3D Great Rock Bible

Ike & Tina Turner

Rock’n’roll’s first husband-and-wife team, the fractious IKE & TINA TURNER always seemed to be on the fringes of mainstream success, despite having a handful of top but intermittent hits such as `A Fool In Love’, `It’s Gonna Work Out Fine’, `River Deep – Mountain High’ (UK-only), the JOHN FOGERTY-penned `Proud Mary’ and `Nutbush City Limits’. Spanning a decade and a half of ups and downs – Tina’s autobiographical movie, “What’s Love Got To Do With It”, said more than words could ever do – the couple presenting a much feted stage show, which served to highlight both Ike’s musical and choreographic skills alongside the stunning Tina’s raunchy gyrations and vox.
IKE TURNER (aka Izear) was born in Clarksdale, Missouri in 1931, a gifted child musically, he took on the job of regular DJ, aged only sixteen, before putting a band together at the turn of the 50s. The Kings Of Rhythm were at epicentre of the rising R&B scene, but almost immediately, controversy shrouded the group’s inaugural single, when sax-player-turned-lead singer Jackie Brenston (and his Delta Cats) took billing on the pioneering rock’n’roll cut, `Rocket 88’. Recorded at Sam Phillips’ Sun studios in Memphis, and featuring Ike on piano, Willie Kizart on guitar and Eugene Fox, Chess Records had a massive R&B chart-topper forthwith. TURNER, meanwhile, switched to guitar and took on work for Sun artists and a who’s who of blues greats: ELMORE JAMES, HOWLIN’ WOLF, OTIS RUSH, SONNY BOY WILLIAMSON, BUDDY GUY, among them; as an A&R man and producer at Modern Records, Ike was behind rising stars, including B.B. KING. Between 1953-55, Ike married his second wife, Bonnie Mae Wilson, but one assumes his hard work and hard living put paid to that relationship. Incidentally, Ike’s first wife, Lorraine Taylor, bore him two children (Ike, Jr. and Michael), while divorce papers finally arrived in 1974!
IKE TURNER’s Kings Of Rhythm were back in circulation in the mid-50s, reinstating prodigal son, Brenston, to initially add his sax-only touches on pseudonymous platters for a string of labels. A meeting with teenage singing sensation, Anna Mae Bullock (raised in Nutbush, Tennessee), gave the combo another string to their bow, although a relationship with KoR sax-player, Raymond Hill, resulted in her having her first child, Craig, in 1958; she moved into Ike’s house during her pregnancy. That same year, credited as Ike Turner, Carlson Oliver & Little Ann, vocals, they delivered their first single together: `Boxtop’, released on the small and independent Tune Town records. A rare and pricy 78, Little Ann was subsequently renamed Tina Turner (Ike’s third wife!), although the couple weren’t indeed married until 1962.
In 1960, now billed as IKE & TINA TURNER, the couple hit the US Top 30 with `A Fool In Love’, however, the follow-up `I Idolize You’ only managed a lowly No.82 position. The duo proceeded to notch up a string of R&B hits, even hitting the pop charts again the following year with their Top 20 smash hit, `It’s Gonna Work Out Fine’ (a cover featuring future songbirds MICKEY & SYLVIA on backing vocals). While rock’n’roaring her way to the top was in further evidence on major hits, `Poor Fool’ and `Tra La La La La’, things virtually dried up until the mid-60s. Several LPs were also circulation, although to be honest, only their debut THE SOUL OF IKE & TINA TURNER (1961) {*6}, the part-compilation IT’S GONNA WORK OUT FINE (1963) {*7} and the all-encompassing album chart breakthrough, LIVE! THE IKE & TINA TURNER SHOW (1965) {*7}; the latter Warner Brothers record not to be confused with Kent Records’ similarly-themed, Various Artists/Kings of Rhythm Orchestra-supported IKE & TINA TURNER REVUE LIVE!!! (1964) {*6}.
When introduced to the legendary PHIL SPECTOR, he produced their magnum opus, `River Deep – Mountain High’, a “wall of sound” soul classic which, although a relative flop in the States (No.88 its peak position!), it cracked the Top 3 in Britain. After one further major UK hit, through Holland-Dozier-Holland’s `A Love Like Yours (Don’t Come Knockin’ Every Day)’, things once again proved unfruitful; re-vamps of their classic cuts featured on 1966’s RIVER DEEP – MOUNTAIN HIGH {*7}.
With varying degrees of fortune, Ike & Tina switched mercenary-like from one home-grown label to another; London Records reaped minimal benefits from material issued on Philles and Pompeii. Building up to the turn of the 70s, Blue Thumb LPs OUTTA SEASON (1969) {*4} and THE HUNTER (1969) {*5} – the latter named after the BOOKER T. & THE MGs track – were mainly covers sets with a handful of Ike and/or Tina originals, while concert double IN PERSON (also 1969) {*5}, was delivered for Minit. The enthusiastic patronage of The ROLLING STONES did much to raise their profile, while the quarrelsome duo performed at the ill-fated Altamont gig that same year; featured in the rockumentary, Gimme Shelter.
1970’s COME TOGETHER {*5} for Liberty Records provided a couple of US hits through versions of The BEATLES’ title track and SLY & THE FAMILY STONE’s `I Want To Take You Higher’, but the fire and passion from their halcyon days were at times posted missing. Then came the massive Top 5 re-tread of the CREEDENCE CLEARWATER REVIVAL classic, `Proud Mary’, one of the genuine jewels on their only US Top 30 album entry, WORKIN’ TOGETHER (1971) {*8}. Fans of both the ‘Stones (for whom they’d previously covered: `Honky Tonk Woman’, `Let’s Spend The Night Together’ and `Under My Thumb’), this time around, The BEATLES became the focus on `Get Back’ and `Let It Be’; Tina’s sister Aillene Bullock scribed the excellent `Funkier Than A Mosquita’s Tweeter’, a song that appeared back to back with a revision of Jessie Hill’s `Ooh Poo Pah Doo’.
Recorded at the Carnegie Hall in New York that spring, the double-live WHAT YOU HEAR IS WHAT YOU GET (1971) {*7}, was another Top 30 success story, a nine-minute (plus encore) version of `Proud Mary’ its centerpiece. 1972’s FEEL GOOD {*7} and 1973’s LET ME TOUCH YOUR MIND {*4}, lost a bit of their momentum, but that was nothing new to a duo whose whole life was one big rollercoaster. Still, they had one last ace up their sleeve when Tina’s autobiographical composition, `Nutbush City Limits’ (from the album of the same name), became a massive seller on both sides of the Atlantic. Beyond NUTBUSH CITY LIMITS (1973) {*6}, Ike & Tina’s professional and domestic life took a pounding; in ‘74, she landed the part of “The Acid Queen” in The WHO’s cinematic take of rock opera, Tommy, while her new-found independence gave her time to reflect on her well-documented ill-treatment by Ike. In 1976, after converting to Buddhism, Tina finally split from her husband, in effect ending not only their marriage (they divorced in March ’78) but their lucrative musical partnership.
While superstar Tina’s subsequent solo career rocketed beyond her wildest expectations, Ike’s took a nosedive, his cocaine addition and drug-related run-ins with the authorities leaving him virtually ostracized from the music community. An autobiography (Takin’ Back My Name) was published in Britain in 1999, while return-to-form sets, “Here And Now” (2001) – alongside the Kings of Rhythm – and “Risin’ With The Blues” (2006), both won Grammys. On December 12, 2007, in San Marcos, California, Ike died of pulmonary emphysema and hypertension caused by crack cocaine usage.
© MC Strong 1994-2008 / rev-up MCS May2013

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