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Ike Turner

African American musician, songwriter, and producer (1931-2007)

Top 10 Ike Turner related articles

Ike Turner
Ike Turner performing at the
Long Beach Blues Festival in 1997
Background information
Birth nameIzear Luster Turner Jr.
Also known as
  • Ike Wister Turner
  • Icky Renrut
  • Lover Boy
Born(1931-11-05)November 5, 1931
Clarksdale, Mississippi, U.S.
DiedDecember 12, 2007(2007-12-12) (aged 76)
San Marcos, California, U.S.
  • Musician
  • songwriter
  • record producer
  • talent scout
  • bandleader
  • arranger
  • Guitar
  • piano
  • organ
  • vocals
Years active1940s–2007
Associated acts

Izear Luster "Ike" Turner Jr. (November 5, 1931 – December 12, 2007) was an American musician, bandleader, songwriter, arranger, talent scout, and record producer. An early pioneer of 1950s rock and roll, he is best known for his work in the 1960s and 1970s with his then-wife Tina Turner as the leader of the Ike & Tina Turner Revue.

A native of Clarksdale, Mississippi, Turner began playing piano and guitar as a child and then formed the Kings of Rhythm as a teenager. His first recording, "Rocket 88" (credited to Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats), is considered a contender for the distinction of first rock and roll song. During the 1950s, Turner also worked as a talent scout and producer for Sun Records and Modern Records.[1] He was instrumental in the early careers of various blues musicians such as B.B. King, Howlin' Wolf, and Bobby "Blue" Bland.[2] In 1954, Turner relocated to East St. Louis where his Kings of Rhythm became one of the most renowned acts in Greater St. Louis.[3] He later formed the Ike & Tina Turner Revue in 1960, which over the course of the decade became a soul/rock crossover success.

Turner's cocaine addiction and legal troubles, together with accounts by Tina Turner of domestic violence (published in her 1986 autobiography I, Tina and the 1993 film adaptation What's Love Got to Do with It), impacted his career in the 1980s and 1990s.[4] Addicted to cocaine for at least 15 years, Turner was convicted of drug offenses and served 18 months in prison.[5] After his release in 1991, he remained drug-free until he relapsed in 2004, which was the cause of his death in 2007. During the last decade of Turner's life, he revived his career as a frontman by returning to his blues roots. He released two award-winning albums, Here and Now and Risin with the Blues.

Hailed as a "great innovator" of rock and roll by contemporaries such as Little Richard and Johnny Otis,[6][7] Turner received critical acclaim as well.[8] Rolling Stone magazine editor David Fricke ranked Turner No. 61 on his list of 100 Greatest Guitarists and noted, "Turner was one of the first guitarists to successfully transplant the intensity of the blues into more-commercial music."[9] Turner won five Grammy Awards, including two competitive awards and three Grammy Hall of Fame Awards.[10][11] He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with Tina Turner in 1991.[12] He is also inducted into the St. Louis Walk of Fame, the Clarksdale Walk of Fame, the Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame, the Blues Hall of Fame, and the Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame.

Ike Turner Intro articles: 31

Early life

Ike Turner's birthplace and childhood home at 304 Washington Avenue in the Riverton neighborhood of Clarksdale, Mississippi.[13]

Turner was born in Clarksdale, Mississippi, on November 5, 1931,[14][15] to Beatrice Cushenberry, a seamstress, and Izear Luster Turner, a Baptist minister. His parents were Creole.[16] Turner was the younger of their two children, his sister Lee Ethel Knight was "some ten years" his senior. When Turner applied for his first passport in the 1960s, he discovered that his name was registered as Ike Wister Turner. By then both of his parents were deceased, so he could not verify the origin of his name.[16]

According to Turner, he witnessed his father beaten and left for dead by a white mob.[16] He was later told it was an act of retaliation over a woman with whom his father was having an affair. His father lived for two or three years as an invalid in a tent in the family's yard before succumbing to his injuries when Turner was about five years old.[16][a][17] His mother remarried an artist named Philip Reese, who Turner described as a violent alcoholic.[18] One day after Reese gave him a whipping, Turner knocked him out with a length of lumber and ran away to Memphis for a few days before returning home.[19] Despite their troubled relationship, Turner moved his stepfather into one of his homes in St. Louis after his mother died in 1959 and took care of him until his death in 1961.[20]

Turner recounted how he was sexually assaulted at the age of six by a middle-aged lady called Miss Boozie. Walking past her house to school, she would invite him to help feed her chickens and then take him to bed. This continued daily for some time.[21] Turner was also raped by another middle-aged woman, Miss Reeny, before he was twelve.[22] Reflecting on these experiences, he stated: "That's probably why every relationship I was in was surrounded by sex. Sex was power to me."[15]

External video
Oral History, Ike Turner shares moments of his life story and career. interview date December 1, 2005, NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) Oral History Library

Turner attended Booker T. Washington elementary school, then was promoted to Myrtle Hall in the sixth grade.[23] He quit school in the eighth grade and began working as an elevator operator at the Alcazar Hotel in downtown Clarksdale.[24] During breaks he would watch DJ John Friskillo play records at the radio station, WROX, located in the hotel.[25] WROX is noted for being the first radio station in Mississippi to employ a black DJ, Early Wright.[26] One day Friskillo spotted Turner watching and put him to work; teaching him the ins and outs of the control room.[27][28] Soon, he was left to play records while Friskillo took coffee breaks.[28][29] This led to Turner being offered a job by the station manager as the DJ on the late-afternoon shift. On his show, "Jive Till Five," he played a diverse range of music such as Roy Milton and Louis Jordan alongside early rockabilly records.[20][27]

Turner was inspired to learn the piano after he heard Pinetop Perkins play at his friend Ernest Lane's house.[30] Turner persuaded his mother to pay for piano lessons, but he did not take to the formal style of playing. Instead, he spent the money in a pool hall and learned boogie-woogie from Perkins.[31] At some point in the 1940s, Turner moved into Clarksdale's Riverside Hotel.[32] The Riverside played host to touring musicians, including Sonny Boy Williamson II and Duke Ellington.[32] Turner associated with many of these musicians, and at 13 years old he backed Sonny Boy Williamson II on piano.[7]

Ike Turner Early life articles: 17


1946–1950: Formation of the Kings of Rhythm

As a teenager, Turner joined a local rhythm ensemble called the Tophatters who played around Clarksdale, Mississippi.[33] Members of the band were Clarksdale musicians and included Turner's school friends Raymond Hill, Eugene Fox and Clayton Love.[34] The Tophatters played big band arrangements from sheet music. Turner, who was trained by ear and could not sight read, would learn the pieces by listening to a version on record at home, pretending to be reading the music during rehearsals.[33] The Tophatters had over 30 members, but they broke up into two groups after six months to a year. One faction wanted to play jazz music and the Dukes of Swing.[35] The other band led by Turner became the Kings of Rhythm. Turner said, "we wanted to play blues, boogie-woogie and Roy Brown, Jimmy Liggins, Roy Milton."[33] Turner kept the name throughout his career, although it went through lineup changes over time. Their early stage performances consisted largely of covers of popular jukebox hits. B.B. King helped them to get a steady weekend gig and recommended them to Sam Phillips at Memphis Recording Service.[1] In the 1950s, Turner's group got regular airplay from live sessions on the radio stations WROX in Clarksdale and KFFA in Helena, Arkansas.[26][36]

Around the time he was starting out with the Kings of Rhythm, Turner and Lane became unofficial roadies for blues musician Robert Nighthawk, who often played live on WROX.[28] The pair played drums and piano on radio sessions. Turner gained experience performing by supporting Nighthawk at gigs around Clarksdale.[37][38] He played juke joints alongside other local blues artists such as Elmore James, Muddy Waters, and Little Walter.[28] Performances typically lasted for about twelve hours, from early evening to dawn the next day. Turner recalled, "there wasn't no intermission. If the drummer had to pee, I would play drums until he returned....There were no breaks. We just switched around."[39]

1951: "Rocket 88"

Sun Studio at 706 Union Avenue in Memphis, Tennessee, where in 1951 Turner and the Kings of Rhythm recorded Rocket 88, one of the first rock and roll records. Turner would later work at the studio as in-house producer for Sam Phillips.

In March 1951, Turner and his band recorded the song "Rocket 88" at Memphis Recording Service. Turner's vocalist Johnny O'Neal had left to sign a solo contract with King Records, so Jackie Brenston, a saxophonist in the Kings of Rhythm, sang lead vocals while Turner was on piano. "Rocket 88" is notable among other things for Willie Kizart's distorted guitar sound.[40]

Phillips licensed the recording to Chess Records in Chicago. Chess released it under the name "Jackie Brenston and His Delta Cats" instead of "Ike Turner and His Kings of Rhythm Featuring Jackie Brenston".[41] Turner blamed Phillips for this misrepresentation. The single, released in April 1951, reached number-one on the Billboard R&B charts in June 1951 and spent 5 weeks on top of the charts.[42][43] The record sold approximately half a million copies. Turner and the band were paid $20 each for the record. The exception was Brenston who sold the rights to Phillips for $910.[44] Phillips used profits from the success of the record to launch Sun Records in February 1952.[45]

The success of "Rocket 88" generated tension and ego clashes in the band which culminated with Brenston leaving to pursue a solo career, causing the band to fall apart. Turner, without a band and disappointed his hit record had not created more opportunities for him, disbanded the Kings of Rhythm for a few years.[37]

1951–1954: Session musician and talent scout

Soon after the release of "Rocket 88", Turner moved to West Memphis, Arkansas and played with various local bands.[46] He then became a freelance talent scout, session musician, and production assistant for Sam Phillips at Sun Studio, commuting to Memphis, Tennessee. Wishing to exploit his Delta music connections, the Bihari brothers at Modern Records also hired Turner as a talent scout, paying him to find southern musicians who might be worth recording.[37] Turner arranged for B.B. King and the Beale Streeters to record for Modern at the YMCA in Memphis.[47] Turner played piano on King's early records "You Know I Love You" and "3 O'Clock Blues", which became King's first two number-ones.[3] According to Joe Bihari, Turner had brought King to his attention years prior. He said, "Ike wasn't more than sixteen then. He would send dubs of things he cut to us, and if we'd like them we'd make a seal or sign the artist. That's how we acquired B.B. King."[48] King also maintained that Turner introduced him to the Bihari brothers.[49]

Unaware of songwriter's royalties, Turner also wrote new material which the Biharis copyrighted under their own names.[50] They often purchased or claimed co-writer credit of songs written by artists on their labels using pseudonyms.[51][52] Turner estimated he wrote seventy-eight hit records for the Biharis.[50] Artists Turner discovered for Modern and Sun include Bobby Bland, Howlin' Wolf, Rosco Gordon, Boyd Gilmore, Houston Boines, Charley Booker, and Little Milton.[53] He played piano in sessions with them and lesser-known artists such as the Prisonaires, Driftin' Slim, Ben Burton, Matt Cockrell, Dennis Binder, Sunny Blair, and Baby Face Turner.[54][3]

Turner was contracted to the Bihari brothers, but he continued to work for Phillips, where he was effectively the in-house producer. This sometimes created conflicts of interest.[55] In 1951, Turner recorded two Howlin' Wolf tracks for Phillips, playing piano on "How Many More Years" and "Moanin' at Midnight", which Phillips sent to Chess.[56][57] Turner and Howlin' Wolf then recorded a version of "Moanin' at Midnight" at KWEM Radio Station in West Memphis without Phillips' or the Chess brothers' knowledge. He sent the results to the Biharis at Modern and they released it on their subsidiary label RPM Records.[57] Turner also attempted to poach Elmore James from Trumpet Records and record him for Modern. Trumpet found out and Modern had to cancel the record. However, James did eventually sign with Modern, and Turner played on his recordings that were released on Modern's subsidiary label Flair Records.[3][58]

While in Helena, Turner tried to recruit Little Walter to record for Modern in January 1952, but Little Walter was on his way to Mississippi.[59] In 1952, Turner discovered Little Junior Parker in West Memphis, and they formed a band with Matt "Guitar" Murphy.[30] Turner recorded Parker's first single, "You're My Angel" / "Bad Women, Bad Whiskey", credited to Little Junior Parker and the Blue Flames.[60][48] That summer Turner recorded with the new vocalist and pianist in his band, Marion Louis Lee, resulting in "My Heart Belongs to You" / "Looking for My Baby". The records were released on RPM as Bonnie and Ike Turner. Turner married Lee in September 1952.[61]

Unbeknownst to Turner, during his time in West Memphis, he met Elvis Presley who was a truck driver.[62][63] He recalled, "[Presley] was just a white boy that would come over to black clubs. He would come in and stand behind the piano and watch me play. I never knew he was no musician."[64] Turner discovered his identity many years later after Presley approached him when they were both playing at the International Hotel.[46]

To accommodate his then-wife Bonnie, who also played piano, Turner taught himself how to play guitar by ear and Willie Kizart taught him blues guitar techniques.[65] He began playing guitar in sessions in 1953, and by 1954 with the assistance of Joe Bihari he built a makeshift recording studio at a defunct Greyhound bus station in Clarksdale.[54] Turner used his Kings of Rhythm as session musicians. They played on many recording for Bihari's Modern, RPM, and Flair labels. Some of the artist Turner backed on piano and guitar during this period include Elmore James, Johnny Ace and the Flairs.[66] Around this time Turner discovered Billy "The Kid" Emerson in Greenville. He brought Emerson to record at Sun Records and backed him on guitar in 1954.[67]

1954–1959: St. Louis

In 1954, Turner visited his sister Lee Ethel Knight in St. Louis, Missouri. During his stay, he went clubbing at Ned Love's in East St. Louis, Illinois. Love invited Turner and his band to play at his club.[68] Eventually, Turner returned with his reformed version of the Kings of Rhythm. The band consisted of Willie Kizart on guitar, Willie "Bad Boy" Sims on drums, vocalist Johnny O'Neal, Turner's nephew Jessie Knight Jr. on bass, and Turner's wife Annie Mae Wilson on piano and vocals.[69]

Turner maintained strict discipline and the band lived at his home on Virginia Place in East St. Louis which doubled as a studio.[70] A teetotaler at the time, he avoided drugs and insisted all band members also adopt this policy, firing anyone he even suspected of breaking the rules.[15] Turner established his group as one of the most highly rated on the St. Louis club circuit, vying for popularity with their main competition, Sir John's Trio featuring Chuck Berry.[69] The bands would play all-nighters in St. Louis, then cross the river to the clubs of East St. Louis, and continue playing until dawn. Initially, they played for segregated audiences at the black clubs in Illinois: Manhattan Club in East St. Louis, which Turner and his band built,[71] the Harlem Club in Brookline and the Kingsbury in Madison. In St. Louis, Turner was exposed to a white audience who were excited by R&B. He played at Johnny's Lounge and the Club Imperial which was popular with white teenagers. After Turner gained a strong following among both whites and blacks, he demanded that the clubs should be integrated.[68] He also had live music broadcast on the St. Louis radio station KATZ.[68]

In between live dates, Turner took the band to Cincinnati to record for Federal Records in 1956. One of the Federal releases, "I'm Tore Up" / "If I Never Had Known You" featuring Billy Gayles became a regional hit. Like Brenston years prior, Gayles left Turner's band to pursue a solo career.[72] In 1958, Turner took the band to Chicago to record for Cobra/Artistic, as well as fulfilling his contract as a session musician back at Sun. While in Chicago, Turner backed Otis Rush; playing the signature vibrato guitar parts on "Double Trouble".[73] He also helped Buddy Guy record his second record;[74] resulting in the single "You Sure Can't Do" / "This Is The End" which Turner played guitar and composed the latter.[75]

Turner befriended St. Louis R&B fan Bill Stevens who set up the short-lived Stevens Records in 1959.[76] Turner released two singles on the Stevens label (No. 104 and No. 107) under the anagram "Icky Renrut" because he was still under contract with Sun for several more months, and he didn't want to cause friction with Phillips.[69] In addition, Turner recorded numerous sessions for Stevens with various vocalists and musician lineups of the Kings of Rhythm.[77]

1960–1976: The Ike and Tina Turner Revue

Ike & Tina Turner performing in Hamburg, Germany in 1972

In 1957, Ann Bullock accompanied her sister Alline Bullock to watch Turner and the Kings of Rhythm at the Manhattan Club in East St. Louis.[78] Her sister was a barmaid at the club and was dating Turner's drummer Eugene Washington.[79] Through her sister and Washington, Bullock asked Turner to sing with his band.[80][81] Turner said he'd call her onstage, but he never did.[81] One night during an intermission, Bullock got hold of the microphone from Washington and sang "You Know I Love You" by B.B. King.[82] Impressed by her voice, Turner invited her to sing with the band. She made her recording debut on Turner's song "Boxtop", released on Tune Town Records in 1958.[83]

In March 1960, Turner allowed her to record a demo of his self-penned song "A Fool in Love". He intended to use the demo as guide track for Art Lassiter who did not attend the scheduled recording session at Technisonic Studios.[68] A local DJ suggested he send the record to Sue Records in New York, where label owner Juggy Murray insisted on releasing the track with Bullock's vocal. Murray offered a $20,000 advance for the song and suggested Turner "make her the star" of his show.[84] Turner then renamed her "Tina" because it rhymed with Sheena, however, family and friends still called her Ann.[85] He was inspired by Sheena, Queen of the Jungle and Nyoka the Jungle Girl to create her stage persona.[86] He had the name "Tina Turner" trademarked, so that in case she left, another singer could perform under the same name.[87]

The single "A Fool In Love" was released in July 1960, and it became a national hit, selling a million copies. It peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard R&B chart and No. 27 on the Hot 100.[88] Turner added a backing girl group he renamed the Ikettes, and along with the Kings of Rhythm they began performing as the Ike & Tina Turner Revue. The success of the single was followed by a string of hits including "I Idolize You", "Poor Fool", and "It's Gonna Work Out Fine" which gave them their second million-seller and their first Grammy nomination.[89]

In 1961, Turner played piano on Albert King's first hit record, "Don't Throw Your Love on Me So Strong". The single, released on King Records, peaked at No. 14 on the Billboard R&B chart.[73] He also wrote and produced the Ikettes hit "I'm Blue (The Gong-Gong Song)".[90]

The Revue performed rigorously on the Chitlin' Circuit and built a reputation as "one of the hottest, most durable, and potentially most explosive of all R&B ensembles."[91] To assure he always had a record out while on tour, Turner formed multiple labels such as Sputnik, Teena, Prann, Innis, Sony and Sonja.[92] He produced singles by the Ikettes, Jimmy Thomas, Fontella bass, George Jackson, and other artists on his labels.[85] The duo switched to Turner's Sonja label in 1963.[92] For the next six years, they recorded on Warner Bros./Loma, Modern/Kent, Cenco, Philles, Tangerine, Pompeii, Blue Thumb, Minit, and A&M.[93] Between 1964 and 1965, they scored fourteen top 40 R&B hits with "You Can't Miss Nothing That You Never Had", "Tell Her I'm Not Home", "Good Bye, So Long", and "Two Is a Couple".[94][88]

In 1965, Phil Spector saw them perform at a club on the Sunset Strip and invited them to film The Big T.N.T. Show.[95] Impressed by their performance, Spector negotiated a deal with their manager Bob Krasnow, head of Loma Records, offering $20,000 to produce Tina and have them released from their Loma contract.[96][97] After Tina and Spector recorded "River Deep – Mountain High," the duo signed to Spector's Philles label in 1966.[98] The failure of the single in America triggered Spector's retreat from the music industry. However, it was a hit in Europe, reaching No. 3 on the UK Singles Chart and No. 1 on Los 40 Principales in Spain.[99][100] Following the song's success in the UK, Mick Jagger invited them to open for the Rolling Stones on their 1966 British Tour.[101][102] This exposure introduced them to a wider audience outside of R&B. Soon they were booking bigger venues, and by 1969 they were headlining in Las Vegas.[103]

In April 1969, Turner and the Kings of Rhythm released an album, A Black Man's Soul, on Pompeii Records.[104] The album earned Turner his first solo Grammy nomination for Best R&B Instrumental Performance at the 12th Annual Grammy Awards.[11] Later that year, the duo released the blues oriented albums Outta Season and The Hunter on Blue Thumb Records. Turner and Bob Krasnow, founder of Blue Thumb, co-produced Earl Hooker's 1969 album Sweet Black Angel.[105] In November, the Ike & Tina Turner Revue opened up for the Rolling Stones on their 1969 American Tour.[97]

In January 1970, they performed on The Ed Sullivan Show and released their rendition of "Come Together", which reached No. 21 on the R&B chart. Their cover of "I Want to Take You Higher" by Sly and the Family Stone was also successful on the charts in 1970. Turner, who was a friend of Sly Stone, played guitar on Sly and the Family Stone's album There's A Riot Goin' On (1971).[106] The release of "Proud Mary" in 1971 became Ike & Tina Turner's biggest hit, reaching No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 5 on the R&B chart.[88] It sold more than a million copies, and won the duo a Grammy Award for Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Group at the 14th Annual Grammy Awards.[11]

Ike & Tina Turner arriving at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol in 1971

Their mainstream success provided Turner with the finances to open his own recording studio, Bolic Sound in Inglewood, in 1972.[107] Turner had two sixteen track studios built, a large one to rent out and a smaller one for his personal recordings. He fitted them out with state-of-the-art equipment.[108] Artists who recorded there included Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Duane Allman, Little Richard, Gayle McCormick, and Frank Zappa.[7]

Turner released two solo albums for United Artists Records, Blues Roots (1972) and Bad Dreams (1973). In 1973, the duo released "Nutbush City Limits" penned by Tina. The single peaked at No. 22 on the Billboard Hot 100, No. 11 on the R&B chart and it was a bigger hit in Europe.[88] The Turners received the Golden European Record Award, the first ever given, for selling more than one million records of "Nutbush City Limits" in Europe.[109] During this period, Turner produced singer Judy Cheeks' debut album Judy Cheeks (1973),[110] and the last album by the Ikettes, (G)Old & New (1974). Between 1974 and 1975, the duo released the singles "Sweet Rhode Island Red", "Sexy Ida", and "Baby, Get It On".[88]

The Ike & Tina Turner Revue ended abruptly in 1976.[84] That year, they headlined at the Waldorf Astoria New York and signed a television deal with CBS-TV.[111] Turner had plans to leave United Artists Records for a five-year $150,000 per year deal with Cream Records, which was to be signed on July 6.[112] On July 1, the Turners got into a violent altercation en route to their gig at the Dallas Statler Hilton.[113] Turner claimed that Tina initiated the conflict by purposely irritating him so that she would have a reason to break up with him before they signed the new contract.[114] Tina fled from the hotel shortly after they arrived, and filed for divorce on July 27, 1976.[115]

United Artists responded to the Turners' separation by releasing albums of compiled recordings from their last sessions together, Delilah's Power (1977) and Airwaves (1978). Two years after their divorce was finalized, Turner released the single "Party Vibes" / "Shame, Shame, Shame" from the album The Edge (1980) which peaked at No. 27 on the Billboard Disco Top 100 chart.[116]

1977–2007: Later career

After his breakup with Tina, singer Holly Maxwell sang with Turner on occasion from 1977 to 1985 and again for eight months in 1992. She reported a positive working relationship with Turner, and later released the memoir Freebase Ain't Free about their close friendship.[117] In 1979, Turner spent time in the studio with Chaka Khan following her separation from her manager-husband. She told Jet: "He's been real inspiration and a catalyst emotionally and in other ways as well. We plan to record together."[118] Turner struggled to find success due to his cocaine addiction and run-ins with the law.[119] In 1988, Turner attempted an ill-fated return to the stage with Marcy Thomas, Bonnie Johnson, and Jeanette Bazzell as his Ikettes.[120]

While Turner was in prison following a drug conviction, Ike & Tina Turner were inducted to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1991.[12] Tina did not attend because she took the year off from making public appearances, so Phil Spector delivered a speech at the ceremony on their behalf.[121][122] After his release from prison, Turner told the press that he was nervous about returning to performing live, but had plans to return to the studio.[5] He sold 20 unreleased Ike & Tina Turner masters to the independent label Esquire Records.[123]

Hip-hop group Salt-N-Pepa sampled Turner's composition "I'm Blue (The Gong Gong Song)", released by the Ikettes in 1961, for their 1993 single "Shoop". The song reached No. 4 in the Billboard Hot 100 and Turner earned around half a million dollars in royalties.[119] He re-recorded "I'm Blue" as a duet with singer Billy Rogers in 1995. Produced by Rogers, the remake received favorable reviews.[124] Turner later appeared on the song "Love Gravy" with Rick James for the soundtrack album Chef Aid: The South Park Album.[125]

Turner reformed the Ikettes in the mid-1990s, which included his then-wife Jeanette Bazzell Turner and Michelle Love (Randi Love). Vera Clyburn, who was an Ikette in the 1970s was the lead singer.[126] They performed to positive reviews as the Ike Turner Revue.[127][2] In August 1997, Turner returned to his hometown Clarksdale to headline the 10th Annual Sunflower River Blues & Gospel Festival.[128] Turner credited Joe Louis Walker with encouraging him to return to his roots in blues music. Turner played guitar and assisted in production on Walker's 1997 album Great Guitars; Walker paid him $5,000 a night for six songs.[129] Walker invited Turner to perform with him at the San Francisco Blues Festival and to tour in Europe.[30][130] The positive response to the tour encouraged Turner to reform the Kings of Rhythm. They toured the US in 2001, and headlined a showcase at South by Southwest where they were hailed as one of the highlights of the conference.[130] Turner's work on the tour led to the recording and release of his Grammy-nominated album Here & Now (2001).[11] In 2002, Turner's performance at the Montreux Jazz Festival was released as a live album and DVD.[1]

In 2002, Turner filmed Martin Scorsese's PBS documentary series The Blues, which aired in September 2003.[131] He is featured in the documentaries The Road to Memphis and Godfathers and Sons, as part of the series.[132] Turner appeared on the Gorillaz's album Demon Days (2005); playing piano on "Every Planet We Reach Is Dead".[133][134] He performed the song with Gorillaz at the Manchester Opera House in November 2005.[135][136] His performance is featured in the live concert DVD Demon Days: Live at the Manchester Opera House.[137]

In 2006, Turner released his last album Risin' With the Blues on the independent label Zoho Roots. The album received positive critical reception, and was nominated for best Blues Album at the 7th Annual Independent Music Awards.[138][139] Turner won his first solo Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Album at the 49th Annual Grammy Awards in 2007.[11]

Turner began working on a collaboration album with Gorillaz's producer Danger Mouse and the Black Keys in early 2007.[140] The Black Keys sent demos to Turner, but the project was temporarily shelved.[140][141] After Turner's death, the songs were used for their 2008 album Attack & Release.[140] Although Turner does not appear on the album, Pitchfork noted his influence in the production.[142]

Ike Turner Career articles: 209

Artistry and legacy

Musical style

Turner performing in 1974

In his career, Turner originally worked in the style of 1950s R&B, or post-jump blues. His early influences included Amos Milburn and Louis Jordan, as well as country music artists such as Hank Williams Sr. and Merle Travis.[2] Though primarily known as a guitarist, Turner began his career playing piano and personally considered it his main instrument.[23] Turner grew up playing boogie woogie piano, which he learned from Pinetop Perkins.[143] He decided he was not meant to be a frontman when at twelve he was coerced into giving an impromptu piano recital in school. He found the experience terrifying and from then on preferred not to be the focus of attention, but rather to be in the background controlling the show. He considered himself an organizer rather than a performer.[144] Donald Fagen noted: "[T]alented as he was, there wasn't anything really supernatural about Ike's skills as a musician... What Ike excelled at was leadership: conceptualization, organization, and execution."[145]

Turner's guitar style is distinguished by heavy use of the whammy bar to achieve a strong reverb-soaked vibrato, string bending, hammer-ons and triplets in his blues phrasing.[146] Turner was an early adopter of the Fender Stratocaster electric guitar, buying one from O.K. Houk's Piano Co. store in Memphis the year of its release in 1954.[147] Unaware that the guitar's tremolo arm could be used to subtle effect, Turner used it to play screaming, swooping and diving solos that predated artists such as Jimi Hendrix and Jeff Beck by a decade.[148] In The Stratocaster Chronicles, Tom Wheeler wrote that Turner's "inventive style is a classic example of an artist discovering the Stratocaster, adapting to its features and fashioning something remarkable."[149] Turner himself said of his tremolo technique: "I thought it was to make the guitar scream—people got so excited when I used that thing."[148] Dave Rubin wrote in Premier Guitar magazine: "All those years of playing piano and arranging taught him a considerable amount about harmony, as he could certainly navigate I-IV-V chord changes. Ike modestly terms what he does on the guitar as 'tricks', but make no mistake, he attacked his axe with the conviction of a man who knew precisely what he wanted to hear come out of it."[146]

Reviewing Turner's 1973 album Bad Dreams, Robert Christgau wrote: "After twenty years of raking it in from the shadows, he's finally figured out a way of applying his basically comic bass/baritone to rock and roll. Studio-psychedelic New Orleans, echoes of the Band and Dr. John, some brilliant minor r&b mixed in with the dumb stuff. My God—at the moment he's more interesting than Tina."[150]


"It ain't Little Richard, it ain't Chuck, it ain't Fats Domino — no, we came on later. This man was playing the blues, rhythm and blues. Rock 'n' roll came from rhythm and blues: rock 'n' roll ain't nothing but rhythm and blues up-tempo. Ike Turner was the innovator, for rhythm and blues and for rock 'n' roll. We just came and took it home."

Little Richard (1999)[151]

Turner was praised by his contemporaries for his influence. Turner was also a big influence on contemporary Little Richard, who wrote the introduction to Turner's autobiography.[152] Little Richard was inspired to play the piano after he heard Turner's piano intro on "Rocket 88," and later used it note for note on "Good Golly, Miss Molly."[153][154] Johnny Otis said, "Ike Turner is a very important man in American music. The texture and flavor of R&B owe a lot to him. He defined how to put the Fender bass into that music. He was a great innovator."[7] B.B. King was a great admirer of Turner, describing him as "The best bandleader I've ever seen."[155] King also said, "When they talk about rock 'n roll, I see Ike as one of the founding fathers."[156]

Phil Alexander, editor-in-chief of Mojo magazine, referred to Turner as the "cornerstone of modern day rock 'n' roll" and credited his arrangements of blues standards as being an influence on 1960s British Invasion groups: "He proceeded to influence British rockers from the mid-1960s onwards. Without Ike you wouldn't have had the Stones and Zeppelin. People like that wouldn't have had the source material on which they drew."[8]

Speaking on "Rocket 88" being a contender for the first rock 'n' roll record, broadcaster Paul Gambaccini said:

In musical terms [he was] very important. "Rocket 88" is one of the two records that can claim to be the first rock 'n' roll record, the other being "The Fat Man" by Fats Domino from 1949. But "Rocket 88" does have a couple of elements which "The Fat Man" did not. The wailing saxophone and that distorted electric guitar. It was number one in the rhythm and blues chart for five weeks, it is in the Grammy Hall of Fame and it was an indisputable claim to fame for Ike Turner....To critics he will be known as a great founder, unfortunately to the general public he will always be known as a brutal man.[8]

Nigel Cawthorne—co-author of Turner's autobiography—said:

Although there had been black rock 'n' rollers who had made it big already, they really only played to a white audience. Ike and Tina played to a mixed audience and he deliberately desegregated audiences in the southern states and he wouldn't play to any segregated audiences at all. Because he had such a big band and entourage he desegregated a lot of the hotels because the hotel chains wouldn't want to miss out on the money they would make from him touring the southern states.[8]

Turner's songs have been sampled by hip hop artists, most notably Salt-n-Pepa used "I'm Blue" for their 1994 hit "Shoop".[119] Jurassic 5 used "Getting Nasty" from A Black Man's Soul on the track "Concrete Schoolyard" in 1997, Main Source also sampled "Getting Nasty" on the track "Snake Eyes" as well as Ike & Tina Turner's "Bold Soul Sister" on "Just Hanging Out"; both featured on their 1991 album Breaking Atoms. The track "Funky Mule", also from A Black Man's Soul, has been sampled extensively by jungle DJs, with the drum introduction being a very popular break. It was sampled by producer Goldie for his 1994 hit "Inner City Life", in the same year by Krome & Time on "The License", and by Paradox in 2002 on track "Funky Mule".[157]

In 2009, a Nashville-based band, Mr. Groove Band, recorded a tribute album titled Rocket 88: Tribute to Ike Turner. Vocalist on the album include Turner's last wife Audrey Madison Turner and former Ikette Bonnie Bramlett.[158]


Turner won two competitive Grammy Awards.[11] Ike & Tina Turner won Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Group for "Proud Mary" in 1972.[159] In 2007, Turner won Best Traditional Blues Album for Risin' with the Blues.[160] Turner also has three songs inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame: "Rocket 88", "River Deep – Mountain High", and "Proud Mary".[10]

Ike & Tina Turner were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1991.[12] Turner is inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame and the Rhythm and Blues Music Hall of Fame. He is also inducted into the Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame.[161] He was honored with a star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame in 2001.[162]

Turner won Comeback Album of The Year for Here and Now at the W.C. Handy Blues Awards in 2002.[163] In 2004, he was awarded the Heroes Award from the Memphis branch of the Recording Academy.[164] He was a recipient of the Legend Award at the 2007 Mojo Awards.[165]

In 2003, the album Proud Mary: The Best of Ike & Tina Turner was ranked No. 212 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time (No. 214 on 2012 revised list).[166][167]

In 2004, Fender Custom Shop manufactured a limited edition Ike Turner Tribute Stratocaster. The model has an alder body in Sonic Blue with an Ike Turner signature in gold ink on the body under the clear-coat, with a maple neck in a 1960s "C" shape with a rosewood fingerboard, with 21 vintage frets. It had three custom single coil 1960s Strat pickups. Only 100 specimens were made, retailing at $3,399.99.[168]

In August 2010, Turner was posthumously celebrated in his hometown of Clarksdale, Mississippi.[169] On August 6, Clarksdale officials and music fans gathered to unveil a marker on the Mississippi Blues Trail and a plaque on the Clarksdale Walk of Fame in downtown Clarksdale honoring Turner and his musical legacy.[170] The unveilings coincided with Clarksdale's 23rd Annual Sunflower River Blues & Gospel Festival, which paid tribute to Turner.[128]

Although Turner considered himself a pianist rather than a guitarist,[30] Rolling Stone magazine editor David Fricke ranked him No. 61 on his list of 100 Greatest Guitarists in 2010.[9]

In 2015, Rolling Stone ranked Ike & Tina Turner No. 2 on their list of the 20 Greatest Duos of All Time.[171]

In 2017, the Mississippi Blues Trail honored "Rocket 88" for being an influential record with a marker in Lyon, Mississippi.[172] In 2018, "Rocket 88" was chosen for the inaugural class of influential songs inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Singles.[173]

Portrayal in popular culture

In 1986, Tina Turner released her autobiography, I, Tina, in which she recounted Turner's volatile behavior. He received negative publicity that was exacerbated in 1993 by the release of the film adaptation What's Love Got to Do with It.[2] Turner received $45,000 for the film, but he had unknowingly signed papers waiving the right to sue Disney's Touchstone Pictures for his depiction.[174] He was portrayed by Laurence Fishburne, whose performance earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Actor at the 66th Academy Awards.[175]

After the release of the film, the fictionalized version of Turner from the movie was seized on by comedians, who reused the persona in sketches. On the 1990s sketch comedy show In Living Color, Turner was parodied by David Alan Grier. He was portrayed on Saturday Night Live's Weekend Update by Tim Meadows in a pageboy wig. On the John Boy and Billy radio show, cast member Jeff Pillars regularly performed an impersonation of Turner in a segment called "Ax/Ask Ike". These sketches were collected in a 2008 comedy album Ike at the Mike.[176] In 2006, Vibe magazine ranked the character of Ike Turner from What's Love Got to Do with It at No. 4 in their list of the 20 best movie "bad guys".[177]

Commenting on the historical accuracy of the film, Tina told Larry King in 1997: "I would have liked them to have more truth, but according to Disney [owner of the film's production company], they said it's impossible, the people would not have believed the truth."[178][179] In 2018, Tina told Oprah Winfrey that she only recently watched the film, but she could not finish it because she "didn't realize they would change the details so much."[180] Phil Spector criticized Tina's book and called the film a "piece of trash" during his eulogy at Turner's funeral.[181]

In 2015, TV One's Unsung offered some redemption with "The Story of Ike Turner", which documented his career along with his trials and tribulations.[182]


In 1999, Turner published his autobiography Takin' Back My Name: The Confessions of Ike Turner.[183] It was written with Nigel Cawthorne and Little Richard wrote the introduction. In 2003, John Collins published Ike Turner: King of Rhythm about the life and musical contributions of Turner.[184]

Material loss

On June 25, 2019, The New York Times Magazine listed Ike Turner among hundreds of artists whose material was reportedly destroyed in the 2008 Universal fire.[185]

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