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Rock Hall nominees include touch of blues, funk

Tahoe Onstage

Sister Rosetta Tharpe in 1938 after she signed with Delta Records.
Photo by James J. Kriegsmann

Almost 45 years after her death, Sister Rosetta Tharpe is getting mainstream recognition for her pioneering electric guitar playing and soulful singing that became known as rock and roll.

She was added to the Philadelphia Music Walk of Fame on Wednesday and today she was nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In all, 19 were nominated, including nine for the first time.

The new attention on Tharpe might be due to the 2016 production “Rosetta and Marie,” written by George Brant. In an interview with the Daily Beast, Brant said: “Chuck Berry borrowed her guitar stylings and Little Richard said she was responsible for his career. Elvis Presley counted her as an influence and even Jimi Hendrix once said he just wanted to play like Rosetta. Jerry Lee Lewis, Bob Dylan, and Johnny Cash have all cited her as influences — which makes it even more frustrating that she fell out of fashion.”

Other first-time nominees are Nina Simone, the Eurythmics, Dire Straits, Judas Priest, Kate Bush, Moody Blues, Radiohead, Rage Against the Machine. Nominated again are The Meters, MC5, Bon Jovi, Rufus featuring Chaka Khan, Depeche Mode, J. Geils Band, The Zombies, Link Wray and L.L. Cool J.

Fans can participate in the voting through Dec. 5. According the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, “criteria include the influence and significance of the artists’ contributions to the development and perpetuation of rock and roll.” Select the top five and vote here LINK.

Here are the five votes cast today by Tahoe Onstage

Sister Rosetta Tharpe. Known as “The Godmother of Rock and Roll” and “The Original Soul Sister,” Tharpe melded gospel and secular music and played it to electric guitar. She signed a deal with Delta Records in 1938 and one of her first hits was called “Rock Me” – that was 13 years before Cleveland disc jockey Alan Freed coined the phrase “rock and roll.” Cleveland is the site of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Tahoe Onstage

George Porter and Art “Papa Funk” Neville talk during a 2016 show at the Crystal Bay Casino show at Lake Tahoe. Neville first hired Porter in the 1960s when he was an under-aged, 3-string bass player.
Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage

The Meters. The pioneering funk band from New Orleans was Art “Papa Funk” Neville on keyboards, Leo Nocentelli on guitar, George Porter on bass and Zig Modeliste on drums. Neville’s younger brother Cyril joined the band after it began to incorporate vocals. Its heyday was from 1965-77. In hundreds of interviews I’ve conducted with musicians, the Meters have been named as most influential more times than any group or artist other than Jimi Hendrix. Why isn’t the group better known with fans? “I guess we were too syncopated,” Neville told me.

“I liked Professor Longhair, Fats Domino and a lot of the doo wap groups, so I just kind of put my own spin on the stuff. And the funk really came when I was with the Meters,” Neville said. “My thing was to take any song and do it your own way. And that’s how we came up with the idea of the funk. All young guys who were open to everything and we tried it and it’s obvious what happened. (The Meters were) one of the great groups.”

The Moody Blues. A late arrival from the British Invasion in 1968, the band couldn’t quite correctly play American 12-bar blues. They used a Mellotron, a keyboard newly invented in Birmingham, England, and created an orchestral, symphonic and, well, moody, sound. They were revolutionaries who sold 70 million records. When I spoke with bass player John Lodge before the band played at Lake Tahoe about 10 years ago, he was miffed that the Moody Blues were not in the Hall of Fame.

Link Wray. A Shawnee native American, Wray popularized the power chord with the 1958 instrumental “Rumble.” That tune plays in the background during the “uncomfortable silences” scene in the diner with Uma Thurman and John Travolta in the movie “Pulp Fiction.” It was banned in some cities for fear it would encourage gang violence. Wray lost a lung after getting tuberculosis in the Korean War. You can hear him gasp for air on some of his recordings. Iggy Pop, Jimmy Page and Neil Young cite Wray as a major influence.

MC5. The Detroit band’s name comes from the Motor City Five: Rob Tyner, Wayne Kramer, Fred “Sonic” Smith, Michael Davis and Drummer Dennis Thompson. They epitomized rock and roll and are the pioneers of punk rock. This is their third nomination. Like the Jimi Hendrix Experience, MC5 put out just three albums but “Kick Out the Jams,” “Back in the USA” and “High Time” are revolutionary.

-Tim Parsons

About Tim Parsons

Tim Parsons is the editor of Tahoe Onstage who first moved to Lake Tahoe in 1992. Before starting Tahoe Onstage in 2013, he worked for 29 years at newspapers, including the Tahoe Daily Tribune, Eureka Times-Standard and Contra Costa Times. He was the recipient of the 2011 Keeping the Blues Alive award for Journalism.

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