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Bill McCulloch and Barry Lee Pearson

Davis, Gary D. (30 April 1896–05 May 1972), guitarist and religious singer, was born in Laurens County, South Carolina, south of Spartanburg, the son of John Davis and Evelina (maiden name unknown), farmers. One of eight children, he grew up on a farm he later described as being so far out in the country “you couldn’t hear a train whistle blow unless it was on a cloudy day.” Partially blinded as a baby, Davis was placed in the care of his grandmother. He showed an aptitude for music as a boy, first playing harmonica and later, with his grandmother’s help, constructing a guitar. When he was between the ages of seven and ten his mother gave him a guitar, and over the next several years he became proficient, possibly learning from a local musician, Craig Fowler, and an uncle. By age ten he was singing in a Baptist church and playing for local dances. In his teens Davis began adding blues to a repertoire that already included country dance tunes and religious songs....

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Martin, Roberta (12 February 1907–18 January 1969), gospel pianist, composer/arranger, and singer, was born Roberta Evelyn Winston in Helena, Arkansas, the daughter of William Winston and Anna (maiden name unknown). One of six children in the Winston household, Roberta showed an early proclivity for music. When only a toddler, she climbed onto the piano bench and picked out melodies that she had heard. This interest and talent was nurtured by her oldest brother’s wife, who became her first piano teacher....

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Tharpe, Sister Rosetta (20 March 1915–09 October 1973), gospel singer and guitarist, was born Rosetta Nubin in Cotton Plant, Arkansas, the daughter of Willis Nubin and Katie Bell (maiden name unknown). Her parents were divorced when Tharpe was very young, and her mother, who sang in a local church choir, became a traveling missionary. By the time Rosetta was six, she had learned to play guitar and she and her mother had moved to Chicago. They began to make public appearances from a base at the 40th Street Church of God in Christ, with Rosetta billed as “Little Sister” because of her small stature. In the early 1930s she married Pastor Thorpe, an elder in the Holiness church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and began touring in Florida in a trio with her mother and husband. After her separation from her husband, she retained his name as her professional name, changing one letter. They were appearing in Rev. Cohen’s church in Miami in 1938 when Tharpe came to the attention of the management of New York City’s Cotton Club and later auditioned at the club....