Laying in his sick bed at a Los Angeles apartment early this year, the legendary IKE TURNER was recovering from minor surgery on a backside ailment.I was hanging out with Joe Bihari, Turner's old boss from the Modern Records' days, awaiting a call from Ike to arrange an interview . He finally phoned and said he could only give me an hour, as he was flying out to Memphis for a presentation at the Sun Studios.Joe Bihari and I finally arrived at Turner's pad at 4 o'clock on Friday afternoon. He greeted us at the door, dressed in pyjamas and dressing gown, and led us to his bedroom, complaining about his sore backside. He slipped back under the sheets as we gathered around his bed. Sharp as a woodpecker, he started to talk about his early life: about growing up in Clarksdale, and the prejudice that existed at the time-.-the swimming pool at the end of his street being "Whites Only", and that if there were any girls bathing any black man had to "cross over to the other side of the street. If you turned your head the police would run you in."As the conversation hotted up, Ike began to talk even faster. Every now and then he would stutter-.-his Memphis delta accent almost needed sub- titles to understand him. "Hey Joe", he said, "remember when were run out of town by the local Sheriff? I was loading equipment into the back of your car....They didn't like you fooling around with their local niggers..Did you see that they had a truckload of State Troopers dressed in khaki?" Joe interject - "Ike, do you remember that gig in Blackfish Lake, Arkansas, where the local sheriff took the money at the door?". Their reminiscences meant time soon ran out and I had to wind up the interview to let Ike catch his flight.As we left I realised that it was 29 years since I had first met Ike at a London hotel. He was then touring the UK with the Ike & Tina Turner Revue. Tina was then currently top of the UK charts with the Phil Spector -produced River Deep, Mountain High. Ike had no involvement with that record, but he led the Revue.Ike's biography has now been published by Headline Books, Ace has released a companion CD of his work. It contains Ike's first recording, Rocket 88 (released by Chess as by Jackie Brenston), while the rest of the cuts detail some of his finest productions for Modern Records dating from 1954-56. The CD features his blistering blues guitar and rolling piano with a boogie beat. It spotlights some of the vocalists he discovered including Dennis 'Longman' Binder, Lonnie "The Cat", J.W. Walker, Johnny Wright and the late Billy Gayles. On all the sides the Kings Of Rhythm act as accompanists, and Ike himself turns up under the Lover Boy disguise.For many years Turner was the lynchpin of Modern, working as a talent scout for Joe Bihari, a go-getter, a good pair of hands in the studio, and a fine musician to boot. He finally gained international success with Tina as his vocalist. When they split up in the 70s and went her own way, the publicity all concentrated on the details of their relationship rather than Ike's musical legacy. Now Ike is back on the scene with his side of the story and a new Revue, the focus can change back to his music. The question is, will he make it big again?
Article properties: Ike Turner: Rhythm Rockin' Blues (CD)
Ike and Tina Turner evolved one of the most dramatically successful rock stage acts of the Seventies after a career embracing most forms of blues and soul. Ike Turner was born in Clarksdale, Mississippi, deep in the Delta cotton belt, on Nov. 5, 1931. A disc-jockeying job at station WROX led to the formation of the Kings Of Rhythm, a band of local musicians led by Turner. Their first record was 'Rocket 88' (Chess, 1951), sung by Jackie Brenston, a disc which is often cited as the first rock'n'roll recording.
Next, he became a talent scout in the southern states for Modern Records, fixing sessions by Bobby Bland, B, B. King, Howlin' Wolf and others. With the arrival of rock'n' roll in 1956, Turner moved north to St Louis, recording and playing in clubs with the Kings Of Rhythm. With them he evolved a revue format featuring various singers, while playing piano and guitar himself.
He found the focal point for the act in Annie Mae Bullock, who was born on Nov. 26, 1938 in Brownsville, Tennessee, and moved to Knoxville, where she sang in the choir of her father's church. She was known at first as Little Ann, but her first record, 'A Fool In Love', was credited to Ike and Tina Turner. Released on Sue in 1960, it reached No. 2 in the R&B charts, No. 27 in the pop charts and eventually sold a million. That success led to the formation of the Ikettes (of which P. P. Arnold, Merry Clayton and Bonnie Bramlett have been members at one time) to back Tina, and the construction of the stage act which has persisted until the present day, in its essential features.
Like many black artists, Ike Turner has proved himself able to adapt to changing moods in both black and white audiences while still producing worthwhile music on many of the thirty-odd albums he and Tina have recorded for Sue, Warner Bros., Philles, Blue Thumb and United Artists amongst others. Perhaps surprisingly, they have had few major hits. 'It's Gonna Work Out Fine' (Sue, 1961), a fiery blues classic, was the most successful until their Top Ten version of 'Proud Mary' (Liberty, 1971), the funky, futuristic `Nutbush City Limits' (United Artists, 1973) and 'Sweet Rhode Island Red' (1974). In 1966, Ike Turner relinquished production control to Phil Spector for the remarkable 'River Deep — Mountain High'. It reached only No. 88 in America but was a Top Three record in Britain.
By the Seventies, Ike had his own studios, Bolic, and recorded a highly personal solo album, Blues Roots (United Artists, 1971), which suggested that the increasingly spectacular and regimented stage act, centred on Tina's flaunting sexuality, might be less than satisfying for him.