Big Joe Turner!

Gary: Let’s take a look back at a “The Boss of the Blues”. He has played with all of the greats and had people like Fats Domino as a piano player. Now if you where 6′ 2″ Tall and weighed in at over 250 lbs people might be inclined to call you ——

Big Joe Turner


Joseph Vernon Turner Jr.

May 18, 1911 – Nov 24, 1985

Videos:

Shake Rattle ‘n Roll / 1955 / Apollo  Theatre
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1966 / England / Rockin’ Daddy / Otis Rush lead guitar /
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With Jay McShann / Kansas City Blues /
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1970 / For all you Jazz fans / Hampton Hawes All Stars and Big Joe /
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Flip Flop and Fly/ 1966/

His Hits:

1. Rock the Joint Boogie Woogie/ 1947/ 78 rpm cylinder (a mistake, actually recorded in 1978 with Axel Zwingenberger) Most of the internet claims this as 1947 recording, so I just found this reference, who knows, but I believe 1978.

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2. Chains of Love/ Atlantic 939/ April 1951 New York

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3A. The Chill is On/ Atlantic 949/ April 1951 New York

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4. Sweet Sixteen/ Atlantic 960/ January 1952 New York

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6. Shake Rattle and Roll/ Atlantic 1026/ February 1954

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8. The Chicken and the Hawk/ Atlantic 1080/ November 1955 New York

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9A. Corrine Corrina/ Atlantic 1088/ November 1955 New York

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10. Lipstick, Powder and Paint/ Atlantic 1100/ 1956 Backing Vocals by The Cookies

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There are so many more songs, this is just a small representation. Also the other songs are very difficult to find.

Contributions to music:

  • The premier blues “shouter” of the postwar era
  • His swinging brand of jump blues was arguably the most important element in the birth of rock and roll
  • Instrumental in bringing the “boogie-woogie” genre to a national audience
  • A key player on the Kansas City jazz scene of the Thirties
  • His powerful voice was among the loudest in rock and roll history

Early years:

When Joseph Vernon Turner was only four years old, his father died in an accident, so Joe soon had to provide for himself in the Kansas City of the 1920s. Fortunately, his impressively large frame got him into local bars and clubs without notice, and by fourteen he was a constant presence on the jazz scene, teaming up with pianist Pete Johnson to help bring “boogie-woogie” to the masses. This attracted the attention of legendary talent scout John Hammond, and soon Turner and Johnson were introducing the new trend to the whole country through a Carnegie Hall concert. This led to a national hit in 1938 called “Roll ‘Em Pete“.

Success:

Turner became a fixture on the New York scene, gigging with Jazz greats like Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday and Art Tatum, and recording for different labels without much success.

But it wasn’t until 1951 at the age of 40 that Turner found his greatest popularity, having been convinced by the Ertegun brothers to record for their burgeoning Atlantic label.

His jump blues style was an instant smash with urban blues fans, and he cut big hits in New Orleans (“Honey Hush“), Chicago (“TV Mama“) and elsewhere, including several ballads. His booming voice was his trademark, but it was actually quite the interpretive instrument.

Later years:

At the age of 43, Turner had become a major influence on the latest teen craze — Rock and Roll — but the record-buying public soon moved on, and Joe fell back on his jazz-blues roots, cutting several acclaimed albums in the late 1950s and early 60s.

Video 1965 LiveShake, Rattle and Roll

He continued to be a presence on the blues scene until the early 1980s, cutting an acclaimed album with Roomful of Blues and touring Europe, until finally succumbing to a combination of diabetes, kidney disease, and heart illness.

His songs have since found new favor with the swing revival movement.

–o–
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6 responses to “Big Joe Turner!

  1. Pingback: Big Joe Turner Blues | Russ & Gary's "The Best Years of Music"

  2. Pingback: Roll ‘Em Pete – 1938 Precursor to Rock & Roll? | Russ & Gary's "The Best Years of Music"

  3. A great piece on the big man and very much enjoyed here. Thanks.

  4. One of the greats !

  5. I remember hearing Flip Flop and Fly in the 1950’s as done by Big Joe.Well I gotta tell yer……..I flipped flopped and flied.
    Between that and Corrina these are my fav shower renditions.
    Always thought Joe was as step up from the Bill Haley stuff.

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