Since her teens, a force for great music
When Baltimore music columnist Rosa Pryor-Trusty was a teenager, the famed Nat King Cole gave her a nickname that endures today.
“Our band was on tour in New York, and he noticed that I was a bit antsy and impatient while waiting around in the studio. He then dubbed me a ‘Rambling Rose,’” she said in an interview with the Beacon.
Rosa “Rambling Rose” Pryor-Trusty, now 77, is a longtime R&B, blues and jazz lover. Growing up in the 1950s in inner-city Baltimore, she played saxophone and piano before forming a music group when she was 13.
As the lead singer for “Little Johnny and the Twilights,” she wrote a song called “Thanks, Mr. DJ” and recorded it in a studio. Decade Records released the 45 — a significant feat for a high schooler during that era, she noted.
While touring with the Twilights as a teenager, she met several popular artists, including Cole, Sam Cooke, the Shirelles, the Chantels, Ruby & the Romantics and a young guitarist from Seattle named James Marshall Hendrix — better known today as Jimi Hendrix.
She describes her relationship with Hendrix as a “cordial friendship. He was a good guy,” she said.
Despite her music career and touring schedule, Pryor-Trusty graduated from Edmondson High School in 1963 and found time to attend Community College of Baltimore and Morgan State College.
‘Nourish the young people’
Since the 1960s, Pryor-Trusty has utilized her entrepreneurial know-how to assist up-and-coming younger musicians who are attempting to establish music careers.
“It’s all about helping the younger ones develop their futures,” she said. “If I recognize a [person with] potential in the music field, it’s my role to prune and grease their musical wings and watch them soar into flight.”
To help kids pay for music lessons, Pryor-Trusty started a scholarship fund in the early 1990s. According to the Baltimore Sun, in its first decade the Rosa Pryor Music Scholarship Fund distributed $10,000 to 35 music students between the ages of 5 and 17.
In the years since, Pryor-Trusty has participated in the development of music students from kindergarten through high school. “My passion is to nourish the young people,” she said.
Over the past 20 years, according to her website, she helped many musicians get on the air with the help of Baltimore-based radio hosts such as DJ Al Jefferson, Dell Edwards and Fred Robinson, aka Rockin’ Robin.
By the early 1970s, Pryor-Trusty had established herself as one of the premier African-American women promoters in the nation. She garnered a strong reputation for booking and promoting artists throughout Maryland and into Washington, D.C., New York City, Philadelphia and parts of New Jersey.
She also helped produce major concerts at arenas in Maryland such as the Baltimore Civic Center and the Capital Centre, and at smaller outdoor venues like Painters Mill Music Fair and Carr’s Beach, she said.
As a nationally recognized promoter, Pryor-Trusty has been affiliated with several well-known acts: Walter Jackson, Joe Tex, Sonny Til and the Orioles, the Clovers, organist Richard “Groove” Holmes, Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, the Drifters, the Swallows, Philippé Wynne of the Spinners and P-Funk fame, Millie Jackson and comedian Wild Man Steve.
Columnist and book author
As her own touring music career came to an end in the 1980s, Pryor-Trusty transitioned her music skills to a new phase — in the publishing industry.
She was the entertainment editor and music columnist with the Baltimore Times and Annapolis Times for 10 years. Later, she joined the Baltimore AFRO, where she was a contributing writer of music-related columns. She’s also a longtime member of the National Association of Black Journalists.
In addition, Pryor-Trusty has published two books about the music scene she knows so well: African American Entertainment in Baltimore in 2009 and African American Community, History and Entertainment in Maryland in 2013.
She is now working on her third book, which will focus on Baltimore and Maryland’s Black history from the 1950s through 1980s.
A Reisterstown resident today, Pryor-Trusty has been married to William “Shorty” Trusty for 25 years. Trusty, 82, is a retired 18-wheeler truck driver.
The two have known one another for nearly 60 years, and are “soulmates and business partners,” Pryor-Trusty said. She is the mother of four, grandmother of 27 and great-grandmother of 19 great-grandchildren.
Helping to rebuild theater
Pryor-Trusty continues to break new ground in the promotion of the music she loves. She is now working in a public-relations capacity to assist in a summer-long music performance series, “A Taste of Jazz @ the Avenue Bakery,” which takes place outside the bakery located on Pennsylvania Avenue in historic West Baltimore.
The summer series features live musicians and food vendors who provide their wares and talents at the corner of Baker Street and Pennsylvania Avenue. Patrons congregate the first Saturday of the month, from May through August, to celebrate Baltimore’s finest citizens, musicians, artisans and food.
The outdoor events are open to the public and generate funds to help rebuild the old Royal Theater on Pennsylvania Avenue. Built in 1922, the Royal was Baltimore’s equivalent to the Apollo Theater in Harlem until it was torn down in the 1970s.
James Hamlin, owner of Avenue Bakery, is the main proponent for rebuilding the Royal Theater.
With that inspiration, Pryor-Trusty plans to stay busy rather than retire. “I’m still having way too much fun to think about retiring. In fact, the word is not even a part of my vocabulary,” she said.