Ike Turner

Ike Turner

Ike Turner was a popular twentieth century African-American musician, bandleader and lyricist. He was also a record producer and is given credit for introducing rock and roll in 1950s. Turner came to stardom in 1960s and 1970s with his former wife Tina Turner and their record label.

Ike Wister Turner was born on November 5, 1931 in Clarksdale, Mississippi. His mother was a seamstress and father was a Baptist minister. In his childhood, Turner witnessed his father being tortured and left for dead by white mob. Upon his father’s death, his mother remarried and his step-father turned out to be an abusive alcoholic. Turner and his step-father often had arguments and fights and once he hit him a wooden piece and ran away. He had a quite rough childhood before he visited local Clarksdale radio station and gained his first job related to music. He soon was offered a Disc Jockey job by the station manager and the job meant he had access to all the new releases.

Turner taught himself to play guitar on blues records. In his high school he joined a local rhythm ensemble called The Tophatters. The band played music around Mississippi. By then Turner had learned to play by ear and was still unable to read the music notes. When the band reached over thirty members it split into two; The Dukes of Swing and the Kings of Rhythm. The former played jazz while the latter was led by Turner himself, which played blues and boogie-woogie. The early performances of Kings of Rhythm were based on latest jukebox hits. They were recommended to Sun Studio by another musician and their music was on-aired on a few radio stations.

Morover, early in his music career, Turner became part of road crew of Robert Nighthawk, who often performed at WROX. He played blues to support Nighthawk on several radio stations in Clarksdale. This opportunity provided him the chance of gaining music experience with the professionals. He also did a few gigs for some blues artist, such as Sonny Boy Williamson II, Elmore James, Little Walter and Muddy Waters. Finally the band got the much anticipated break when they recorded the track “Rocket 88”. The Chess Brothers introduced their band as “Jackie Brenston and His Delta Cats”. Turner came up with the introduction and first verse of the song while the band collaborated on the rest. As it turned out the number became a smashing hit and made a record, selling about half a million copies.

With the success of their new release arose the tension in the band as everyone struggled to claim glory and assert their importance. The band was on verge of falling apart when Brenston took few original members with him to pursue a solo career. Turner being the bandleader disbanded the Kings of Rhythm for a few years, as he was met disappointment when he missed a chance at successful music career. However, he landed a job of production assistant for Philips and the Bihari Brothers and became a session musician. Bihari Brothers exploited Turner binding him under the contract and used his written material.

In 1951, Ike Turner came to success as first rock and roll artist. Shortly after, he met singer Anna Mae Bullock and renamed her Tina Turner and formed The Ike & Tina Turner Revue with her. He won two Grammy Awards and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991. However, his career took a downfall when his wife accused him of domestic violence and drug abuse and he was later convicted for drug offences.

Ike Turner died on December 12, 2007 in San Marcos, California.

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