* Excerpt from Mojo Article: Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s May 7, 1964 performance of 'Didn’t It Rain' at the abandoned Wilbraham Road rail station in Manchester’s Whalley Range, Blues And Gospel Train was Granada TV’s brave attempt to bring The American Folk Blues Festival to the north of England. With an audience of 300 beatnik teenagers seated on one railway platform, the space “across the tracks” was designed to resemble a rail station in the American Deep South, complete with horse-drawn carriages, hessian sacks, wooden crates, rocking chairs, and even a few goats and chickens. The line-up on the day featured Muddy Waters, Otis Spann, The Reverend Gary Davis , Cousin Joe Pleasants and Sonny Terry & Brownie McGee, but the performance that truly stands out, nearly fifty years on, is that of the 49 year-old sharecroppers’ daughter from Cottonplant, Arkansas.
Dressed for church, in dinky red wig hat and bright white diamante housecoat (with matching shoes and electric guitar), Tharpe captivates from the moment she strut-strides across the platform with “Uncle” Joe Pleasants, telling the rain-sodden crowd “how happy I am to be here”.
Schooled in Chicago’s Roberts Temple Church of God In Christ, as well as the lewd blues of Harlem’s Cotton Club, Tharpe was at home singing for a Tall Skinny Papa as she was belting out the spirituals, and her performances walk a playful knowing line between barrelhouse sauce and stomp-down Christian evangelism.
Tharpe went electric in 1947, and her finger-picking and string-bending playing style was a significant influenced on Chuck Berry, while her on-stage guitar wiggle reputedly influenced the young Elvis Presley.