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Ike Wister Turner (November 5, 1931 – December 12, 2007) was an American musician, bandleader, talent scout, and record producer. His first recording, "Rocket 88" by "Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats," in 1951, is considered by some to be the "first rock and roll song" ever. However, he is best known for his work with his ex-wife Tina Turner as one half of the Ike & Tina Turner revue. Spanning a career that lasted half a century, Ike's repertoire included blues, soul, rock, and funk. Alongside his former wife, he was inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991 and in 2001 was inducted into the St. Louis Walk of Fame. Turner won two Grammy Awards.
Early life and career
“ I got a job driving the elevator in the Alcazar and the radio station was on the second floor. It was very exciting to me, a radio station. I'd run up to the second floor and look through the window at the guy spinning records. He saw me and told me to come in and showed me how to 'hold a record.' I'd sit there and hold it until the one playing stopped, then I'd turn a knob and the one I was holding would play. Next thing I know, he was going across the street for coffee and leaving me in there alone. I was only eight. That was the beginning of my thing with music. ”
Turner was soon carrying amplifiers for blues singer Robert Nighthawk, who often played live on WROX. Ike was mesmerized by Nighthawk's playing, but nothing could equal the experience of hearing Pinetop Perkins on piano for the first time. Growing up, his idol Pinetop Perkins helped teach the young Ike to play Boogie-woogie on the piano. Ike soon was enamored of other blues artists such as Howlin' Wolf, Sonny Boy Williamson (Rice Miller), Charley Booker, Elmore James, Muddy Waters and Little Walter
Many sources state Turner's real name to be "Izear Luster Turner,
Jr." however, in his autobiography Takin' Back My Name, it is stated as
"Ike Wister Turner." In the book, Turner explains about this confusion.
His father, Izear Luster Turner, was a minister for the local church.
Turner had thought he was named Izear Luster Turner, Jr. after his
father, until he found out that his name was registered as Ike Wister
Turner while applying for his first passport. He never got to discover
the origin of his name, as by the time he discovered it, his parents
were both dead.
Ike and the Kings of Rhythm settled into local fame in St. Louis where the band locally recorded for a St. Louis label and even appeared on local television shows. Throughout this early period, Turner became a recording scout and A&R man for independent record companies including Sun Records - where "Rocket 88" was recorded, helping the likes of Howlin' Wolf, Sonny Boy Williamson, Elmore James and Otis Rush get signed. He also became a sideman playing guitar for these blues acts and more. Musically, Turner was known for his hard-hitting guitar style. He was known to put the whammy bar of his Fender Stratocaster to frequent use.
Turner's music career changed drastically after meeting a teenage singer from Nutbush, Tennessee, named Anna Mae Bullock, who demandingly grabbed a microphone during a singing session at one of St. Louis' nightspots and sang a B. B. King song in her now-trademark throated raspy vocals. Bullock's performance impressed Ike so much he allowed Anna to join his band as a background singer. However within a year, Ike's plans for Bullock changed after Anna recorded what he originally stated was a demo for a song that was to be sung by a male vocalist. After hearing her vocals, he let it be released under an independent label and in the process changed the name of the singer from Anna Mae Bullock to Tina Turner - naming her after Sheena - and the name of the band to the Ike & Tina Turner Revue. It is believed that this singular act is what propelled the now "Tina Turner" into the spotlight, creating a music mogul that would last decades. "A Fool in Love" became a national hit in early 1960, reaching the top three in the R&B charts and becoming a top thirty pop hit in the process. From then until 1976, Ike and Tina Turner became one of the most explosive duos in rock & soul music. The creation of the revue also led to the soul revues of the 1960s. Inspired by Ray Charles, Turner created a trio of sexy background singers and dancers who were named The Ikettes who often had their moves choreographed by Tina and Ike. The Turners eventually scored several hit singles including Rose Marie McCoy's "It's Gonna Work Out Fine", "River Deep - Mountain High", "I Want To Take You Higher", "Proud Mary", and "Nutbush City Limits" over thirteen years.
The success the duo contributed eventually led to the creation of the Los Angeles-based Bolic Sounds studio, founded by Ike. However, after Tina abruptly left Ike after a violent altercation in 1976, Ike lost ground in the national music market. As a solo artist, he struggled to find success after Tina and after releasing two failed solo albums, had found himself facing drug and weapons charges, of which he was convicted in 1989. After the musical legend's arrest and prison term, Ike was released from prison in 1993. Ike was met at the prison gate by Jeanette Bazzell, who he met in 1988 and had helped him through his prison time with her support. She later became his wife. With Jeanette's support, Ike enjoyed a long period of sobriety. Jeanette was instrumental in helping Ike rebuild his career. She replaced Tina as Ike's lead singer and eventually they toured the world playing many blues festivals. After the intense negative publicity generated against him as a wife abuser by Tina's movie, "What's Love Got to Do with It", Ike's acceptance in the USA as a legendary blues artist and composer was limited, though better in other countries. During this time he recorded two solo albums in his own studio, and he wrote his autobiography called Taking Back My Name. He also re-recorded "I'm Blue (The Gong Gong Song)" in a duet style with Billy Rogers. The remake received very strong reviews from Billboard Magazine, Larry Flick, Singles Reviews published January 14th 1995.
You can read more about Jeanette at her website at www.jeanetteturner.com
Ike was back on the road and back into recording music, which
continued until his death. In 2001, Ike released the Grammy-nominated
Here & Now album. Three years later, he was Awarded with an "Heroes
Award" from the Memphis charter of NARAS. In 2005, he appeared on the
Gorillaz' album, Demon Days, playing piano on the track, "Every Planet
We Reach Is Dead". He played live with the band on the band's world tour
to that particular song. In 2007, Ike won his first solo Grammy in the
Best Traditional Blues Album category for the album, Risin' With the
Blues which was Mixed at Future Sound Studios by Rene Van Verseveld.
Before his death, a collaboration between Turner and the rock band, The
Black Keys, by Gorillaz' producer Danger Mouse was expected in 2008.
In the mid-1980s, Turner was convicted of drug-related charges and sentenced to several years in a California state prison. Turner was still in prison pleading parole when he and Tina were inducted to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1991, which Phil Spector accepted on their behalf (Tina was working on an album at the time).
In 2001, Turner's long-awaited autobiography, Takin' Back My Name (ISBN 1-85227-850-1), was published. In Tina Turner's 1986 autobiography, I, Tina, later filmed as What's Love Got to Do with It, Tina accused Ike of violent spousal abuse, which Ike repeatedly denied for many years. However, in his 2001 autobiography Ike admitted, "Sure, I've slapped Tina... There have been times when I punched her to the ground without thinking. But I have never beat her." In this context that when Tina's movie was being produced, Ike who was on drugs at the time, was given $20,000 for a total release wherein the movie could say anything about him. Based on the movie, Tina's alleged victimization has enhanced her world wide popularity and, therefore, her career.
Ike converted to Judaism in 1994. During his interview with NPR's
Terry Gross on Fresh Air, Ike claimed that he and Tina Turner were never
married, and that she took his name in order to discourage a former
lover from returning to her. On October 17, 2007, in a telephone
interview conducted by radio personality Howard Stern, Ike reiterated
his claim that he and Tina Turner were never actually married.
On the John Boy and Billy radio show, cast member Jeff Pillars plays "Ike Turner" in a segment called "Ax Ike." He offers advice on interpersonal relationships — most particularly he advises people that they should administer (or that they might receive) "breaking their foot off in the crack of yo' butt". Ike is known to have trouble with the pronunciation and definitions of big words. He always introduces his segment with, "YO! What's up" and a rant at his friend Patrick, and ends with, "Peace out."
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