Turner, Ike and Tina

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Turner, Ike and Tina

Turner, Ike and Tina, R&B bandleader/producer (Ike) and hip-shakin’, powerful shouter (Tina) together formed one of the most dynamic groups of the 1960s and early 1970s; later Tina enjoyed a solo career on her own. Ike Turner (real name, Izear Turner), pno., gtr., voc. (b. Clarksdale, Miss., Nov. 5,1931) and Tina Turner (real name, Anna Mae Bullock), voc. (b. Brownsville, Tenn., Nov. 26, 1939).

Bandleader, songwriter, arranger, producer, and multi-instrumentalist Ike Turner achieved his first success in 1951 with his Kings of Rhythm behind Jackie Brenston’s top R&B hit “Rocket 88,” often regarded as the first “rock ’n’ roll” record. He later worked as a talent scout for Modern Records, ostensibly producing B. B. King, Howlin’ Wolf, and Elmore James. Devising a revue format for his Kings of Rhythm in St. Louis, Turner added vocalist and wife-to-be Tina in 1957. Touring the so-called “chitlin” circuit for a decade, Ike and Tina Turner developed a gutsy and ribald stage act, with Tina, the show’s focal point, performing in an overtly sexual manner, complete with feigned orgasms and provocative verbal exchanges with Ike. One of the most exciting musical acts of its time, The Ike and Tina Turner Revue was rivaled by only James Brown and The Fabulous Flames in terms of musical spectacle. Perhaps on the strength of their smash British hit, “River Deep-Mountain High,” produced by the legendary Phil Spec-tor, Ike and Tina Turner became far more popular in Great Britain than in the United States. They eventually

attained the first massive exposure of their stage act on The Rolling Stones’ 1969 American tour and subsequently looked to the world of rock music for material and an expanded audience, which they achieved with their smash crossover hit, “Proud Mary,” in 1971. Ike and Tina Turner were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991.

Ike Turner started playing piano at the age of five and initiated his musical career at age 11 as piano accompanist to Sonny Boy Williamson (Aleck Ford) and Robert Nighthawk. By 1945, he was working as a disc jockey at WROX in Clarksdale, Miss., forming The Rhythm Kings in the late 1940s, with Ike on piano. Mastering guitar, Turner was hired as a songwriter and talent scout by Modern Records, ostensibly “discovering” B. B. King and Howlin’ Wolf and playing sessions for King, Wolf, Elmore James, and Johnny Ace. Around 1954, he moved to East St. Louis, Mo., where he became a rhythm-and- blues star with The Rhythm Kings.

Tina Turner grew up in Knoxville, Tenn., and sang in a local church choir as a child. She moved to St. Louis around 1954 and met Ike Turner at the age of 17. She eventually succeeded in joining Ike Turner’s revue in 1957. The couple soon married and Ike developed an exciting stage act billed as “The Ike and Tina Turner Revue” in 1960 based around Tina as lead vocalist, accompanied by his Kings of Rhythm and a female backing vocal trio dubbed The Ikettes. Recording for the Midwestern rhythm-and-blues label Sue, Ike and Tina Turner scored a series of R&B smashes in the early 1960s with “A Fool in Love” (a major pop hit), “I Idolize You,” “It’s Gonna Work Out Fine” (another major pop hit), “Poor Fool,” and “Tra La La La La.”

In 1962, The Ikettes had a smash R&B and major pop hit with “I’m Blue (The Gong-Gong Song)” on Ateo Records. In 1965, The Ikettes, with Vanetta Fields, Jessie Smith, and Robbie Montgomery, scored a moderate pop and R&B hit with “Peaches ’n’ Cream” and a major R&B hit with “I’m So Thankful” on Modern Records. By 1968, this edition of The Ikettes had left the Turners, recording as The Mirettes and achieving a major R&B hit with “In the Midnight Hour” on Revue Records. Later lineups of The Ikettes included P. P. Arnold, Claudia Lennear, and Bonnie Bramlett (later of Delaney and Bonnie).

Relocating to Los Angeles in 1962, The Ike and Tina Turner Revue toured the “chitlin” circuit of rhythm-and-blues clubs with their raunchy stage act and recorded for a variety of labels, including Warner Brothers, Loma, Pompeii, Blue Thumb, and Minit. They met songwriter-producer Phil Spector while working on the film The T’ V ’ T Showand he coauthored and produced their “River Deep-Mountain High” single, regarded as one of the finest singles of all time, in 1966. Although the song became a smash hit in Great Britain, it fared dismally in the United States and led to Spector’s withdrawal from the music business.

The Ike and Tina Turner Revue toured Great Britain with The Rolling Stones in 1966 and received their first widespread American exposure in support of The Rolling Stones’ 1969 tour of North America. They soon began recording contemporary material such as The eatles’ “Come Together/’ The Rolling Stones’ “Honky Tonk Women/’ and Sly Stone’s “I Want to Take You Higher.” They finally broke through with the mainstream audience with a dynamic reworking of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Proud Mary,” a smash pop and R&B hit from Workin’ Together,the best-selling album of their career, on Liberty Records. They conducted a hugely successful European tour in 1971, recording the live set What You Hear Is What You Getfor United Artists, which had absorbed Liberty Records. They scored another major pop hit in 1973 with Tina’s autobiographical “Nutbush City Limits.” Ike and Tina Turner were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991.

Tina Turner launched her solo recording career on United Artists Records in 1974. She appeared in the equivocal film Tommyas the Acid Queen in 1975, singing The Who song of the same name. In July 1976, in the face of contractual obligations for albums and tours, Tina Turner walked out on her abusive husband Ike. Over the next eight years, she struggled to survive and establish herself in a solo career. She divorced Ike and developed a slick but ribald lounge act for Las Vegas casinos and later the Fairmont hotel chain. She recorded the last of three solo albums for United Artists in 1978. Ike Turner recorded an album for Fantasy Records in 1980 and later became mired in legal and drug-related problems that led to his incarceration for 18 months in 1990 and 1991.

In 1979, Tina Turner met Australian promoter Roger Davies, who became her manager the next year. She moved away from easy-listening material and toured the United States with The Rolling Stones in 1981. She began a concerted comeback effort in 1982 at London’s Hammersmith Odeon and later performed showcase dates at the Ritz Hotel in N.Y.C. In 1983, she signed with Capitol Records, recording her debut for the label, Private Dancer,in Great Britain.

Private Dancerlaunched Tina Turner into international prominence. It produced five hits, including a smash R&B and major pop hit with her version of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together,” the top pop and smash R&B hit “What’s Love Got to Do with It,” and the pop and R&B smashes “Better Be Good to Me” and “Private Dancer,” the latter written by Mark Knopfler. The album stayed on the charts for more than two years and sold ten million copies worldwide (five million in the United States). She conducted a world tour of more than 100 cities in 1985, as the third Mad Maxfilm, Beyond Thunderdome,costarring Turner, became one of the year’s hit movies. The soundtrack album included her crossover smash “We Don’t Need Another Hero” and the major pop hit “One of the Living.” During the year, she also helped record USA for Africa’s “We Are the World” and performed at Live Aid, duetting with Mick Jagger.

In 1986, Tina Turner recorded the best-selling Break Every Rulealbum and William Morrow published her autobiography, I, Tina. Although not as consistent as Private Dancer, Break Every Ruleyielded four hits, including the crossover smash “Typical Male” and the major pop hit “What You Get Is What You See.” Tina Turner conducted a world tour from March 1987 to March 1988 and her Live in Europealbum included Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love” and her own “Nutbush City Limits.” Foreign Affairproduced a major pop hit with “The Best.” She again toured the United States in 1993 as the movie What’s Love Got to Do with It,based on her autobiography, became one of the year’s most highly acclaimed hits. As well as serving as a dynamic musical movie and yielding the near-smash hit “I Don’t Wanna Fight,” the film celebrated Tina’s ability to survive and reestablish herself with pride and dignity in the face of domestic violence. Tina Turner performed the title song to the James Bond film Goldeneyein 1995 and recorded her first entirely new studio album in seven years, Wildest Dreams,featuring a remake of John Waite’s top 1984 hit “Missing You,” for Virgin Records in 1996. She toured North America again in 1997. In early 2000, she began a new tour of North America and Europe to support her album, Twenty Four Seven.


With K. Loder, I, Tina (N.Y., 1986).


IKE TURNER: Rocks the Blues Crown (1963); A Black Man’s Soul (1969); Blues Roots (1972); Confined to Soul (1973); Bad Dreams (1973); The Edge (1980). IKE AND TINA TURNER: The Soul of Ike and Tina Turner (1960); The Sound of Ike and Tina Turner (1961); Dance with Ike and Tina Turner (1962); Festival of Live Performances (1962); Dynamite (1963); Don’t Play Me Cheap (1963); It’s Gonna Work Out Fine (1963); Please, Please, Please (1964); The Ike and Tina Show Live (1965); River Deep-Mountain High (1966); Live (1967); In Person (1968); So Fine (1968); Cussin’, Cryin’ and Carryin’ On (1969); Outta Season (1969); The Hunter (1969); Her Man...His Woman (1970); Come Together (1970); Workin’ Together (1970); What You Hear Is What You Get (1971); ’Nuff Said (1971); Feel Good (1972); Let Me Touch Your Mind (1972); The World of Ike and Tina Turner (1973); Nutbush City Limits (1973); The Gospel According to Ike and Tina Turner (1974); Revue Live (1975); Airwaves (1978); Get Back (1985); Workin’ Together (1986); The Ike and Tina Sessions (1987); What You Hear Is What You Get: Live at Carnegie Hall (1996). THE IKETTES: Soul Hits (1965). TINA TURNER: Turns the Country On (1974); Acid Queen (1975); Rough (1978); Private Dancer (1984); Break Every Rule (1986); Tina Live in Europe (1988); Foreign Affair (1989); Simply the Best (1991); What’s Love Got to Do (1993); Wildest Dreams (1996); Twenty Four Seven (2000).


L. Fissinger, Tina Turner (N.Y., 1985); B. Mills, Tina (N.Y., 1985); R. Wynn, Tina: The Tina Turner Story (N.Y., 1985).

—Brock Helander

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