Sister Rosetta Tharpe – Phantom Dancer 13 Oct 2020

Sister Rosetta Tharpe, big band and gospel singer, is this week’s Phantom Dancer feature artist. You’ll hear her with Lucky Millinder’s Orchestra from records and radio broadcasts.

Greg Poppleton brings you The Phantom Dancer, your non-stop mix of swing and jazz from live 1920s-60s radio and TV. On-air every week since 1985.

Hear The Phantom Dancer online from 12:04pm AEST Tuesday 6 October at where you can also hear two years of archived shows.

The finyl hour is vinyl.

sister rosetta tharpe and lucky millinder


Sister Rosetta Tharpe was a musical prodigy who began singing and playing the guitar as Little Rosetta Nubin at the age of four.

By age six, in 1921, 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, 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.

sister rosetta tharpe 1964


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.

She had signed a seven-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.

sister rosetta tharpe wedding


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.

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, was the first gospel song to appear on the Billboard magazine Harlem Hit Parade.


Play List – The Phantom Dancer
107.3 2SER-FM Sydney, Live Stream
Community Radio Network Show CRN #434

107.3 2SER Tuesday 4 October 2020
12:04 – 2:00pm (+11 hours GMT) and Saturdays 5 – 5:55pm
National Program: 1ART ArtsoundFM Canberra Sunday 10 – 11pm 5GTR Mt Gambier Monday 2:30 – 3:30am 3MBR Murrayville Monday 3 – 4am 4NAG Keppel FM Monday 3 – 4am 2SEA Eden Monday 3 – 4am 2MIA Griffith Monday 3 – 4pm 2BAR Edge FM Bega Monday 3 – 4pm 3VKV Alpine Radio Monday 6 – 7pm 7MID Oatlands Tuesday 8 – 9pm  2ARM Armidale Friday 12 – 1pm 7LTN Launceston Sunday 5 – 6am 3MGB Mallacoota Sunday 5 – 6am 6GME Radio Goolarri Broome Sunday 5 – 6am

Set 1
1950s Radio Dance Bands  
Theme + The Trolley Song
Jill Corey (voc) Johnny Long Orchestra
‘Let’s Go To Town’
Radio Transcription
Los Angeles
Theme + Manhattan Spiritual
Jerry Gray and his Band of Today
Palladium Ballroom
30 Oct 1959
So Tired + The Sheik of Araby + Close
Russ Morgan Orchestra (voc) Russ Morgan
Club Del Mar
Santa Monica
22 Aug 1959
Set 2
One Night Stand 1944  
Up, Up, Up, Up + Brahm’s Hungarian Dance No. 5
Shep Fields and his New Music (voc) Tommy Lucas and Band
‘One Night Stand’
Copacabana NYC
AFRS Re-broadcast
9 Aug 1944
Theme + Desert Night
John Kirby Sextet
‘One Night Stand’
Aquarium Restaurant
AFRS Re-broadcast
Jul 1944
Riff Raff + In a Sentimental Mood (close)
Bob Strong Orchestra (voc) Band
‘One Night Stand’
Glen Island Casino
New Rochelle NY
AFRS Re-broadcast
20 Aug 1944
Set 3
Dixieland Radio  
Tin Roof Blues
Red Nichols
Radio Transcription Los Angeles
The Savoy Blues
Kid Ory
Club Hangover
KCBS San Francisco
5 Feb 1955
When My Dream Comes Home + Theme
Preacher Rollo and The Five Saints
‘Dixieland Club’
AFRS Hollywood

Set 4
Sister Rosetta Tharpe  
Down By The Riverside
Sister Rosetta Tharpe & Band (voc) Lucky Millinder Orchestra
AFRS Hollywood
Rock Me
Sister Rosetta Tharpe & Band (voc) Lucky Millinder Orchestra
Comm Rec
5 Sep 1941
Tall Skinny Papa
Sister Rosetta Tharpe & Band (voc) Lucky Millinder Orchestra
AFRS Hollywood
Set 5
King Porter Stomp  
King Porter Stomp
Count Basie Orchestra
Blue Room
Hotel Lincoln
14 Apr 1944
King Porter Stomp
Tony Pastor Orchestra
Aircheck NYC
Jan 1945
King Porter Stomp
Metronome All Stars
Rehearsal Disc
7 Jan 1940
King Porter Stomp + Close
Les Brown Orchestra
Paladium Ballroom
Nov 1943
Set 6
Blue Barron Radio Transcriptions  
The Yam
Blue Barron Orchestra
Radio Transciption
Heart and Soul
Blue Barron Orchestra (voc) Russ Carlyle
Radio Transciption
Blue Barron Orchestra (voc) Charlie Fisher
Radio Transciption
Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gives To Me
Blue Barron Orchestra (voc) Three Blue Notes
Radio Transciption
Set 7
1920s Radio  
Sweet Jennie Lee
Reser’s Radio Band (voc) Frank Luther
Hit of the Week Record NYC
Dec 1930
The Eskimo Pie Orchestra (voc) Kay Palmer
‘The Eskimo Pie Program’
Radio Transcription
Jul 1929
You’re the Cream in my Coffee
Ray Miller Orchestra (voc) Bob Nolan
‘The Sunny Meadows Program’
Radio Transcription
18 Jan 1929
Painting the Clouds with Sunshine + Lonesome Little Doll
Dixie Two-Steppers
Radio Transcription
Set 8
1950s Radio Jazz  
Tippin’ Out (theme) + Too Marvelous
Errol Garner
‘The Basin Street’
May 1956
Love Walked In
Dave Brubeck
‘The Basin Street’
Feb 1956
Blues in G
Lester Young
WABC ABC NY 5 Sep 1956
When Your Lover Has Gone + Theme
Errol Garner
Copley Square Hotel
WHDH Boston
Dec 1953

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