Ike Turner

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Ike Turner
Turner in 1971
Turner in 1971
Background information
Birth nameIzear Luster Turner Jr.
Also known as
  • Ike Wister Turner
  • Icky Renrut
  • Lover Boy
Born(1931-11-05)November 5, 1931
Clarksdale, Mississippi, U.S.
DiedDecember 12, 2007(2007-12-12) (aged 76)
San Marcos, California, U.S.
  • Musician
  • record producer
  • talent scout
  • bandleader
  • songwriter
  • Guitar
  • keyboards
  • vocals
Years active1940s–2007
Formerly of

Izear Luster "Ike" Turner Jr. (November 5, 1931 – December 12, 2007) was an American musician, bandleader, songwriter, record producer, and

talent scout. An early pioneer of 1950s rock and roll, he is best known for his work in the 1960s and 1970s with his wife Tina Turner as the leader of the Ike & Tina Turner

A native of

Bobby "Blue" Bland.[3] In 1954, Turner relocated to East St. Louis where his Kings of Rhythm became one of the most renowned acts in Greater St. Louis.[4]
He formed the Ike & Tina Turner Revue in 1960, which over the course of the decade became a soul/rock crossover success.

Turner's cocaine addiction and legal troubles, together with accounts by Tina Turner of domestic violence (published in her 1986 autobiography I, Tina and the 1993 film adaptation What's Love Got to Do with It), had an impact on his career.[5] Addicted to cocaine for at least 15 years, Turner was convicted of drug offenses and served 18 months in prison.[6] After his release in 1991, he relapsed in 2004, and died of a drug overdose in 2007. During the last decade of his life, Turner revived his career as a frontman by returning to his blues roots. He released two award-winning albums, Here and Now (2001) and Risin' with the Blues (2006).

Hailed as a "great innovator" of rock and roll by contemporaries such as

Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame

Early life

Ike Turner's birthplace and childhood home at 304 Washington Avenue in the Riverton neighborhood of Clarksdale, Mississippi.[14]

Izear Luster Turner Jr. was born in

Baptist minister. His parents were Creole.[17] Turner was the younger of their two children; his sister, Lee Ethel Knight, was "some ten years" his senior. When Turner applied for his first passport in the 1960s, he discovered that his name was registered as Ike Wister Turner. By then both of his parents were deceased, so he could not verify the origin of his name.[17]

Blues historian Ted Drozdowski claimed that Turner's father died in an industrial accident;[18] according to Turner, he witnessed his father beaten and left for dead by a white man[17] (another account given by Turner alleged that "a couple of pickup-truck loads of whites in khaki pants and khaki shirts" dragged his father away, returning him after having "kicked holes in his stomach").[19] He claimed he was later told this assault was an act of retaliation over a woman with whom his father was having an affair, and that his father lived for two or three years as an invalid in a tent erected by the Health Department in the family's yard before succumbing to his injuries when Turner was about five years old.[17] Donald Brackett, author of Tumult! The Incredible Life of Tina Turner, observed Turner "often related" this story, but that "like most Ike stories, it might need to be taken with a pound of salt."[20]

His mother remarried an artist named Philip Reese, who Turner described as a violent alcoholic.[21] One day after Reese gave him a whipping, Turner knocked him out with a length of lumber and ran away to Memphis for a few days before returning home.[22] Despite their troubled relationship, Turner moved his stepfather into one of his homes in St. Louis after his mother died in 1959 and took care of him until his death in 1961.[23]

Turner recounted how he was sexually assaulted at the age of six by a woman called Miss Boozie.[24] Walking past her house to school, she would invite him to help feed her chickens and then take him to bed. This continued daily for some time.[25] Turner was also sexually assaulted by another middle-aged woman, Miss Reedy, before he was twelve.[26] Reflecting on these experiences, he stated: "That's probably why every relationship I was in was surrounded by sex. Sex was power to me."[16]

External videos
video icon Oral History, Ike Turner shares moments of his life story and career. (Interview date December 1, 2005), NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) Oral History Library

Turner attended Booker T. Washington Elementary School, then was promoted to Myrtle Hall in the sixth grade.[27] He quit school in the eighth grade and began working as an elevator operator at the Alcazar Hotel in downtown Clarksdale.[28] During breaks, he would watch DJ John Friskillo play records at the radio station, WROX, located in the hotel.[29] WROX is noted for being the first radio station in Mississippi to employ a black DJ, Early Wright.[30] One day, Friskillo spotted Turner watching and put him to work, teaching him the ins and outs of the control room.[31][32] Soon, he was left to play records while Friskillo took coffee breaks.[32][33] This led to Turner being offered a job by the station manager as the DJ on the late-afternoon shift. On his show, "Jive Till Five", he played a diverse range of music such as Roy Milton and Louis Jordan alongside early rockabilly records.[23][31]

Turner was inspired to learn the piano after he heard blues pianist Pinetop Perkins play at his friend Ernest Lane's house.[34] Turner persuaded his mother to pay for piano lessons, but he did not take to the formal style of playing. Instead, he spent the money in a pool hall and learned boogie-woogie from Perkins.[35] At some point in the 1940s, Turner moved into Clarksdale's Riverside Hotel.[36] The Riverside played host to touring musicians, including Sonny Boy Williamson II and Duke Ellington.[37][36] Turner associated with many of these musicians, and at 13 years old he backed Sonny Boy Williamson II on piano.[8]


1946–1950: Formation of the Kings of Rhythm

As a teenager, Turner joined a local rhythm ensemble called the Tophatters, who played around

B.B. King helped them to get a steady weekend gig and recommended them to Sam Phillips at Memphis Recording Service.[2] In the 1950s, Turner's group got regular airplay from live sessions on the radio stations WROX in Clarksdale and KFFA in Helena, Arkansas.[30][41]

Around the time he was starting out with the Kings of Rhythm, Turner and Lane became unofficial roadies for blues musician Robert Nighthawk, who often played live on WROX.[32] The pair played drums and piano on radio sessions. Turner gained experience performing by supporting Nighthawk at gigs around Clarksdale.[42][43] He played juke joints alongside other local blues artists such as Elmore James, Muddy Waters, and Little Walter.[32] Performances typically lasted about twelve hours, from early evening to dawn the next day. Turner recalled, "there wasn't no intermission. If the drummer had to pee, I would play drums until he returned....There were no breaks. We just switched around."[44]

1951: "Rocket 88"

Sun Studio at 706 Union Avenue in Memphis, Tennessee, where in 1951 Turner and the Kings of Rhythm recorded "Rocket 88", one of the first rock and roll records. Turner would later work at the studio as in-house producer for Sam Phillips.

In March 1951, Turner and his band recorded the song "Rocket 88" at Memphis Recording Service. Turner's vocalist Johnny O'Neal had left to sign a solo contract with King Records, so Jackie Brenston, a saxophonist in the Kings of Rhythm, sang lead vocals while Turner was on piano. "Rocket 88" is notable among other things for Willie Kizart's distorted guitar sound.[45]

Phillips licensed the recording to Chess Records in Chicago.[46] Chess released it under the name "Jackie Brenston and His Delta Cats" instead of "Ike Turner and His Kings of Rhythm Featuring Jackie Brenston".[47] Turner blamed Phillips for this misrepresentation. Soon after its release, the single caused a sensation and Turner performed with his band at the W.C. Handy Theatre in Memphis.[46]

The single reached

number-one on the Billboard R&B charts in June 1951 and spent 5 weeks on top of the charts.[48][49] The record sold approximately half a million copies. Turner and the band were paid $20 each for the record. The exception was Brenston, who sold the rights to Phillips for $910.[50] Phillips used profits from the success of the record to launch Sun Records in February 1952.[51]

The song is often cited as the first rock n' roll record, [52] but in a later interview, Turner offered this assessment: "I don't think that 'Rocket 88' is rock 'n' roll. I think that 'Rocket 88' is R&B, but I think 'Rocket 88' is the cause of rock and roll existing".[53]

The success of "Rocket 88" generated tension and ego clashes in the band which culminated with Brenston leaving to pursue a solo career, causing the band to fall apart. Turner, without a band and disappointed his hit record had not created more opportunities for him, disbanded the Kings of Rhythm for a few years.[42]

1951–1954: Session musician and talent scout

Soon after the release of "Rocket 88", Turner moved to

You Know I Love You" and "3 O'Clock Blues", which became King's first two number-ones.[4] According to Joe Bihari, Turner had brought King to his attention years prior. He said, "Ike wasn't more than sixteen then. He would send dubs of things he cut to us, and if we'd like them we'd make a seal or sign the artist. That's how we acquired B.B. King."[56] King also maintained that Turner introduced him to the Bihari brothers.[57]

Unaware of songwriter's royalties, Turner also wrote new material which the Biharis copyrighted under their own names.[58] They often purchased or claimed co-writer credit of songs written by artists on their labels using pseudonyms.[59][60] Turner estimated he wrote seventy-eight hit records for the Biharis.[58] Artists Turner discovered for Modern and Sun include Bobby Bland, Howlin' Wolf, Rosco Gordon, Boyd Gilmore, Houston Boines, Charley Booker, and Little Milton.[61] He played piano in sessions with them and lesser-known artists such as the Prisonaires, Driftin' Slim, Ben Burton, Matt Cockrell, Dennis Binder, Sunny Blair, and Baby Face Turner.[62][4]

Turner was contracted to the Bihari brothers, but he continued to work for Phillips, where he was effectively the in-house producer. This sometimes created conflicts of interest.[63] In 1951, Turner recorded two Howlin' Wolf tracks for Phillips, playing piano on "How Many More Years" and "Moanin' at Midnight", which Phillips sent to Chess.[64][65] Turner and Howlin' Wolf then recorded a version of "Moanin' at Midnight" at radio station KWEM in West Memphis without Phillips' or the Chess brothers' knowledge. He sent the results to the Biharis at Modern and they released it on their subsidiary label RPM Records.[65] Turner also attempted to poach Elmore James from Trumpet Records and record him for Modern. Trumpet found out and Modern had to cancel the record. However, James did eventually sign with Modern, and Turner played on his recordings that were released on Modern's subsidiary label Flair Records.[4][66]

While in Helena, Turner tried to recruit Little Walter to record for Modern in January 1952, but Little Walter was on his way to Mississippi.[67] In 1952, Turner discovered Little Junior Parker in West Memphis, and they formed a band with Matt "Guitar" Murphy.[34] Turner recorded Parker's first single, "You're My Angel" / "Bad Women, Bad Whiskey", credited to Little Junior Parker and the Blue Flames.[68][56] That summer Turner recorded with the new vocalist and pianist in his band, Marion Louis Lee, resulting in "My Heart Belongs to You" / "Looking for My Baby". The records were released on RPM as Bonnie and Ike Turner and they performed together at the Hippodrome in Memphis.[69] Turner married Lee in September 1952.[70]

Unbeknownst to Turner, during his time in West Memphis, he met Elvis Presley, who was a truck driver.[71][72] He recalled, "[Presley] was just a white boy that would come over to black clubs. He would come in and stand behind the piano and watch me play. I never knew he was no musician."[73] Turner discovered his identity many years later after Presley approached him when they were both playing at the International Hotel.[54]

To accommodate his then-wife Bonnie, who also played piano, Turner taught himself how to play guitar by ear, and Willie Kizart taught him blues guitar techniques.[74] He began playing guitar in sessions in 1953, and by 1954, with the assistance of Joe Bihari, he built a makeshift recording studio at a defunct Greyhound bus station in Clarksdale.[62] Turner used his Kings of Rhythm as session musicians. They played on many recordings for Bihari's Modern, RPM, and Flair labels. Some of the artists Turner backed on piano and guitar during this period include Elmore James, Johnny Ace and the Flairs.[75] Around this time Turner discovered Billy "The Kid" Emerson in Greenville. He brought Emerson to record at Sun Records and backed him on guitar in 1954.[76]

1954–1959: St. Louis

In 1954, Turner visited his sister Lee Ethel Knight in

St. Louis, Missouri. During his stay, he went clubbing at Ned Love's in East St. Louis, Illinois. Love invited Turner and his band to play at his club.[77][78] Eventually, Turner returned with his reformed version of the Kings of Rhythm. The band consisted of Willie Kizart on guitar, Willie "Bad Boy" Sims on drums, vocalist Johnny O'Neal, Turner's nephew Jesse Knight Jr. on bass, and Turner's wife Annie Mae Wilson on piano and vocals.[79]

Turner maintained strict discipline and the band lived at his home on Virginia Place in East St. Louis which doubled as a studio.[80] A teetotaler at the time, he avoided drugs and insisted all band members also adopt this policy, firing anyone he even suspected of breaking the rules.[16] Turner established his group as one of the most highly rated on the St. Louis club circuit, vying for popularity with their main competition, Sir John's Trio featuring Chuck Berry.[79] The bands would play all-nighters in St. Louis, then cross the river to the clubs of East St. Louis, and continue playing until dawn. Initially, they played for predominately black audiences at clubs in Illinois such as the Club Manhattan in East St. Louis, which Turner and his band built, the Club Riviera in St. Louis, the Harlem Club in Brookline and the Kingsbury in Madison.[81][82] In St. Louis, Turner was exposed to a white audience who were excited by R&B. He played at the Moonlight Bar, Latin Quarter, and the Club Imperial, which was popular with white teenagers.[77][83][84] He also gained a big following at Club DeLisa and locally he was acknowledged as the "King of Rock and Roll."[85][86] As his popularity grew among both whites and blacks, he demanded that the clubs should be integrated.[78] He performed regularly on Dave Dixon's radio show, which aired live from the Birdcage Lounge, on KSTL.[77] He also had live music broadcasts on the St. Louis radio station KATZ.[78]

In between live dates, Turner took the band to Cincinnati to record for Federal Records in 1956. The single, "I'm Tore Up" / "If I Never Had Known You" featuring Billy Gayles, was released in April 1956.[87] It became a regional hit and Turner's booking fee doubled after its release.[88] Like Brenston years prior, Gayles left Turner's band to pursue a solo career.[89] In 1958, Turner took the band to Chicago to record for Cobra/Artistic, as well as fulfilling his contract as a session musician back at Sun. While in Chicago, Turner backed Otis Rush, playing the signature vibrato guitar parts on "Double Trouble".[90] He also helped Buddy Guy record his second record,[91] resulting in the single "You Sure Can't Do" / "This Is The End", on which Turner played guitar and composed the latter.[92]

Turner befriended St. Louis R&B fan Bill Stevens, who set up the short-lived Stevens Records in 1959.[93] Turner released two singles on the Stevens label, "Jack Rabbit" / "In Your Eyes Baby" and "Ho–Ho" / "Hey–Hey."[94] He used the anagram "Icky Renrut" because he was still under contract with Sun for several more months, and he didn't want to cause friction with Phillips.[79] In addition, Turner recorded numerous sessions for Stevens with various vocalists and musician lineups of the Kings of Rhythm.[95]

1960–1976: The Ike and Tina Turner Revue

The duo seated and singing
Ike & Tina Turner by Dennis Hopper for the album River Deep – Mountain High (1966)

In 1956, Ann Bullock accompanied her sister

Boxtop", released on Tune Town Records in 1958.[102]

In March 1960, Turner allowed her to record a demo of his self-penned song "A Fool in Love". He intended to use the demo as guide track for Art Lassiter, who did not attend the scheduled recording session at Technisonic Studios.[78] A local DJ suggested he send the record to Sue Records in New York, where label owner Juggy Murray insisted on releasing the track with Bullock's vocal. Murray offered a $20,000 advance for the song and suggested Turner "make her the star" of his show.[103] Turner then renamed her "Tina" because it rhymed with Sheena; however, family and friends still called her Ann.[104] He was inspired by Sheena, Queen of the Jungle and Nyoka the Jungle Girl to create her stage persona.[105] He had the name "Tina Turner" trademarked, so that in case she left, another singer could perform under the same name.[106]

The single "A Fool In Love" was released in July 1960, and it became a national hit, selling a million copies. It peaked at No. 2 on the

Poor Fool", and "It's Gonna Work Out Fine" which gave them their second million-seller and their first Grammy nomination.[108]

In 1961, Turner played piano on Albert King's first hit record, "Don't Throw Your Love on Me So Strong". The single, released on King Records, peaked at No. 14 on the Billboard R&B chart.[90] He also wrote and produced the Ikettes hit "I'm Blue (The Gong-Gong Song)".[109]

The Revue performed rigorously on the

Tangerine, Pompeii, Blue Thumb, Minit, and A&M.[112] Between 1964 and 1965, they scored fourteen top 40 R&B hits with "You Can't Miss Nothing That You Never Had", "Tell Her I'm Not Home", "Good Bye, So Long", and "Two Is a Couple".[113][107] Around this time, Jimi Hendrix briefly played backing guitar in the band.[114]

In 1965,

UK Singles Chart and No. 1 on Los 40 Principales in Spain.[119][120] Following the song's success in the UK, Mick Jagger invited them to open for the Rolling Stones on their 1966 British Tour.[121][122] This exposure introduced them to a wider audience outside of R&B. Soon they were booking bigger venues, and by 1969 they were headlining in Las Vegas.[123]

Ike & Tina Turner arriving at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol
in 1971

In April 1969, Turner and the Kings of Rhythm released an album,

Outta Season and The Hunter on Blue Thumb Records. Turner and Bob Krasnow, founder of Blue Thumb, co-produced Earl Hooker's 1969 album Sweet Black Angel.[125] In November, the Ike & Tina Turner Revue opened for the Rolling Stones on their 1969 American Tour.[117]

In January 1970, they performed on

Their mainstream success provided Turner with the finances to open his own recording studio,

Turner released two solo albums for United Artists Records, Blues Roots (1972) and Bad Dreams (1973). In 1973, the duo released "Nutbush City Limits" penned by Tina. The single peaked at No. 22 on the Billboard Hot 100, No. 11 on the R&B chart and it was a bigger hit in Europe.[107] The Turners received the Golden European Record Award, the first ever given, for selling more than one million records of "Nutbush City Limits" in Europe.[129]

During this period, Turner produced singer

Dallas Statler Hilton.[134] Turner later claimed that Tina initiated the conflict by purposely irritating him so that she would have a reason to break up with him before they signed the new contract.[133] Tina fled from the hotel shortly after they arrived, and filed for divorce on July 27, 1976. She would later describe a relationship in which Turner was frequently violent and abusive, sometimes beating her with wooden objects like a shoe-stretcher or hanger. The night she left, his beating left her face bruised, swollen, and bleeding.[135][136]

United Artists responded to the Turners' separation by releasing albums of compiled recordings from their last sessions together, Delilah's Power (1977) and Airwaves (1978). Two years after their divorce was finalized, Turner released the single "Party Vibes" / "Shame, Shame, Shame" from the album The Edge (1980) which peaked at No. 27 on the Billboard Disco Top 100 chart.[137]

1977–2007: Later career

After his breakup with Tina, singer Holly Maxwell sang with Turner on occasion from 1977 to 1985 and again for eight months in 1992. She reported a positive working relationship with Turner, and later released the memoir Freebase Ain't Free about their close friendship.[138] In 1979, Turner spent time in the studio with Chaka Khan following her separation from her manager-husband. She told Jet: "He's been real inspiration and a catalyst emotionally and in other ways as well. We plan to record together."[139] Turner struggled to find success due to his cocaine addiction and run-ins with the law.[140] In 1988, Turner attempted an ill-fated return to the stage with Marcy Thomas, Bonnie Johnson, and Jeanette Bazzell as his Ikettes.[141]

While Turner was in prison following a drug conviction, Ike & Tina Turner were inducted to the

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1991.[13] Tina did not attend because she took the year off from making public appearances, so Phil Spector delivered a speech at the ceremony on their behalf.[142][143] After his release from prison, Turner told the press that he was nervous about returning to performing live, but had plans to return to the studio.[6] He sold 20 unreleased Ike & Tina Turner masters to the independent label Esquire Records.[144] In 1992, Turner performed as a special guest at Oliver Sain's Soul Reunion concert at Mississippi Nights in St. Louis.[145]

Hip-hop group Salt-N-Pepa sampled Turner's composition "I'm Blue (The Gong Gong Song)", released by the Ikettes in 1961, for their 1993 single "Shoop". The song reached No. 4 in the Billboard Hot 100 and Turner earned around half a million dollars in royalties.[140] He re-recorded "I'm Blue" as a duet with singer Billy Rogers in 1995. Produced by Rogers, the remake received favorable reviews.[146] Turner later appeared on the song "Love Gravy" with Rick James for the soundtrack album Chef Aid: The South Park Album.[147]

Turner reformed the Ikettes in the mid-1990s, which included his then-wife Jeanette Bazzell Turner , Nina Hill, and Michelle Love (Randi Love). Vera Clyburn, who was an Ikette in the 1970s, was the lead singer.[148] They performed to positive reviews as the Ike Turner Revue.[149][3] In August 1997, Turner returned to his hometown Clarksdale to headline the 10th Annual Sunflower River Blues & Gospel Festival.[150] Turner credited Joe Louis Walker with encouraging him to return to his roots in blues music. Turner played guitar and assisted in the production on Walker's 1997 album Great Guitars; Walker paid him $5,000 a night for six songs.[151] Walker invited Turner to perform with him at the San Francisco Blues Festival and to tour in Europe.[34][152] The positive response to the tour encouraged Turner to reform the Kings of Rhythm. They toured the US in 2001, and headlined a showcase at South by Southwest, where they were hailed as one of the highlights of the conference.[152] Turner's work on the tour led to the recording and release of his Grammy-nominated album Here & Now (2001).[12] In 2002, Turner's performance at the Montreux Jazz Festival was released as a live album and DVD.[2]

In 2002, Turner filmed

Every Planet We Reach Is Dead".[155][156] He performed the song with Gorillaz at the Manchester Opera House in November 2005.[157][158] His performance is featured in the live concert DVD Demon Days: Live at the Manchester Opera House.[159]

In 2006, Turner released his last album,

independent label Zoho Roots. The album received positive critical reception, and was nominated for best Blues Album at the 7th Annual Independent Music Awards.[160][161] Turner won his first solo Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Album at the 49th Annual Grammy Awards in 2007.[12]

Turner began working on a collaboration album with Gorillaz's producer

Danger Mouse and the Black Keys in early 2007.[162] The Black Keys sent demos to Turner, but the project was temporarily shelved.[162][163] After Turner's death, the songs were used for their 2008 album Attack & Release.[162] Although Turner does not appear on the album, Pitchfork noted his influence in the production.[164]

Artistry and legacy

Musical style

Ike Turner performing at the Long Beach Blues Festival in 1997

In his career, Turner originally worked in the style of 1950s R&B, or post-jump blues. His early influences included Amos Milburn and Louis Jordan, as well as country music artists such as Hank Williams Sr. and Merle Travis.[3] Though primarily known as a guitarist, Turner began his career playing piano and personally considered it his main instrument.[27] In 1951, journalist Mike McGee compared him to jazz pianist Fats Waller and wrote: "Ike Turner is the hottest piano player in many a day."[165]

Turner grew up playing

boogie woogie piano, which he learned from blues pianist Pinetop Perkins.[166] He decided he was not meant to be a frontman when at twelve he was coerced into giving an impromptu piano recital in school. He found the experience terrifying and from then on preferred not to be the focus of attention, but rather to be in the background controlling the show. He considered himself an organizer rather than a performer.[167] Musician Donald Fagen noted: "[T]alented as he was, there wasn't anything really supernatural about Ike's skills as a musician... What Ike excelled at was leadership: conceptualization, organization, and execution."[168]

Turner's guitar style is distinguished by heavy use of the

tremolo arm could be used to subtle effect, Turner used it to play screaming, swooping and diving solos that predated artists such as Jimi Hendrix and Jeff Beck by a decade.[171] In The Stratocaster Chronicles, Tom Wheeler wrote that Turner's "inventive style is a classic example of an artist discovering the Stratocaster, adapting to its features and fashioning something remarkable."[172] Turner himself said of his tremolo technique: "I thought it was to make the guitar scream—people got so excited when I used that thing."[171] Dave Rubin wrote in Premier Guitar magazine: "All those years of playing piano and arranging taught him a considerable amount about harmony, as he could certainly navigate I-IV-V chord changes. Ike modestly terms what he does on the guitar as 'tricks', but make no mistake, he attacked his axe with the conviction of a man who knew precisely what he wanted to hear come out of it."[169]

Reviewing Turner's 1973 album Bad Dreams, Robert Christgau wrote: "After twenty years of raking it in from the shadows, he's finally figured out a way of applying his basically comic bass/baritone to rock and roll. Studio-psychedelic New Orleans, echoes of the Band and Dr. John, some brilliant minor r&b mixed in with the dumb stuff. My God—at the moment he's more interesting than Tina."[173]


"It ain't Little Richard, it ain't Chuck, it ain't Fats Domino — no, we came on later. This man was playing the blues, rhythm and blues. Rock 'n' roll came from rhythm and blues: rock 'n' roll ain't nothing but rhythm and blues up-tempo. Ike Turner was the innovator, for rhythm and blues and for rock 'n' roll. We just came and took it home."

Little Richard (1999)[174]

Turner was praised by his contemporaries for his influence.

Fender bass into that music. He was a great innovator."[8] B.B. King was a great admirer of Turner, describing him as "The best bandleader I've ever seen."[175] King also said, "When they talk about rock 'n roll, I see Ike as one of the founding fathers."[176] Turner was a big influence on Little Richard, who wrote the introduction to Turner's autobiography.[177] Little Richard was inspired to play the piano after he heard Turner's piano intro on "Rocket 88", and later used it note for note on "Good Golly, Miss Molly".[178][179] Prince also said Turner was his first musical influence.[180]

Phil Alexander, editor-in-chief of Mojo magazine, referred to Turner as the "cornerstone of modern day rock 'n' roll" and credited his arrangements of blues standards as being an influence on 1960s British Invasion groups: "He proceeded to influence British rockers from the mid-1960s onwards. Without Ike you wouldn't have had the Stones and Zeppelin. People like that wouldn't have had the source material on which they drew."[9]

Speaking on "Rocket 88" being a contender for the first rock 'n' roll record, broadcaster

break. It was sampled by producer Goldie for his 1994 hit "Inner City Life", in the same year by Krome & Time on "The License", and by Paradox in 2002 on track "Funky Mule".[181]

In 2009, a Nashville-based band, Mr. Groove Band, recorded a tribute album titled Rocket 88: Tribute to Ike Turner. Vocalists on the album include Turner's last wife Audrey Madison Turner and former Ikette Bonnie Bramlett.[182]


Turner won two competitive Grammy Awards.[12] Ike & Tina Turner won Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Group for "Proud Mary" in 1972.[183] In 2007, Turner won Best Traditional Blues Album for Risin' with the Blues.[184] Turner also has three songs inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame: "Rocket 88", "River Deep – Mountain High", and "Proud Mary".[11]

Ike & Tina Turner were inducted into the

Rhythm and Blues Music Hall of Fame. He is also inducted into the Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame.[185] He was honored with a star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame in 2001.[186]

Turner won Comeback Album of The Year for Here and Now at the

W.C. Handy Blues Awards in 2002.[187] In 2004, he was awarded the Heroes Award from the Memphis branch of the Recording Academy.[188] He was a recipient of the Legend Award at the 2007 Mojo Awards.[189]

In 2003, the album Proud Mary: The Best of Ike & Tina Turner was ranked No. 212 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time (No. 214 on 2012 revised list).[190][191]

In 2004, Fender Custom Shop manufactured a limited edition Ike Turner Tribute Stratocaster. The model has an alder body in Sonic Blue with an Ike Turner signature in gold ink on the body under the clear-coat, with a maple neck in a 1960s "C" shape with a rosewood fingerboard, with 21 vintage frets. It had three custom single coil 1960s Strat pickups. Only 100 specimens were made, retailing at $3,399.99.[192]

In August 2010, Turner was posthumously celebrated in his hometown of Clarksdale, Mississippi.[193] On August 6, Clarksdale officials and music fans gathered to unveil a marker on the Mississippi Blues Trail and a plaque on the Clarksdale Walk of Fame in downtown Clarksdale honoring Turner and his musical legacy.[194] The unveilings coincided with Clarksdale's 23rd Annual Sunflower River Blues & Gospel Festival, which paid tribute to Turner.[150]

Although Turner considered himself a pianist rather than a guitarist,[34] Rolling Stone magazine editor David Fricke ranked him No. 61 on his list of 100 Greatest Guitarists in 2010.[10]

In 2015, Rolling Stone ranked Ike & Tina Turner No. 2 on their list of the 20 Greatest Duos of All Time.[195]

In 2017, the Mississippi Blues Trail honored "Rocket 88" for being an influential record with a marker in Lyon, Mississippi.[196] In 2018, "Rocket 88" was chosen for the inaugural class of influential songs inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Singles.[197]

Portrayal in popular culture

In 1986, Tina Turner released her autobiography, I, Tina, in which she recounted Turner's volatile behavior. He received negative publicity that was exacerbated in 1993 by the release of the film adaptation

Disney's Touchstone Pictures for his depiction.[198] He was portrayed by Laurence Fishburne, whose performance earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Actor at the 66th Academy Awards.[199]

After the release of the film, the fictionalized version of Turner from the movie was seized on by comedians, who reused the persona in sketches. On the 1990s sketch comedy show In Living Color, Turner was parodied by David Alan Grier. He was portrayed on Saturday Night Live's Weekend Update by Tim Meadows in a pageboy wig. On the John Boy and Billy radio show, cast member Jeff Pillars regularly performed an impersonation of Turner in a segment called "Ax/Ask Ike". These sketches were collected in a 2008 comedy album Ike at the Mike.[200] In 2006, Vibe magazine ranked the character of Ike Turner from What's Love Got to Do with It at No. 4 in their list of the 20 best movie "bad guys".[201]

Commenting on the historical accuracy of the film, Tina told Larry King in 1997: "I would have liked them to have more truth, but according to Disney [owner of the film's production company], they said it's impossible, the people would not have believed the truth."[202][203] In 2018, Tina told Oprah Winfrey that she only recently watched the film, but she could not finish it because she "didn't realize they would change the details so much."[204] Phil Spector criticized Tina's book and called the film a "piece of trash" during his eulogy at Turner's funeral.[205]

In 2015, TV One's Unsung offered some redemption with "The Story of Ike Turner", which documented his career along with his trials and tribulations.[206] In the musical Tina: The Tina Turner Musical, Turner was portrayed by British actor Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, who won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actor in a Musical for his role in 2019.[207]


In 1999, Turner published his autobiography Takin' Back My Name: The Confessions of Ike Turner.[208] It was written with Nigel Cawthorne and Little Richard wrote the introduction. In 2003, John Collis published Ike Turner: King of Rhythm about the life and musical contributions of Turner.[209]

Personal life


Turner was married fourteen times.[16][210] He often married another woman before divorcing his existing wife. Speaking on his early marriages, he said: "You gave a preacher two dollars, the (marriage) papers cost three dollars, that was it. In those days, blacks did not bother with divorces."[8]

Early marriages

Turner was first married at 16 years old to Edna Dean Stewart of Ruleville, Mississippi.[211] They were married on April 10, 1948. Records show that Turner added four years to his age.[70] Edna didn't want to stay in Clarksdale, so she left Turner and returned to Ruleville.[212]

Turner's second wife, Velma Davis (née Dishman) is the elder sister of former Ikette Joshie Armstead.[213] Turner met her at the Cotton Club on Camplin Avenue in Yazoo City, Mississippi in 1948. Davis claimed that Turner was the father of her daughter Linda Turner Bullock, born in 1949.[214] However, Turner asserted in his book that he is not the biological father.[212] The couple married on September 19, 1950.[70] Davis and Bullock attended Turner's Mississippi Blues Trail marker unveiling in 2010.[194]

Turner then married Rosa Lee Sane in West Memphis, Arkansas.[212] She had a mental breakdown so her family put her in an insane asylum in Tennessee. Turner tried to get her out, but he never saw her again.[212]

Turner married Marion Louis Lee (Bonnie Turner) in Clarksdale on September 24, 1952.[70] Lee was a member of the Kings of Rhythm as a pianist and vocalist. In 1952, under the alias Mary Sue, she released the single "Everybody's Talking" / "Love Is a Gamble" on Modern Records.[70] She co-wrote both tunes with Turner. The couple also recorded for RPM Records and Sun Records.[215] Turner recalled, "Bonnie played piano. It was a job staying ahead of this chick, man, cos' she was always trying to outdo me."[74] While they were in Sarasota, Florida for a gig, she ran off to New York with another man in 1953.[74] Their divorce was finalized in 1955.[70]

After Lee, Turner married a woman named Alice in Helena, Arkansas.[216] According to Turner, they did not consummate their marriage. Alice was dating his vocalist Johnny O'Neal, but Turner liked her so he married her to avoid "locking heads" with O'Neal. "If I married her, he couldn't do nothing," he said.[216]

After Alice, Turner married Annie Mae Wilson from Greenville, Mississippi.[217] She played piano and was the secretary for his band.[218] Wilson left Turner for a policeman in East St. Louis, Illinois.[219] In 1958, Turner presented a petition to the East St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners, stating that that police officer Curtis Smith had harassed him and burst his eardrum out of spite because of his relationship with Wilson.[218]

In East St. Louis, Turner lived with Lorraine Taylor. Her parents owned the Taylor Sausage Factory in St. Louis.[220] Sources often incorrectly refer to Taylor as one of Turner's wives, but she was his live-in girlfriend.[220][221] Lorraine already had two children of her own before she had two sons, Ike Jr. and Michael, with Turner.[222]

Tina Turner

"I still love Tina as much as I ever loved her...I wrote her a letter five years ago. I never sent it...I was telling her in this letter that I'm sorry for putting her and the kids through that kind of stuff. I was stupid. I was inconsiderate about her feelings. I understand today. She came from an abusive relationship and went straight to the top."

Ike Turner (2007)[202]

In 1956, Turner met Ann Bullock (whom he later renamed Tina Turner) at the Club Manhattan in East St. Louis.[96][104] They became close friends and she began dating his saxophonist Raymond Hill. When Bullock became pregnant by Hill, they lived with Turner and his live-in girlfriend Lorraine Taylor.[223] Hill injured his ankle and left Bullock before their son Craig was born in August 1958.[224] During Bullock's pregnancy, Taylor became suspicious that Bullock was pregnant by Turner and threatened her with a gun before shooting herself; her injuries were nonfatal.[222] However, Turner and Bullock eventually began having an affair and she became pregnant in January 1960.[225]

Following the birth of their son Ronnie in October 1960, they were married in Tijuana in 1962.[226] Turner stated that the reason they went to Tijuana was to see "sex shows and whores".[227] At the time, he was still legally married to Alice Bell.[228] He used a detective agency to locate Bell in Chicago and they divorced in 1974.[229] On multiple occasions, Turner said that he was never officially married to Tina.[210][230][8] He also revealed on The Howard Stern Show in 1993 and on Fresh Air in 1996 that Tina's birth name was Martha Nell (not Anna Mae) Bullock.[231] Tina signed her legal name as Martha Nell Turner on multiple contracts.[232][233]

Following a violent altercation in July 1976, Tina filed for divorce on the grounds of irreconcilable differences.

Jaguar cars, furs and jewelry along with her stage name.[236] Tina gave up her share of their Bolic Sound recording studio, publishing companies, and real estate.[237]

In her 1986 autobiography, Tina revealed that Turner had been abusive during their marriage. She said: "It was my relationship with Ike that made me most unhappy. At first, I had really been in love with him. Look what he'd done for me. But he was totally unpredictable."[238] Turner admitted he took Tina for granted and called her "the best woman I ever knew".[239] In his autobiography, he said: "Sure, I've slapped Tina. We had fights and there have been times when I punched her to the ground without thinking. But I never beat her."[240] In a 1999 interview, Roseanne Barr urged him to publicly apologize to Tina on The Roseanne Barr Show.[241] In 2007, Turner told Jet that he had written Tina an apology letter, but had never sent it.[202][242] In 2018, Tina told The Sunday Times that "as an old person, I have forgiven him, but I would not work with him. He asked for one more tour with me, and I said, 'No, absolutely not.' Ike wasn't someone you could forgive and allow him back in."[243][244]

Later marriages

Turner married Margaret Ann Thomas in Las Vegas on April 11, 1981;[245] they divorced in 1990. They had met in the mid-1960s at a concert in Bakersfield, California.[246] According to Turner, Tina suggested Ann fill in as an Ikette however, she could not sing, she was attractive.[247] Eventually, she moved into their View Park home.[248] Turner stated, "I loved Tina, but I was in love with Ann Thomas."[247] Their daughter Mia was born in January 1969. They rekindled their friendship years after their divorce, and she found Turner unconscious at his home the day he died.[16]

Turner was introduced to St. Louis native singer Jeanette Bazzell by his son Ike Turner Jr. in 1988.[249] She became his lead vocalist and they married in a private ceremony at Circus Circus Hotel & Resort in Las Vegas on July 4, 1995.[250][251] They divorced in 2000, but later rekindled their friendship. According to Jeanette, Turner called her his "backbone".[252] In 2019, she told Palm Spring Life that the film What's Love Got to Do with It "assassinated Ike's career. But more than that, it broke his heart". She added, "Ike doesn't get any recognition because of all the negative things [shown] in that movie and in his relationship with Tina... I went through things with Ike, too, but there's a time to forgive and to let go. To strip him from having the opportunity to get recognition in an area where he was entitled to deserve it, it's so wrong to me."[252]

Turner met San Francisco native singer

The X Factor.[254] In 2016, she released her memoir Love Had Everything to Do with It, which details her volatile relationship with Turner due to his bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.[255] She told The Afro: "I decided to write it because it was like a cleansing and it released all of the trauma. Also, I wanted the general public to have a better outlook and perspective on where Ike was mentally and emotionally, because so often, as a nation, we turn on people who have mental health issues and define them by their behaviors rather than their condition."[256]


Turner had six children. He had two sons, Ike Turner Jr. (b. 1958) and Michael Turner (b. 1960), with Lorraine Taylor.[257] He had a son Ronald "Ronnie" Turner (1960–2022) with Tina Turner.[258] Tina's son Craig Turner (1958–2018) with Raymond Hill was adopted by Turner and therefore carried his surname. Craig died in an apparent suicide.[259]

Turner had a daughter, Mia Turner (b. 1969), with Ann Thomas,[16] and he later discovered he had another daughter, Twanna Melby Turner (b. 1959), with Pat Richard.[260]

Turner's second wife Velma Davis (née Dishman) claimed that Turner was the father of her daughter, Linda Turner Bullock (b. 1949),[214] but Turner denied that assertion in his autobiography (in which Velma is mistakenly referred to as Thelma): "I met Thelma Dishman, who, at that time, I thought was a pretty girl. Thelma was pregnant, not by me, but I liked her."[212]

In 1988, Turner discovered he had a daughter named Twanna Melby.[261] He was paroled into her custody in 1991.[6][239] Her mother, Pat Richard, attended Sumner High School with Tina in St. Louis.[16]

Ike Turner Jr. released an album, Hard Labor, in 1987.[262] He won a Grammy Award for his involvement with Turner's 2006 album Risin' with the Blues.[263] He toured with former Ikette Randi Love as Sweet Randi Love and The Love Thang Band.[264][265]

Ronnie Turner was in a band called Manufactured Funk with songwriter and musician Patrick Moten.[264] He played bass guitar in his mother's band after his parents divorced and he later played in his father's band.[266] He married French singer Afida Turner in 2007.[267][268] After his father's death, he told Jet magazine: "I loved my father very much... You can talk 5 or 10 minutes about the bad he's done. You can talk all night about the achievements he's had. He was successful with my mom and after my mom. He won a Grammy before he died. That's a lifetime achievement."[177] Ronnie died from complications of colon cancer in 2022.[258]

Legal problems and drug addiction

In 1960, Turner and two others were charged for "interstate transportation of forged checks and conspiracy."[269][270] Turner plead not guilty and was forced to stand trial in St. Louis.[271] The jury failed to reach a verdict at the first trial, but he was found not guilty at the retrial in 1961.[272][273]

In 1974, Turner and three others were arrested for using illegal blue boxes at Bolic Sound studio to make long-distance phone calls.[274] He was cleared of the charges.[275][8]

Before the age of thirty, Turner did not use drugs or drink alcohol.

By the 1980s, Turner's finances were in disarray and he owed the state of California $12,802 in back taxes.[8] He later settled his account. He had tried to sell his studio Bolic Sound to raise funds to avoid foreclosure, but the studio burned down on the day a potential buyer was scheduled to view it in January 1981.[281][8]

During the 1980s, Turner was arrested multiple times for drug and firearm offenses, which resulted in two convictions.[280]

Turner managed to break his dependency on cocaine while in prison and remained clean for more than ten years. He visited high schools during

Health problems

In 2005, Turner revealed he had been diagnosed with emphysema, which required him to use an oxygen tank.[289] His daughter Mia Turner said, "He was too weak from the emphysema to do anything. He'd go in the studio for a couple of minutes and play a couple of bars and say he had to go lay down."[290] Despite his ill health, he collaborated with Gorillaz on their album Demon Days and performed the track with them at the Manchester Opera House in November 2005.[158]

After his death in 2007, Turner's autopsy and toxicology report showed he was taking

Seroquel at the time of his death. The medicine is most commonly used as treatment for bipolar disorder, Alzheimer's disease and schizophrenia. His ex-wife Audrey Madison claimed Turner was bipolar and that she was helping him with his illness, a claim supported by Turner's personal assistant and caretaker, Falina Rasool. Rasool said she talked to Turner about his bipolar disorder and witnessed its effects. "I would come in the room and see him change like a lightbulb, switch on and switch off. I did ask him about it. He said he made a song about it and we started laughing," said Rasool, referring to "Bi Polar" from the Grammy-winning album Risin' with the Blues. "I know I'm bipolar....And I've been bipolar, but a lot of people is bipolar," he told her.[16] However, Turner's daughter, Mia Turner, disagreed with this diagnosis and felt he was being overmedicated.[16]

Religious affiliation

Turner was raised a Baptist and reportedly converted to Judaism in 1994, but never spoke about it.[291][292]


In the weeks leading up to his death, Turner became reclusive. On December 10, 2007, he told his assistant, Falina Rasool, that he believed he was dying and would not live until Christmas.[16] He died two days later, on December 12, at the age of 76, at his home in San Marcos, California.[5][293] He was found dead by his former wife, Ann Thomas. Rasool was also in the house and administered CPR. Turner was pronounced dead at 11:38 a.m.[16]

His funeral was held on December 21, 2007, at the City of Refuge Church in Gardena, California.[294] Among those who spoke at the funeral were Little Richard, Solomon Burke and Phil Spector. The Kings of Rhythm played "Rocket 88" and "Proud Mary". Turner was cremated after the funeral service.[16]

On January 16, 2008, the San Diego County Medical Examiner's Office reported that Turner had died from a cocaine overdose. "The cause of death for Ike Turner is cocaine toxicity with other significant conditions, such as hypertensive cardiovascular disease and pulmonary emphysema", Supervising Medical Examiner Investigator Paul Parker told CNN.[295] His daughter Mia was said to be surprised at the coroner's assessment, believing his advanced stage emphysema was a larger factor.[290]

Turner died without a valid will. Less than a week after his death, his former wife Audrey Madison Turner filed a petition stating that he had penned a handwritten will naming her as a beneficiary. In 2009, a judge ruled that the handwritten will was invalid and that Turner's children were legally the direct heirs to his estate.[296]

Awards and nominations

Turner has received various awards in recognition for his significant role as a pioneer of rock and roll.

Blues Foundation Awards

Blues Music Awards

Year Nominee / work Award Result
1981 Ike Turner's Kings Of Rhythm Reissue album Nominated
2002 Here and Now Comeback Album of The Year Won
2002 Here and Now Soul Blues Album Nominated
2002 Ike Turner Soul Blues Male Artist Nominated
2002 Ike Turner Blues Entertainer of the Year Nominated

Blues Hall of Fame

Year Nominee / work Award Result
1991 "Rocket 88" Classic of Blues Recording – Single or Album Track Inducted
2005 Ike Turner Performer Inducted

Grammy Awards

Year Nominee / work Award Result
1962 "It's Gonna Work Out Fine" Best Rock & Roll Recording Nominated
1970 A Black Man's Soul Best R&B Instrumental Performance Nominated
1972 "Proud Mary" Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Group Won
1975 "Father Alone" Best Soul Gospel Performance Nominated
1975 The Gospel According to Ike & Tina Best Soul Gospel Performance Nominated
2002 Here and Now Best Traditional Blues Album Nominated
2007 Risin' with the Blues Best Traditional Blues Album Won

Grammy Hall of Fame

Year Nominee / work Award Result
1998 "Rocket 88" (as Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats) Hall of Fame (Single) Inducted
1999 "River Deep – Mountain High" Hall of Fame (Single) Inducted
2003 "Proud Mary" Hall of Fame (Single) Inducted

Independent Music Awards

Year Nominee / work Award Result
2007 Ike Turner — Risin' with the Blues Blues Album Nominated

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Year Nominee / work Award Result
1991 Ike & Tina Turner Hall of Fame – Performers Inducted
2018 "Rocket 88" (as Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats) Hall of Fame – Singles Inducted

Selected discography

Studio albums

Live albums

  • 2002: The Resurrection: Live Montreux Jazz Festival, Isabel IS 640202
  • 2006: Ike Turner & The Kings Of Rhythm: Live In Concert, Charly Films CHF-F1014LF [DVD/2CD]


Recordings as a sideman

Howlin' Wolf

Albert King

Earl Hooker


Ike and Tina Turner



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External links