About Izear Luster Turner
Considered to be one of the fathers of rock and roll, Ike Turner’s first recording, "Rocket 88" by "Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats," in 1951, is considered by some to be the "first rock and roll song" ever. However, he is best known for his work with his then wife Tina Turner as one half of the Ike & Tina Turner revue. Spanning a career that lasted half a century, Ike's repertoire included blues, soul, rock, and funk. Alongside his former wife, he was inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991 and in 2001 was inducted into the St. Louis Walk of Fame. Turner won two Grammy Awards. On August 5, 2010, Ike Turner was posthumously recognized by his Mississippi hometown. Clarksdale officials and music fans gathered to unveil two markers honoring Turner and his musical legacy. The unveilings coincided with the 23rd annual Sunflower River Blues and Gospel Festival, dedicated that year to "Rocket 88.”
He was born in Clarksdale, Mississippi, on November 5, 1931, to Beatrice Cushenberry, a seamstress, and Izear Luster Turner, a Baptist minister. Ike was the younger of two siblings, he had an elder sister, named Ethel May. Many sources state Turner's real name to be "Izear Luster Turner, Jr." however, in his autobiography Takin' Back My Name, it is stated as "Ike Wister Turner." In the book, Turner explains about this confusion. His father, Izear Luster Turner, was a minister for the local church. Turner had thought he was named Izear Luster Turner, Jr. after his father, until he found out that his name was registered as Ike Wister Turner while applying for his first passport. He never got to discover the origin of his name, as by the time he discovered it, his parents were both dead.
Turner got his first taste of pleasing an audience at the age of eight working at the local Clarksdale radio station, WROX, located in the Alcazar Hotel in downtown Clarksdale. A man in charge of the station put Turner to work as he watched the record turntables. He was soon carrying amplifiers for blues singer Robert Nighthawk, who often played live on WROX. Although mesmerized by Nighthawk's playing, nothing could equal the experience of hearing Pinetop Perkins on piano for the first time. Growing up, his idol Pinetop Perkins helped teach the young Turner to play boogie-woogie on the piano. He soon was enamored of other blues artists such as Howlin' Wolf, Sonny Boy Williamson II (Rice Miller), Charley Booker, Elmore James, Muddy Waters and Little Walter
In the late 1940s, Turner started a group called the Kings of Rhythm. In 1951, he and his band went to Memphis to record at the legendary Sun Studios run by Sam Philips. Their song, "Rocket 88," is considered by many to be the first rock and rock recording. It was released under the name of Jackie Brenston & His Delta Cats and became a number one hit on the R&B charts.
Brenston was the lead vocalist of Turner’s group who eventually left to go solo. Turner and his band stayed in Memphis, often working in recording sessions with such blues legends as Elmore James and Guy Buddy. In addition to working as a musician, he was a talent scout for Modern Records for a time and helped discover B. B. King and Howlin’ Wolf.
Things really began to change for Turner in 1956 when he met a teenager named Anna Mae Bullock. The young singer joined the band and soon developed a personal relationship with Turner. The two married in 1958 and Ike helped transform Anna Mae into Tina Turner by changing her name and creating her stage persona. They were soon performing as the Ike & Tina Turner Revue and scoring a string of R&B hits, including "I Idolize You," "It’s Going to Work Out Fine," and "Poor Fool" in the early 1960s.
Ike and Tina were invited to open for the Rolling Stones in the late 1960s, which introduced their bold style of soul-infused rock music to a new audience. They found crossover success with a cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Proud Mary," which made it on the pop and R&B charts. This song also earned them their first and only Grammy Award together for Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Group in 1971. Their last hit together was "Nutbush City Limits" in 1973, which was written by Tina.
While they had been a successful stage act for years, Ike and Tina Turner had a very different life off stage. Ike reportedly had a drug problem and Tina finally left Ike in 1976 after years of abuse. She later revealed the details of the abuse in her 1986 autobiography, I, Tina. Her book was the basis for 1993 film What Does Love Have to Do with It which starred Angela Bassett as Tina and Laurence Fishburne as Ike. The movie showed Ike as a wife-beating musical talent who was often under the influence of drugs. Both Bassett and Fishburne received Academy Award nominations for their performances. But Ike repeatedly denied the accusations made in the book and vehemently objected to the portrayal of him on screen. He did, however, admit to hitting her in his own 1999 autobiography, Takin' Back My Name.
While Tina's solo career flourished in the 1980s and 1990s, Ike struggled professionally and personally. It was his problem with drugs that led to an 18-month stint in prison for cocaine possession from 1990 to 1991. The Ike & Tina Turner Revue was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991, but he was still in prison at the time and had to miss the ceremony.
Near the end of his life, Turner had a career renaissance. In 2001, he released his first commercial record in 23 years entitled Here and Now. It was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Album. The following year he received the 2002 Comeback Album of the Year Award at the W. C. Handy Blues Awards. His next original recording, Risin’ with the Blues (2006), won the Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Album.
A year later, on December 12, 2007, Turner died of an accidental cocaine overdose in his San Marcos, California, home. Contributing conditions to his death included high blood pressure and emphysema. A blues legend, Turner's impact on the musical world continues to be felt even after his death.