Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music


TURNER, Ike and Tina

USA soul/R&B vocal/instrumental duo. Ike Turner (b 5 November 1931, Clarksdale MS; d 12 December 2007, San Marcos CA) was a prodigy on piano, accompanied Sonny Boy Williamson and Robert Nighthawk before he reached his teens, but soon picked up the guitar. His real full name was variously given as Ike Wister Turner or Izear Luster Turner Jr; he was brought up by his mother after his father, a clergyman, was beaten to death by a mob of white trash. 

Turner formed his first band Kings of Rhythm while still in high school; they made 'Rocket 88' at Sun in Memphis, released under vocalist Jackie Brenston's name on Chess for a no. 1 R&B hit in 1951, often named the first rock'n'roll record for its distorted guitar sound and honking sax. Brenston went solo and soon faded. Ike recorded country music as Icky Renrut, also recorded with his first wife Bonnie; he played guitar on many tracks with B. B. King, Howlin' Wolf, Johnny Ace, others. In a St Louis night club, regular customer Annie Mae Bullock sang with the band '56; Ike added her to the lineup, they were married by '58 and her name changed to Tina Turner. Initially she did not record with the band, but depped for an absent vocalist on the Sue label; 'A Fool In Love' was a top 30 pop single '60, which concentrated Ike's mind wonderfully: the act became the Ike and Tina Turner Revue, featuring her fine, idiomatic singing and her sexy stage presence, and adding female backing singers the Ikettes (ever-changing personnel included Merry Clayton, Venetta Fields, P. P. Arnold and Bonnie Bramlett). They reached the pop top 20 '61 with 'It's Gonna Work Out Fine', took 'Poor Fool' and 'Tra La La La' into top 50 '61-2 (all these plus 'I Idolize You' were top ten R&B hits); recorded for Kent with no hits, returned to the R&B chart on Loma, Modern, Innis '65-8; meanwhile got involved with Phil Spector, who wanted to record with Tina alone, contractually barring Ike from the studio (though a photograph of all three appeared on the resulting LP sleeve). River Deep/Mountain High '66 had Spector/Tina productions including the title track (no. 3 UK, 88 USA) and 'A Love Like Yours' (16 UK) but was filled up like a compilation, including two big '60-1 hits. The album was top 30 in the UK album chart but did not chart in USA until '69 on A&M, when it did not make the top 100, its US failure popularly supposed to be the reason for Spector's withdrawal from production for some years.

Meanwhile Ike and Tina's LPs included Live! on WB '65; Outta Season (top 100 LPs) and The Hunter on Blue Thumb, live In Person on Minit, all '69; Come Together and Workin' Together '70 on Liberty, the latter a top 25 LP including no. 4 single 'Proud Mary'; they switched to United Artists for two-disc Live At Carnegie Hall/What You Hear Is What You Get '71 (also top 25), 'Nuff Said '71, Feel Good '72, Nutbush City Limits '73 (infectious title track no. 5 UK, top 30 USA). He produced her solo Acid Queen '75, named after her memorable part in the Who film Tommy. She left; they were divorced '76; owning his own studio by then, he retired to it, but soon went back on the road; after a cocaine conviction and needing money he signed away his rights when Tina's biopic was made and had no say in his portrayal. After some floundering she became one of the biggest stars of the '80s (see below). Tracks by Ike Turner and the Kings of Rhythm have been anthologized; despite Ike and Tina's patchy commercial success the duo was a hot act whose reissues and compilations continue to sell. His My Blues Country '97 on Mystic was made in Munich with Jeanette Brazil, a new team of Ikettes and local session men, with Ike playing as well as ever.