Keith Richards and Eric Clapton worshipped her solos, and Elvis idolized her sound: how Sister Rosetta Tharpe became an electric guitar trailblazer

Sister Rosetta Tharpe
(Image credit: Chris Ware/Keystone Features/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Rosetta Nubin was born on 20 March 1915 in Cotton Plant, Arkansas, a small town sandwiched between the Midwestern and Southern states. Both parents were cotton workers, although Rosetta didn’t know much of her father except that he sang in his spare time. Her mother, Katie, was deeply ensconced in the local church as both deaconess, vocalist and mandolinist.

Clearly a child prodigy, by the age of six Rosetta was performing with her mother, singing and playing guitar under the name Little Rosetta Nubin as part of a travelling evangelical group. 

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Denny Ilett

Denny Ilett has been a professional guitarist, bandleader, teacher and writer for nearly 40 years. Specializing in Jazz and Blues, Denny has played all over the world with New Orleans artist Lillian Boutté. Also an experienced teacher, Denny regularly contributes to JTC and Guitarist magazine and is founder of the Electric Lady Big Band, a 16-piece ensemble playing new arrangements of the music of Jimi Hendrix. Denny has also worked with funk maestro Pee Wee Ellis and is the co-founder of Bristol Jazz & Blues festival.