Thursday, December 13, 2007

a ROCKIN' R&B pioneer, Ike Turner, dead at age 76

(above) pioneer urban bluesman and R&B innovator, Ike Turner, here in 2002,
passed away Dec.12, 2007
(above) with his wife Tina Turner, in the early '70s, courtesy Getty Images
"a bad man, a hard man . . . not unlike the Stagger Lee of blues legend"
(above) the handsome (but troubled) couple, 1966,
courtesy Chris Walter photofeatures

(above) the legendary, penetrating stare; photo taken in the 1990s
(above) in London, 1966, courtesy Chris Walter photofeatures
(above) a somewhat hokey pose, at the height of their success,
courtesy Getty Images
From the SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE: " Rhythm and blues pioneer Ike Turner died yesterday at age 76 in his home outside San Diego. He will largely be remembered as the abusive husband of soul queen Tina Turner, sadly obscuring his crucial role in the birth of rock & roll."
From Turner's biography at
"Born and raised in Mississippi (born in 1931, Clarksdale), Ike Turner started his musical career while still a high school student. A trained pianist and guitarist, he founded a band called the Top Hatters and it was later renamed the Kings Of Rhythm. The group performed at small clubs throughout the Mississippi delta, and finally nabbed a recording contract with Sam Phillips' label at Sun Studios in Memphis, TN. Turner and the Kings of Rhythm soon enjoyed success with the No. 1-charting R&B hit "Rocket 88." Penned by the then 19-year-old Turner, the 1951 single is often considered the earliest rock & roll-styled record. However because of ambiguous contractual concerns, Kings' lead singer and saxophonist Jackie Brenston's name was put on the single, along with the name of Brenston's side band, the Delta Cats, and so both are credited with the song issued by Chess Records, without properly crediting Ike Turner specifically.
"Already known as the premier boogie-woogie man in West Memphis' "blacks only" clubs, Turner next headed to East St. Louis in 1954 and his Kings of Rhythm went on to become a major R&B act in St. Louis in the mid-1950s. During that time, while fronting the Kings, Turner also made a name for himself as a key producer and talent scout. He played piano and guitar as a side man for countless pioneer blues artists including Elmore James, Otis Rush, Robert Nighthawk, and Sonny Boy Williamson II, in addition to collaborating with the likes of B.B. King, Johnny Ace, Bobby "Blue" Bland, and Howlin' Wolf.
"At a 1956 performance in St. Louis, Turner met his future wife Tina, then the teenage Annie Mae Bullock. Within a year she changed her name to Tina Turner, and Ike built a new act around the couple, including vocalists he named the "Ikettes."
The rest, of course is history, through Phil Spector's "River Deep, Mountain High," the legendary "Proud Mary" rendition, and Ike & Tina Turner headlining at rock clubs and concerts, culminating with their opening for the Rolling Stones. Ike's many transgressions led to Tina fleeing from him,
and her becoming an internationally-respected diva. He redeemed himself greatly in his last years by returning to his musical roots.
You can read much more about Ike's role in creating "Rocket 88" on pages 26-27 of ROCKIN'. And, I commend you to read Joel Selvin's full obituary in today's SF Chronicle (pg B-5).
Another man done gone, down on the county farm, another man done gone. RIP Ike Turner.


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