December 12, 2007 – Ike Wister Turner was born on November 5th, 1931 in Clarksdale, Mississippi. By the time he was 8 years old he was working at the local Clarksdale radio station, WROX, as an elevator boy, soon he was helping the visiting musicians and doing all sorts around the radio stations.
He met many musicians such as Robert Nighthawk, Howlin’ Wolf, Sonny Boy Williamson, Elmore James, Muddy Waters, Little Walter and his idol Pinetop Perkins taught the young Ike to play boogie-woogie on the piano.
In the late 1940s Ike, playing guitar, helped form a group with sax player Jackie Brenston, ‘The Kings of Rhythm’, and in 1951, they recorded a song penned by Ike, what historians are still debating as “the first rock and roll record” with “Rocket 88”, listed on the charts as Jackie Brenston and His Delta Cats. The song was one of the first examples of guitar distortion, which happened by accident, Ike had dropped his amplifier before the recording.
He soon became known for his hard-hitting guitar style. In the 1950s he also became a recording scout and A&R man for independent record companies including Sun Records, he helped many of his radio friends get signed.
Life changed when in 1959 a young girl grabbed a microphone during a Kings of Rhythm gig at one of St. Louis’ nightspots and sung a BB King song. Ike was so impressed with Miss Anna Mae Bullock that he asked her to join the band. A year later in 1960, he changed Anna’s name to Tina Turner and the name of the band to the Ike & Tina Turner Revue.
For the next 16 years Ike and Tina Turner were one the most powerful and explosive duos in the history of rock n roll, with hits such as “River Deep, Mountain High”, “Nutbush City Limits”, “I Want To Take You Higher” and “Proud Mary”. Initially a flop in the US, especially River Deep Mountain High made is way around the world as a Phil Spector, Wall of Sound production. Until the mid 70s they toured the world with superstar success. But then Tina left Ike in 1976 after allegations of domestic violence.
Ike struggled through the 80’s releasing only two albums and found himself facing drug and weapons charges. Alongside,Tina, he was inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991, but could not attend as he was jailed at the time. But 1993 sees him back on the road with The Kings of Rhythm, as well as recording again, which he continued till his death.
In 2001, Ike released the Grammy-nominated Here & Now album; in 2004 he was awarded with an “Heroes Award” from the Memphis charter of NARAS, and in 2005, he appeared on the Gorillaz’ album, Demon Days, playing piano on the track, “Every Planet We Reach Is Dead”. He played live with the band on the band’s world tour to that particular song.
In 2007, Ike won his first solo Grammy in the Best Traditional Blues Album category for the album, Risin’ With the Blues. A collaboration between Ike and the rock band, The Black Keys, by Gorillaz’ producer Danger Mouse, was posthumously released in 2008.
It is said that Ike was married 14 times, although he has only been known to have married four times publicly, but then in a radio interview in 2007 Ike claimed he and Tina Turner were never actually married. In 54 years of pure rocking and rolling with his temper tantrums, drug abuse, prison, the car crashes, gambling, singing to royalty, winning awards, topping the world charts, this powerful singer, awesome guitarist and colorful character who has helped so many musicians along on his journey will be sadly missed by many.
Rock ‘n’ roll pioneer, singer, guitarist, bandleader, talent scout, record producer, Ike Turner “The Gran-daddy of Rock n Roll” sadly died of a cocaine overdose on Dec 12, 2007 at the age of 76 at his home in San Marcos, near San Diego, California.