All About Jazz

Home » Musicians » Sister Rosetta Tharpe

Sister Rosetta Tharpe Sister Rosetta Tharpe

Arkansas native Rosetta Nubin Tharpe was one of gospel music’s first superstars, the first gospel performer to record for a major record label (Decca), and an early crossover from gospel to secular music.

Rosetta Nubin was born in Cotton Plant (Woodruff County) on March 20, 1915, to Katie Bell Nubin, an evangelist, singer, and mandolin player for the Church of God in Christ. No mention is found of her father. Nubin began performing at age four, playing guitar and singing “Jesus is on the Main Line.” By age six, Nubin appeared regularly with her mother, performing a mix of gospel and secular music styles that would eventually make her famous. As a youth, she could sing and keep on pitch and hold a melody. Her vocal qualities, however, paled beside her abilities on the guitar”she played individual tones, melodies, and riffs instead of just strumming chords. This talent was all the more remarkable because, at the time, few African-American women played guitar.

Nubin’s guitar style was influenced by her mother’s mandolin playing, pianist Arizona Dranes, and composer Florence Price, with whom Rosetta studied in Cotton Plant. She also sang the popular hymns of the day, including the compositions of bluesman turned gospel musician, Thomas A. Dorsey. Indeed, elements of blues are readily apparent in Nubin’s guitar styling. Later, Nubin’s music would be influenced by her work with jazz greats Lucky Milliner and Cab Calloway.

Read more






Aretha Franklin Aretha Franklin
voice / vocals
Jimmy Rushing Jimmy Rushing
voice / vocals
Clifton Chenier Clifton Chenier
Sam Cooke Sam Cooke
voice / vocals
Big Bill Broonzy Big Bill Broonzy
guitar, acoustic
Mahalia Jackson Mahalia Jackson
voice / vocals
Ella Mae Morse Ella Mae Morse
voice / vocals
Irma Thomas Irma Thomas
voice / vocals
Blind Willie McTell Blind Willie McTell
guitar, 12-string
Odetta Odetta
guitar, acoustic
Jon Cleary Jon Cleary
voice / vocals
Blind Willie Johnson Blind Willie Johnson
guitar, slide

Shop Amazon

All About Jazz needs your support

All About Jazz & Jazz Near You were built to promote jazz music: both recorded and live events. We rely primarily on venues, festivals and musicians to promote their events through our platform. With club closures, shelter in place and an uncertain future, we've pivoted our platform to collect, promote and broadcast livestream concerts to support our jazz musician friends. This is a significant but neccesary effort that will help musicians now, and in the future. You can help offset the cost of this essential undertaking by making a donation today. In return, we'll deliver an ad-free experience (which includes hiding the bottom right video ad). Thank you.

Get more of a good thing

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories and includes your local jazz events calendar.