Among my all-time favorite recording are those from 1941 and 1942 that feature Lucky Millinder and his Orchestra. The orchestra had a number of outstanding soloists, and many of the fine arrangements were from the pen of band pianist Bill Doggett. And then there was Sister Rosetta Tharpe … vocalist, guitar soloist and a true force of nature. While she sadly does not solo on any of them, her very personal sound, an amazing blend of jazz and her gospel origins, are on full display. Tharpe has been cited as one of the “grandparents” of rock-and-roll, and that is an assertion with which I will not argue. (Her amazing guitar playing can be heard on many YouTube videos.)
Lucky Millinder’s band made four Soundies in September of 1941, and as one would expect, Rosetta Tharpe in front and center in three of the four. “Shout! Sister, Shout” was composed by bandleader Millinder and pianist Doggett; Doggett probably did the arrangement as well. The setting, a barn where all of the bandmembers and dancers are dressed like cowhands, was explained by director John Primi: “We shot these films at Eastern Service Studios in Queens. It had been the old Paramount Studios and there were some standing sets, lots of costumes and such. I guess we were trying to avoid a bandstand setting – didn’t want to over-use that approach – so a barn? Why not? The set was easily made, just use an old wood backdrop, a few bales of hay, and some paper cut-outs that would pass for tobacco handing from the ceiling. Overalls for the bandmembers and we were all set.”
All of the Millinder sidemen have been identified, but we will save that for a more conventional Soundie where the focus in on them a bit more.