22nd November 2020:
There were just a couple of posts in the second half of what’s turning into a busy month. Along with founding mothers of rock and roll, we met a remarkable bass player and spent time honouring the ‘yold’ members of Yes. A worthwhile, if skimpy couple of weeks
January 15th – 31st: Musicians Featured
Tal Wilkefeld – YES – Memphis Minnie – Sista Rosetta Tharpe – Big Mama Thornton
15th – 17th Jan: When you start playing the guitar at 14-years-old and by the age of twenty you are playing with the likes of Jeff Beck, Prince, Herbie Hancock, Eric Clapton, Chick Corea and Mick Jagger, you know you have a gift!
I’m talking about Australian born Tal Wilkefeld, the genius bass guitar player who stepped into the spotlight as an accomplished singer/songwriter in 2016. She released her debut solo album, Love Remains, last year, with Jackson Browne as the executive producer. As expected the album received huge critical acclaim and reached #1 on the Billboard Heatseeker charts within the first week.
Here’s a live recording of her opening for The Who for their 50th-anniversary tour, and the song Killing Me from her album. Thanks to Greg May for the heads-up on this amazing musician. To accompany my earlier post about Tal Wilkenfeld I came across a short clip (6:50) giving a brief background of her career, and some great footage This is a seriously talented lady! 😎
18th Jan: I came across the term ‘yold’ recently. It is a name given to the new generation of over ‘65s who are still active in their careers. I watched a clip earlier that expresses the concept perfectly! YES members Jon Anderson, Trevor Rabin and Rick Wakeman playing the song Heart of Sunrise live in 2018. At the time Jon Anderson was 74-years-old and still sounds the same as when YES first formed in the ‘60s. Rick Wakeman, 70, still has full control of his keyboard wizardry, and still looks the part. The youngster, Trevor Rabin (65), still makes one proud to be a South African. Happy Saturday folks. 😎
20th Jan: Tonight I am honouring three main influencers of women in Blues and Rock music. These are the ladies who continue to inspire new generations of women to shine in the music industry. These are the ladies who went out on a limb to prove themselves in a male-dominated era.
First we have Memphis Minnie (1897 – 1973). Lizzie Douglas (Memphis Minnie) started her musical career as a teenager when she joined the Ringling Brothers circus as a travelling musician. She was discovered by a talent scout while playing for tips in a Memphis barber shop and due to her personality, showmanship (showwomanship?) and sheer skill, became one of the top recording artists of the era.
She is one of the rare women of her era to gain prominence as a guitarist. Minnie overcame considerable odds, especially racism and sexism, to achieve her success. But her sheer talent and determination shone through. She has been heralded as a champion of feminist independence and empowerment and has the honour of being the first artist to have been inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame (1980). Here’s a song that Led Zepplin fans might recognise, When the Levee Breaks. 😎
My second tribute to the early ladies of Blues and Rock goes to the godmother of Rock ‘n Roll, Sister Rosetta Tharpe. Born in 1915 she learned to play the guitar by age four and was soon touring with her preacher/musician mother in an evangelical act. By the 1930s she had developed her own style. Her first big hit, Rock Me, has elements of Rock and Gospel. Interestingly, her 1945 song, Strange Things Happen Every Day, is recognised as the first Gospel song to impact the ‘Race’ chart (later named the ‘R&B’ chart), making it the origin of what would become Rock and Roll.
Sister Rosetta Tharpe played alongside acts like Duke Ellington and Dixie Hummingbirds, travelling the world while breaking down not just stereotypes in music, but also societal norms as a ‘queer’ woman. Throughout her life Tharpe had married three different men but also had an “open secret” relationship with singer Marie Knight. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inducted her in 2018, cementing her legacy as an early influencer. As is quoted on the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s website, “She is the founding mother who gave rock’s founding fathers the idea”. Enjoy this clip of Sister Rosetta Tharpe in action on stage in Germany in the late ‘60s with the Chicago Blues Allstars.
Today’s final tribute to the early ladies of Blues and Rock belongs to ‘Big Mama’ Thornton (1926 – 1984). Although she had grown up singing it was in the ‘40s that her career truly started. She was called ‘Big Mama’ for her size and her powerful voice. After her mother passed away the 14-year-old took a cleaning job at a local saloon. It wasn’t long before she started standing in for the regular singer where she was discovered by the music promoter and the head of The Hot Harlem Revue, Sammy Green, with whom she toured for several years.
Although she composed and recorded numerous songs, two stand out; Hound Dog (later covered by Elvis in 1956) held down the #1 slot on the R&B Billboard chart for seven weeks in 1953, and Ball and Chain, immortalised by Janis Joplin. Here’s the late, great ‘Big Mama’ Thornton with Ball and Chain. Hope you’ve enjoyed tonight’s selection. Catch you soon. 😎
This article was first published on the Design Train website for Loving the Music
Words © Andrew Knapp
The author does not own the copyright of any of the videos used in the article