Nice and rough

Inasmuch as everything else you’re going to read about the late Ike Turner focuses on his seriously-dysfunctional relationship with Tina, I’m going to spend some time on the musical stuff, which starts in his late teens in the Mississippi delta with the founding of the Kings of Rhythm, who cut one of the contenders for First Rock and Roll Record in late 1950: “Rocket 88,” credited to Kings vocalist/sax player Jackie Brenston and his, um, “Delta Cats,” written by Turner, who played that amazingly-distorted guitar. Chess picked it up for national distribution and watched it become a jukebox staple. For the next several years the Kings toured and Ike played, in addition to guitar, the role of roving A&R man, looking for good tracks he could place with major R&B labels. Around 1958 the Kings took on a teenaged background vocalist from Tennessee named Annie Mae Bullock; in 1960, the scheduled singer having failed to show for the recording session, Annie did the lead on a new Ike tune called “A Fool in Love,” which was credited to “Ike and Tina Turner,” though the two didn’t actually wed until 1962, and the traveling troupe became the Ike and Tina Turner Revue.

Ike and Tina were major R&B stars into the 1970s. (Their backup singers, the Ikettes, made some good records of their own in the mid-Sixties.) After they split, her career eclipsed his, at least partly because he had some serious brushes with the law; the pair were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991, but Ike, in jail on drug charges, did not attend the ceremony. (Tina, graciously, accepted for him.)

By 1993, Ike had cleaned up his act and gone back to what he’d always done best: playing those bluesy licks. And he kept on doing that right up until the end.

1 comment

  1. Nate »

    13 December 2007 · 9:08 am

    I agree. Ike’s legacy should absolutely be on his musical talents and not the unfortunate decisions he made in his personal life. He was a genius musician; I don’t think anyone doubts that.

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