Turner, Izear Luster ("Ike") and Turner, Tina

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TURNER, Izear Luster ("Ike") and Tina TURNER

TURNER, Izear Luster ("Ike") (b. 5 November 1931 in Clarksdale, Mississippi), and Tina TURNER (b. 26 November 1938 in Brownsville, Tennessee), leaders of the Ike and Tina Turner Review who contributed to the integration of traditional blues and gospel elements in the 1960s transformation of rock and roll.

Ike Turner was the son of a preacher and a seamstress. He got his first piano at the age of seven or eight and taught himself to play, with early influence coming from Pinetop Perkins's boogie-woogie style. While he was still in high school he formed a local band of some acclaim, the Tophatters.

Tina Turner, born Anna Mae Bullock, was the daughter of Floyd Bullock, a migrant worker, sharecropper, and Baptist deacon, and Zelma Currie, a part-time domestic. As a child, she worked the fields alongside her family and sang along with the radio and the church organ. By her mid-teens, her parents had moved away, leaving their two daughters in Tennessee with their grandparents and other relatives. Eventually, in 1956, she and and her sister, Alline, moved to St. Louis.

After the Tophatters split up (some members preferring the big band style to Ike's style, which became known as rhythm and blues), Ike formed a new band called the Kings of Rhythm in 1947–1948. While performing locally with the Kings of Rhythm, Ike also worked as a disc jockey and studio musician for WROX radio in 1947, and in 1950 he met the record producer Sam Phillips in Memphis, Tennessee. In 1951 the Kings of Rhythm moved to Memphis to record with Phillips. Their single "Rocket 88" often is referred to as the first-ever rock-and-roll record. Accidentally, credit for the song was given to Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats instead of the Kings of Rhythm. Brenston was the Kings' saxophone player.

Turner's money troubles started early. He earned a reputation for being hardnosed and insisting on up-front payments. He worked as a talent scout for Modern Records, and in 1956 Turner moved the Kings of Rhythm to St. Louis and learned to play guitar. By the late 1950s the Kings of Rhythm were a local success in St. Louis. Anna Mae Bullock met Ike at the Manhattan, the hottest club in St. Louis and begged him to let her sing. When he finally agreed, she was a hit. From 1958 to 1960 Anna performed with the Kings of Rhythm. Ike, recognizing her marketability, gave her the stage name "Tina" and began buying her clothes and grooming her as a front person. The band made the "chittlins' circuit" of black juke joints and bars in the South. Their style featured Tina's characteristic shouting and singing combined with traditional blues, gospel, and call-and-response music. Tina's rattling blues sound and flamboyant stage presence set them apart. Tina and Ike were married around 1960 in Mexico. They had no children, though Tina had had a child by Ike's saxophone player in the late 1950s.

"A Fool in Love" was the first hit for the Ike and Tina Turner Revue; released in 1960 on Sue Records, it peaked at number two on the rhythm and blues chart and number twenty-seven on the pop charts. The Ike and Tina Turner Revue performed the song on the television show American Bandstand, and the song sold one million copies. Other popular songs at that time included Brenda Lee's "I Want to Be Wanted." In contrast, Tina sang, "I'm Gonna Keep Him Satisfied." Her raunchy, provocative delivery marked a distinct departure from accepted sentiments in songs by 1960s female vocalists.

In 1962 free-form dances like the twist overtook dance floors across the country. Ultimately, such dances influenced performances by such artists as Ike and Tina Turner. "It's Gonna Work Out Fine" reached number two on the rhythm-and-blues charts and number fourteen on the pop charts, selling more than a hundred million copies. Other chart hits included "I Idolize You," "Poor Fool," "Tra-La-La-La-La," "I Can't Believe What You Say," and "You Shoulda Treated Me Right."

Ike, who early on in his career recognized that he could earn additional income by dodging contracts and jumping from record label to record label, had songs on Sue, Sonja, Innis, Kent, Loma, Modern, Tangerine, Cenco, Philles, Pompeii, Blue Thumb, and Minit in the 1960s. One of the disadvantages to this approach, which he soon realized, was that records sometimes did not get the quality of promotion they deserved and thus were not as successful as they might have been. The quick money earned by his dodging technique, in the long run, contributed to money problems that would plague most of his career and contribute to later legal difficulties.

In 1966 Tina recorded "River Deep, Mountain High" with the famed producer Phil Spector. Ike was banned from the sessions. By all accounts, Tina was "electric," and everyone, including a studio full of the musicians required to create Spector's "wall of sound," expected a hit from this endeavor. While it was popular in Europe (thirteen weeks in the charts in the United Kingdom, peaking at number three), the very pop sound of the record was too white for Ike and Tina's established black audience and too black for the white fans of Herman's Hermits and the Dave Clark Five. The song was not a success in the United States.

That same year, Mick Jagger invited the Ike and Tina Turner Revue to tour with the Rolling Stones in Europe as the opening act. During those twelve dates, Ike and Tina were treated as stars in a way to which they were not accustomed in the United States. Tina's dancing, rhythm, and stage presence, especially, provided inspiration for Jagger on the tour. The Revue had few hit records from 1966 to 1969, but they did perform on the Ed Sullivan Show and began to play in better venues after the 1966 Stones tour. They toured with the Stones again in 1969, also playing gigs at Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco and the Fillmore East in New York City and at the Newport Rock Festival with fellow artists, including Jimi Hendrix (rumored to be a one-time member of Ike's Kings of Rhythm), Joe Cocker, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and the Byrds. Tina was featured in an article in Vogue magazine.

In 1971 Ike and Tina had their greatest chart success with John Fogerty's "Proud Mary." It reached number four on the pop charts. Another important success was "Nutbush City Limits," written by Tina and released in 1973. Ike was physically and emotionally abusive to Tina throughout their marriage, and on 2 July 1976, Tina left him to build a new life and career on her own. By 1983 Tina had established herself as a solo artist. Private Dancer, her album released in 1984, was extremely successful. The Ike and Tina Turner Revue was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991. In 1993 What's Love Got to Do with It?, a screen adaptation of Tina's 1986 autobiography, was released in theaters. Ike, after trouble with money, drugs, and violence, released two solo albums and wrote Taking Back My Life.

Tina Turner's autobiography, I, Tina (with Kurt Loder, 1986), is the source for the 1993 movie What's Love Got to Do with It? Ike Turner, with Nigel Cawthorne, has his say in Takin' Back My Name: The Confessions of Ike Turner (1999). Also see Bart Mills, Tina (1985).

Courtney S. Danforth

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