Sister Rosetta Tharpe on a Railway Platform • Manchester • 1964

The BBC continued their series of curated musical archive shows with a sofa-based discussion between Cerys Matthews and Val Wilmer about the cultural impact of the delta blues.

You can watch the programme on iplayer, here

It’s well-worth watching.

Cerys Matthews is a well-known singer and radio presenter. Val Wilmer is a writer and photographer who as spent her life within the jazz and blues community…

First up was a brilliant film of Sister Rosetta Tharpe playing at the disused railway station at Wilbraham Road, Manchester, for Granada TV in May 1964…

It must have been raining and freezing, as Rosetta came onto the platform wearing a natty overcoat…the audience, on the other side of the tracks also looked pretty cold.

If you are interested in discovering more about Rosetta Tharpe, there is an old documentary on box of broadcasts, and a review in the Guardian…

All of the commentary on the railway-station show expresses a slight surprise at the idea of staging a blues show on a railway station platform…but the TV producers seem to have intuitively understood that modern popular music was born on the railway, between the Delta and Chicago, and passing through Memphis and Detroit… Delta blues are widely acknowledged as the wellspring of all modern popular music…

By a happy co-incidence, I recently posted about this very subject on my railway-themed college blog, here

Music of the Rails • The Theory

and again, here

Chicago – New Orleans • The City of New Orleans + Panama Streamliners • Chicago + Illinois • 20C

If popular music was born on the railway, you might easily map it’s development. This is especially the case in relation to the railway axis, above. It’s no surprise that there’s now a whole lot of music mapping and info-graphics online…

These musical maps are derived, conceptually, from the work of Cornelius Cardew on graphical scores. I’ve posted about him before, here

and with more background, here

You can download the whole of Cardew’s work online as a pdf.

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