March 27, 2012
Rosco Gordon (April 10, 1928 – July 11, 2002) was an African American blues singer and songwriter. Born in Memphis, Tennessee on Florida street. Gordon was one of the “Beale Streeters“, a moniker given to a group of musicians who helped develop the style known as Memphis Blues.
Gordon created a style of piano playing known as “The Rosco Rhythm” and made a number of his earlyrecordings for Sam Phillips at Sun Records. This rhythm places the accent on the off beats, and is widely cited as the foundation of Jamaican ska and reggae music. In 1962, he gave up the music industry and moved to Queens, New York with his new wife where he purchased a partnership in a laundry business. Following his wife’s death in 1984, he returned to performing in the New York area.
In 2002, he was invited by filmmaker Richard Pearce to be featured as part of a documentary about several blues musicians returning to Memphis for a special tribute to Sam Phillips in conjunction with the May 2002W. C. Handy Awards. Called The Road To Memphis, the documentary aired on PBS television. Six weeks after filming finished, Rosco Gordon died of a heart attack at his apartment in Queens. He was interred in the Rosedale Cemetery in Linden,New Jersey.