecedented second number-one Billboard ranking was driven by older audiences following a spirited live performance of the song by Checker
on The Ed Sullivan Show, seen by over 10 million viewers.
“The Twist” had previously peaked at No. 16 on the Billboard rhythm and blues chart, in the 1959 version recorded by its author, Hank Ballard, whose band The Midnighters first performed the dance on stage. Checker’s “Twist”, however, was a nationwide smash, aided by his many appearances on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand, the Top 10 American
Bandstand ranking of the song, and the teenagers on the show who enjoyed dancing the Twist. The song was so ubiquitous that Checker felt that his critics thought that he could only succeed with dance records typecasting him as a dance artist. Checker later lamented: “… in a way,
”The Twist” really ruined my life. I was on my way to becoming a big nightclub performer, and “The Twist” just wiped it out … It got so out of proportion. No one ever believes I have talent.” By 1965 alone, “The Twist” had sold over 15 million copies, and was awarded multiple gold discs by the RIAA.
On December 12, 1963, at 22 years old, Checker proposed marriage to Catharina Lodders, a 21-year-old Dutch model and Miss World 1962 from Haarlem, the Netherlands. Checker said he met Lodders in Manila the prior January. The song “Loddy Lo” is about her. They were married on April 12, 1964, at Temple Lutheran Church in Pennsauken, New Jersey. Their first child, Bianca Johanna Evans, was born in a Philadelphia hospital on December 8, 1966. Checker is also the father of WNBA player Mistie Bass and musician Shan Egan, lead singer of Funk Church, a band in the Philadelphia area.
Checker performed as well as appeared as a version of himself in Twist Around the Clock (1961) and Don’t Knock the Twist (1962). In both films he provided advice and crucial breaks for the protagonist.
In 1988, he appeared as himself performing alongside the Purple People Eater in the film of the same name.
He later appeared as himself in the 1989 Quantum Leap episode entitled “Good Morning, Peoria” where he walks into a radio station in 1959 hoping to have his demo record played on the air. The show’s main character, Dr. Sam Beckett (Scott Bakula), persuades the station owner to play the song “The Twist”, inadvertently teaching Checker himself how to do The Twist. In 2001, he again guest-starred as himself singing “The Twist” in the fourth season of Ally McBeal.
In 2008, Checker’s “The Twist” was named the biggest chart hit of all time by Billboard magazine. Billboard looked at all singles that made the charts between 1958 and 2008. He was also honored by Settlement Music
School as part of the school’s centennial celebration and named to the Settlement 100, a list of notable people connected to the school.
Checker received the prestigious Sandy Hosey Lifetime Achievement Award on November 9, 2013, from the Artists Music Guild. Checker was the host of the 2013 AMG Heritage Awards and was given the honor during the television broadcast. The award was presented to him by longtime friend and labelmate Dee Dee Sharp.
Lizzie Douglas (June 3, 1897 – August 6, 1973), born in Tunica County, MS better known as Memphis Minnie, was a blues guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter whose recording career lasted for over three decades. She recorded around 200 songs, some of the best known being “When the Levee Breaks”, “Me and My Chauffeur Blues”, “Bumble Bee” and “Nothing in Rambling”.
She was the eldest of 13 siblings. Her parents, Abe and Gertrude Douglas, nicknamed her Kid when she was young, and her family called her that throughout her childhood. It is reported that she disliked the name Lizzie.  When she first began performing, she played under the name Kid Douglas.
When she was seven years old, she and her family moved to Walls, Mississippi, south of Memphis, Tennessee. The following year, she received her first guitar, as a Christmas present. She learned to play the banjo by the age of 10 and the guitar by the age of 11, when she started playing at parties. The family later moved to Brunswick, Tennessee. After Minnie’s mother died, in 1922, Abe Douglas moved back to Walls, where he died in 1935.
In 1910, at the age of 13, she ran away from home to live on Beale Street, in Memphis. She played on street corners for most of her teenage years, occasionally returning to her family’s farm when she ran out of money. Her sidewalk performances led to a tour of the South with the Ringling Brothers Circus from 1916 to 1920. She then went back to Beale Street, with its thriving blues scene, and made her living by playing guitar and singing, supplementing her income with sex work (at that time, it was not uncommon for female performers to turn to sex work out of financial need).
She began performing with Joe McCoy, her second husband, in 1929. They were discovered by a talent scout for Columbia Records, in front of a barber shop, where they were playing for dimes. She and McCoy went to record in New York City and were given the names Kansas Joe and Memphis Minnie by a Columbia A&R man. Over the next few years she and McCoy released a series of records, performing as a duet. In February 1930 they recorded the song “Bumble Bee” for the Vocalion label, which they had already recorded for Columbia but which had not yet been released. It became one of Minnie’s most popular songs; she eventually recorded five versions of it. Minnie and McCoy continued to record for Vocalion until August 1934, when they recorded a few sessions for Decca Records. Their last session together was for Decca, in September. They divorced in 1935.
In 1938, Minnie returned to recording for the Vocalion label, this time accompanied by Charlie McCoy, Kansas Joe’s brother, on mandolin. Around this time she married the guitarist and singer Ernest Lawlars, known as Little Son Joe. They began recording together in 1939, with Son adding a more rhythmic backing to Minnie’s guitar. They recorded for Okeh Records in the 1940s and continued to record together through the decade. By 1941 Minnie had started playing electric guitar, and in May of that year she recorded her biggest hit, “Me and My Chauffeur Blues”. A follow-up date produced two more blues standards, “Looking the World Over” and Lawlars’s “Black Rat Swing” (issued under the name “Mr. Memphis Minnie”). In the 1940s Minnie and Lawlars continued to work at their “home club,” Chicago’s popular 708 Club, where they were often joined by Broonzy, Sunnyland Slim, or Snooky Pryor, and also played at many of the other better-known Chicago nightclubs. During the 1940s Minnie and Lawlars performed together and separately in the Chicago and Indiana areas. Minnie often played at “Blue Monday” parties at Ruby Lee Gatewood’s, on Lake Street. The poet Langston Hughes, who saw her perform at the 230 Club on New Year’s Eve, 1942, wrote of her “hard and strong voice” being made harder and stronger by amplification and described the sound of her electric guitar as “a musical version of electric welders plus a rolling mill.”
Minnie was known as a polished professional and an independent woman who knew how to take care of herself. She presented herself to the public as being feminine and ladylike, wearing expensive dresses and jewelry, but she was aggressive when she needed to be and was not shy when it came to fighting. According to the blues musician Johnny Shines, “Any men fool with her she’d go for them right away. She didn’t take no foolishness off them. Guitar, pocket knife, pistol, anything she get her hand on she’d use it”. According to Homesick James, she chewed tobacco all the time, even while singing or playing the guitar, and always had a cup at hand in case she wanted to spit. Most of the music she made was autobiographical; Minnie expressed a lot of her personal life in music.
Minnie was married three times, although no marriage certificates have been found. It is believed that her first husband was Casey Bill Weldon, whom she married in the early 1920s. Her second husband was the guitarist and mandolin player Kansas Joe McCoy, whom she married in 1929. They filed for divorce in 1934. McCoy’s jealousy of Minnie’s professional success has been given as one reason for the breakup of their marriage. Around 1938 she met the guitarist Ernest Lawlars (Little Son Joe), who became her new musical partner, and they married shortly thereafter; Minnie’s union records, covering 1939 onwards, give her name as Minnie Lawlars. He dedicated songs to her, including “Key to the World”, in which he addresses her as “the woman I got now” and calls her “the key to the world.” Minnie was also reported to have lived with a man known as “Squirrel” in the mid- to late 1930s. Minnie was not religious and rarely went to church; the only time she was reported to have gone to church was to see a gospel group perform. She was baptised shortly before she died, probably to please her sister Daisy Johnson. A house in Memphis where she once lived, at 1355 Adelaide Street, still exists.
Memphis Minnie has been described as “the most popular female country blues singer of all time”. Big Bill Broonzy said that she could “pick a guitar and sing as good as any man I’ve ever heard.” Minnie lived to see a renewed appreciation of her recorded work during the revival of interest in blues music in the 1960s. She was an influence on later singers, such as Big Mama Thornton, Jo Ann Kelly and Erin Harpe. She was inducted into the Blues Foundation’s Hall of Fame in 1980.
“Me and My Chauffeur Blues” was recorded by Jefferson Airplane on their debut album, Jefferson Airplane Takes Off, with Signe Anderson as lead vocalist. “Can I Do It for You” was recorded by Donovan in 1965, under the title “Hey Gyp (Dig the Slowness)”. A 1929 Memphis Minnie and Kansas Joe McCoy song, “When the Levee Breaks”, was adapted (with altered lyrics and a different melody) by Led Zeppelin and released in 1971 on their fourth album. “I’m Sailin'” was covered by Mazzy Star on their 1990 debut album, She Hangs Brightly. Her family is currently suing record companies and some artists for royalties and for using her music without permission. In 2007, Minnie was honored with a marker on the Mississippi Blues Trail in Walls, Mississippi.
Sister Rosetta Tharpe
Sister Rosetta Tharpe (born Rosetta Nubin, March 20, 1915 – October 9, 1973) in Cotton Plant, AK, was an American singer, songwriter and guitarist. She first gained popularity in the 1930s and 1940s with her gospel recordings, characterized by a unique mixture of spiritual lyrics and electric guitar. She was the first great recording star of gospel music, and was among the first gospel musicians to appeal to rhythm and blues and rock and roll audiences, later being referred to as “the original soul sister” and “the Godmother of rock and roll”. She influenced early rock-and-roll musicians, including Little Richard, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis.
Tharpe was a pioneer in her guitar technique; she was among the first popular recording artists to use heavy distortion on her electric guitar, presaging the rise of electric blues. Her guitar playing technique had a profound influence on the development of British blues in the 1960s; in particular a European tour with Muddy Waters in 1964 with a stop
in Manchester on 7 May is cited by prominent British guitarists such as Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Keith Richards.
Willing to cross the line between sacred and secular by performing her music of “light” in the “darkness” of nightclubs and concert halls with big bands behind her, Tharpe pushed spiritual music into the mainstream and helped pioneer the rise of pop-gospel, beginning in 1938 with the recording “Rock Me” and with her 1939 hit “This Train”. Her unique music left a lasting mark on more conventional gospel artists such as Ira Tucker, Sr., of the Dixie Hummingbirds. While she offended some conservative churchgoers with her forays into the pop world, she never left gospel music.
Tharpe’s 1944 release “Down by the Riverside” was selected for the National Recording Registry of the U.S. Library of Congress in 2004, which noted that it “captures her spirited guitar playing and unique vocal style, demonstrating clearly her influence on early rhythm-and-blues performers” and cited her influence on “many gospel, jazz, and rock artists”. (“Down by the Riverside” was recorded by Tharpe on December 2, 1948, in New York City, and issued as Decca single 48106.) Her 1945 hit “Strange Things Happening Every Day”, recorded in late 1944, featured Tharpe’s vocals and resonator guitar, with Sammy
Price (piano), bass and drums. It was the first gospel record to cross over, hitting no. 2 on the Billboard “race records” chart, the term then used for what later became the R&B chart, in April 1945. The recording has been cited as a precursor of rock and roll, and alternatively has been called the first rock and roll record. In May 2018, Tharpe was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as an Early Influence.
Little is known of her father except that he was a singer. Tharpe’s mother Katie was also a singer and a mandolin player, deaconess-missionary, and women’s speaker for the Church of God in Christ (COGIC), which was founded in 1894 by Charles Harrison Mason, a black Pentecostal bishop, who encouraged rhythmic musical expression, dancing in praise and allowing women to sing and teach in church. Encouraged by her mother, Tharpe began singing and playing the guitar as Little Rosetta Nubin at the age of six and was cited as a musical prodigy.
About 1921, at age six, Tharpe had joined her mother as a regular performer in a traveling evangelical troupe. Billed as a “singing and guitar playing miracle,” she accompanied her mother in performances that were part sermon and part gospel concert before audiences across the American South. In the mid-1920s, Tharpe and her mother settled in Chicago, Illinois, where they performed religious concerts at the Roberts Temple COGIC on 40th Street, occasionally traveling to perform at church conventions throughout the country. Tharpe developed considerable fame as a musical prodigy, standing out in an era when prominent black female guitarists were rare. In 1934, at age 19, she married Thomas Thorpe, a COGIC preacher, who accompanied her and her mother on many of their tours. The marriage lasted only a few years, but she decided to adopt a version of her husband’s surname as her stage name, Sister Rosetta Tharpe. In 1938, she left her husband and moved with her mother to New York City. Although she married several times, she performed as Rosetta Tharpe for
the rest of her life.
On October 31, 1938, aged 23, Tharpe recorded for the first time – four sides for Decca Records backed by Lucky Millinder’s jazz orchestra. The first gospel songs recorded by Decca, “Rock Me”, “That’s All”, “My Man and I” and “The Lonesome Road”, were instant hits, establishing Tharpe as an overnight sensation and one of the first commercially successful gospel recording artists. “Rock Me” influenced many rock-and-roll singers, such as Elvis Presley, Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis. In 1942, the music critic Maurie Orodenker, describing Tharpe’s “Rock Me”, wrote “It’s Sister Rosetta Tharpe for the rock & roll spiritual singing.”
She had signed a ten year contract with Millinder. Her records caused an immediate furor: many churchgoers were shocked by the mixture of gospel- based lyrics and secular-sounding music, but secular audiences loved them. Tharpe played on several occasions with the white singing group the Jordanaires.
Tharpe’s appearances with Cab Calloway at Harlem’s Cotton Club in October 1938 and in John Hammond’s “Spirituals to Swing” concert at Carnegie Hall on December 23, 1938, gained her more fame, along with notoriety. Performing gospel music for secular nightclub audiences and alongside blues and jazz musicians and dancers was unusual, and in conservative religious circles a woman playing the guitar in such settings was frowned upon. Tharpe fell out of favor with segments of the gospel community.
By 1943 she considered rebuilding a strictly gospel act, but she was contractually required to perform more worldly material. Her nightclub performances, in which she would sometimes sing gospel songs amid scantily clad showgirls, caused her to be shunned by some in the gospel community.
During this time masculinity was directly linked to guitar skills. Tharpe was often offered the compliment that she could “play like a man”, demonstrating her skills at guitar battles at the Apollo. Tharpe continued recording during World War II, one of only two gospel artists able to record V-discs for troops overseas.
Her song “Strange Things Happening Every Day”, recorded in 1944
with Sammy Price, Decca’s house boogie woogie pianist, showcased her virtuosity as a guitarist and her witty lyrics and delivery. It was the first gospel song to appear on the Billboard magazine Harlem Hit Parade. This 1944 record has been called the first rock and roll record. Tharpe toured throughout the 1940s, backed by various gospel quartets, including the Dixie Hummingbirds.
In 1946, Tharpe saw Marie Knight perform at a Mahalia Jackson concert in New York. Tharpe recognized a special talent in Knight. Two weeks later, Tharpe showed up at Knight’s doorstep, inviting her to go on the road. They toured the gospel circuit for a number of years, during which they recorded hits such as “Up Above My Head” and “Gospel Train”. Though dismissed by both artists as gossip, several in the Gospel community speculated that Knight and Tharpe maintained a romantic and sexual relationship.
Starting in 1949, their popularity took a sudden downturn. Mahalia Jackson was starting to eclipse Tharpe in popularity, and Knight harbored a desire to break free as a solo act into popular music. Furthermore, around this time, Knight lost her children and mother in a house-fire. That same year, to commemorate Tharpe’s first anniversary of being a homeowner in Richmond, Virginia, Tharpe put on a concert at what is now the Altria Theater. Supporting her for that concert were the Twilight Singers, whom Rosetta adopted as her background singers for future concerts, renaming them The Rosettes.
Tharpe attracted 25,000 paying customers to her wedding to her manager, Russell Morrison (her third marriage), followed by a vocal performance at Griffith Stadium in Washington, D.C., in 1951. In 1956, Tharpe recorded an album with the gospel quartet The Harmonizing Four, titled Gospel Train. In 1957, Tharpe was booked for a month-long tour of the UK by British trombonist Chris Barber.
In April and May 1964, Tharpe toured Europe as part of the Blues and Gospel Caravan, alongside Muddy Waters and Otis Spann, Ransom Knowling and Little Willie Smith, Reverend Gary Davis, Cousin Joe, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. Tharpe was introduced on stage and accompanied on piano by Cousin Joe Pleasant. Under the auspices of George Wein, the Caravan was stage-managed by Joe Boyd. A concert, in the rain, was recorded by Granada Television at the disused railway station at Wilbraham Road, Manchester, in May 1964. The band performed on one platform while the audience was seated on the opposite.
Tharpe’s biographer said in 2018 that “she influenced Elvis Presley, she influenced Johnny Cash, she influenced Little Richard”. When asked about her music and about rock and roll, Tharpe is reported to have said, “Oh, these kids and rock and roll — this is just sped up rhythm and blues. I’ve been doing that forever”.
Tharpe’s performances were curtailed by a stroke in 1970, after which one of her legs was amputated as a result of complications from diabetes. On October 9, 1973, the eve of a scheduled recording session, she died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as a result of another stroke. She was buried at Northwood Cemetery in Philadelphia.
Tharpe’s guitar style blended melody-driven urban blues with traditional folk arrangements and incorporated a pulsating swing that was a precursor of rock and roll. A National Public Radio article commented in 2017 that “Rock ‘n’ roll was bred between the church and the nightclubs in the soul of a queer black woman in the 1940s named Sister Rosetta Tharpe”.
Little Richard referred to the stomping, shouting, gospel music performer as his favorite singer when he was a child. In 1947, she heard Richard sing before her concert at the Macon City Auditorium and later invited him on stage to sing with her; it was Richard’s first public performance outside of the church. Following the show, she paid him for his performance, which inspired him to become a performer. When Johnny Cash gave his induction speech at the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame, he referred to Tharpe as his favorite singer when he was a child. His daughter Rosanne Cash stated in an interview with Larry King that Tharpe was her father’s favorite singer. Tharpe began recording with electric guitar in the 1940s, with “That’s All”, which has been cited as an influence on Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley. Other musicians, including Aretha Franklin, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Isaac Hayes, have identified her singing, guitar playing, and showmanship as an important influence on them. She was held in particularly high esteem by UK jazz/blues singer George Melly. Tina Turner credits Tharpe, along with Mahalia Jackson, as an early musical influence. Such diverse performers as Meat Loaf, Neil Sedaka and Karen Carpenter have attested to the influence of Tharpe in the rhythmic energy she emanated in her performances (Carpenter’s drum fills are especially reminiscent of Tharpe’s “Chorlton Chug”).
In 2018 singer Frank Turner wrote and performed the song “Sister Rosetta” about her influence and how she deserved to be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The single was released on July 3, 2019. According to Cleveland.com, Tharpe “plugged into an electric guitar in the late 1930s and became a rock star before the men considered the pioneers of rock and roll had dreamt of doing so. She’s the “Godmother of rock and roll” who influenced every musician traditionally identified with helping launch the genre during the 1950s”.
A resurgence of interest in Tharpe’s work led to a biography, several NPR segments, scholarly articles, and honors. The United States Postal Service issued a 32-cent commemorative stamp to honor Tharpe on July 15, 1998. In 2007, she was inducted posthumously into the Blues Hall of Fame. In 2008, a concert was held to raise funds for a marker for her grave, and January 11 was declared Sister Rosetta Tharpe Day in Pennsylvania. A gravestone was put in place later that year, and a Pennsylvania historical marker was approved for placement at her home in the Yorktown neighborhood of Philadelphia.
In 2011 BBC Four aired a one-hour documentary, Sister Rosetta Tharpe: The Godmother of Rock & Roll, written and directed by UK filmmaker Mick Csaky. In 2013 the film was shown in the US as part of the PBS series American Masters. The film has been repeated numerous times in the UK and US, most recently in March 2015 to mark the 100th anniversary of Tharpe’s birth. On March 20, 2015, the UK newspaper The Guardian published a 100th-birthday tribute by Richard Williams. On September 12, 2016, the musical play Marie And Rosetta, based on the relationship between Tharpe and Marie Knight, opened at the Atlantic Theater Company in New York.
On October 5, 2017, Tharpe was listed as a nominee for the 2018 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductions. On December 13, 2017, she was elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as an Early Influence. In 2017, National Public Radio wrote about the artist’s career and concluded with these comments: Tharpe “was a gospel singer at heart who became a celebrity by forging a new path musically… Through her unforgettable voice and gospel swing crossover style, Tharpe influenced a generation of musicians including Aretha Franklin, Chuck Berry and countless others… She was, and is, an unmatched artist.”
Gospel Songs (Decca, 1947)
Blessed Assurance (Decca, 1951)
Gospel Train (Mercury, 1956)
The Gospel Truth (Mercury, 1959)
Sister Rosetta Tharpe (MGM, 1960)
Spirituals in Rhythm (Promenade, 1960)
Sister on Tour (Verve, 1961)
The Gospel Truth (Verve, 1962)
Precious Memories (Savoy, 1968)
Gospel Keepsakes (MCA, 1983)
Live in 1960 (Southland, 1991)
Live at the Hot Club de France (BMG/Milan, 1991)
Her complete works up to 1961 were issued as seven double-CD box sets by the French label Frémeaux & Associés.
Tharpe’s performances were curtailed by a stroke in 1970, after which one of her legs was amputated as a result of complications from diabetes. On October 9, 1973, the eve of a scheduled recording session, she died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as a result of another stroke. She was buried at Northwood Cemetery in Philadelphia.
Peggy Jones (later Malone, July 19, 1940 – September 16, 2015) born in Harlem, New York (in the Sugar Hill section), known on stage as Lady Bo in recognition of her relationship with Bo Diddley, was an American musician. A pioneer of rock and roll, Jones played rhythm guitar in Bo Diddley’s band in the late 1950s and early 1960s, becoming one of the first (perhaps the first) female rock guitarists in a highly visible rock band, and was sometimes called the Queen Mother of Guitar.
She attended the High School of Performing Arts where she studied tap and ballet dance and trained in opera. Even from a very young age, she found herself completely consumed with music; purchasing her first guitar at the age of 15. She was briefly in a local doo-wop group, the Bop Chords, which disbanded in 1957. A chance meeting with Bo Diddley, who was impressed to see a girl with a guitar case, led to an invitation to join Diddley’s band as a guitarist and singer. She recorded with him from 1957 to 1961 or 1963, appearing on singles including “Hey! Bo Diddley”, “Road Runner”, “Bo Diddley’s A Gunslinger”, and the instrumental “Aztec” which she wrote and played all the guitar parts. However, throughout her career, Peggy Jones always strived to be an independent artist and was involved in an R&B band known as the Jewels, among other various names.
Throughout her time with Diddley, Jones maintained the separate career she had begun independently as a songwriter, session musician, and bandleader. She led her own band, the Jewels (also known as the Fabulous Jewels, Lady Bo and the Family Jewels, and various other names, but not to be confused with The Jewels), which became a top R&B band on the New York – Boston east coast club scene the 1960s and 1970s. She eventually left Diddley’s band to concentrate on the Jewels and other activities. She was replaced with another female guitarist, Norma- Jean Wofford (“The Duchess”).
Jones played guitar on Les Cooper’s 1962 instrumental “Wiggle Wobble” and percussion on the 1967 hit “San Franciscan Nights” by Eric Burdon and The Animals and other recordings and later backed James Brown and Sam & Dave. She remained musically active well into the 21st century.
Jones met Bo Diddley in 1956 backstage after playing with the Bop-Chords in the Apollo Theater in the neighborhood of Harlem. Many assumed that Lady Bo and Bo Diddley were a couple, considering her given name, but that was not the case. She was married to the band’s bass player, Wally Malone. Malone lived in the mountains of western Pennsylvania when he first met Jones in a New York club in the 1960s. Later, Jones invited Malone into her band in 1968 and got married. They both moved to San Jose, California where Jones played at a show with Bo Diddley and that was the time she received her nickname, “Lady Bo.” In 1962 Jones left Bo Diddley and recruited The Duchess to play for him. In 1979, Malone and Jones moved to Boulder Creek.
At the age of 75, Peggy Jones died on September 16, 2015, leaving behind her husband, Wally Malone. He announced his wife’s death via Facebook, saying, “Today is one of the saddest days of my life. My wife and partner of 47 years has been called up to that great rock & roll band in the heavens to be reunited with Bo Diddley, Jerome Green and Clifton James. The last hour and a quarter I spent by her side and the last thing I said to her was the quote above regarding Diddley and band. The other thing I added at the end of it is that band doesn’t have a bass player and for them to please hold that seat until it is my time to join them. The incredible part of this is immediately after saying this to her there was a quick sound that came from her and right then her heart stopped beating. Many of you know about the Bo Diddley connection but in case not my wife’s professional stage name is Lady Bo.”