Ike and Tina Turner!

By Gary:

Well tonight the subject is a little difficult because I think some will disagree with me, but here goes…  I am well aware that Tina became an icon in the Eighties and that, according to what I have read, Ike was not a great husband to her.  But I still prefer Ike and Tina rather than just Tina; more soul and rhythm. 

Tina had the great moves, great voice and as John Denver once said “She was put on this earth to teach women how to walk in high heel shoes”.  But Ike, a great musician, wrote what may be the first Rock and Roll Song. He was a great arranger and was the talent scout for all of those early people at Sun Records; he worked for Sam Phillips.

Ike & Tina Turner


1965 / TNT Show /


Live on Shindig / 1965 / No Ike, No Kings of Rhythm, Just the Shindogs, Blossoms and Shindig Dancers, remember 1965 Tina by herself, maybe a sign of things to come /
1969 Playboy after Dark, great performance, great excitement/ I want to Take You Higher, Come Together, Proud Mary

[Tina was like a female James Brown – RS]

A full concert, with Ike, Turner and the Kings of Rhythm, Ikettes, fantastic /
1971 / Italy / Proud Mary /
1971 / Beat Club / Come Together & Respect /
Nutbush City / (written by Tina) / The Cher Show /
and just Tina /
Midnight Special / Proud Mary /
Live in Germany /

I’m not sure of the year, but if it was 2009, Ike had already passed.
A Fool in Love / Just Tina Live in Wembley /

1951: “Rocket 88“, recorded at Sam Phillips’ studio in Memphis, Tennessee, on 3 or 5 March 1951 (Ike Turner and his band, the Kings of Rhythm; with Jackie Brenston, saxophonist and occasional singer, credited as writer)

1.  Rocket 88/ Sun/ 1951/ Ike Turner and his Kings of Rhythm

2.  A Fool in Love/ Sue 730/ October 1960/ #27

3.  It’s Gonna Work Out Fine/ Sue 749/ September 1961/ #14 (Mickey & Sylvia backing vocals)

4.  Poor Fool/ Sue 753/ January 1961/ #38

5.  River Deep – Mountain High/ 1966/ Phil Spector – “by Ike & Tina Turner ” see explanation below/ #88 for both versions (with and without Ike)

Written by Spector, Jeff Barry, and Ellie Greenwich, “River Deep – Mountain High” was among the first recordings that Ike & Tina Turner did for Phil Spector’s Philles Records. Spector was well aware of Ike Turner‘s controlling attitude in the studio, and drew up an unusual contract: the River Deep – Mountain High album and single would be credited to “Ike & Tina Turner”, but Ike was paid $20,000 to stay away from the studio, and only Tina Turner‘s vocals would be used on record.

The track was recorded using Spector’s “Wall of Sound” production technique, and cost a then-unheard of $22,000, and required 21 session musicians and 21 background vocalists.

The single entered the lower end of the Billboard 100 and stopped at #88 on the pop charts. Even though it had better fortune in the United Kingdom, peaking at #3 in the singles charts on first release, Spector was so disillusioned that he ceased involvement in the recording industry totally for two years, and only intermittently returned to the studio after that; he effectively became a recluse and began to self-destruct.

Ike Turner remarked that he felt the record didn’t do well in America because the sound was “pop or white”, while Tina Turner’s voice was R&B, so that “America mixes race in it” – though the writer Michael Billig observed that earlier records which had mixed black singers with a white pop sound had sold well, so it was likely to be that in 1966 the black political movement was encouraging African Americans to take a pride in their own culture, and “River Deep – Mountain High” was out of step with that movement.
Rolling Stone put it at #33 on its list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

6.  I Want To Take You Higher/ Liberty 56177/ August 1970/ #34

7.  Proud Mary/ Liberty 56216/ February 1971/ #4

8.  Nutbush City Limits/ United Artist 298/ October 1973/ #22

Ike Turner’s career began when he formed his first group, “the Top Hatters”, in high school. Later this group evolved into “the Kings of Rhythm” and worked the Delta juke joints.

In 1951, his band recorded “Rocket ‘88” at Sam Phillips’ Sun studio in Memphis with lead vocal by saxophonist Jackie Brenston. Unfortunately for Ike, “Brenston and the Delta Cats’, not “Ike Turner and the Kings of Rhythm”, got the label credit. It became a #1 R&B hit on the Chess label, and over the years it has been frequently cited as one of the first true rock & roll records.

Ike Turner went on to become a top session guitarist, talent scout, and producer through the Fifties. The sessions he recorded with Junior Parker and Howlin’ Wolf, B. B. King, Otis Rush, Roscoe Gordon, Bobby “Blue” Bland, and Johnny Ace were leased to Chess, Modern, and RPM Records.

In 1956, Turner moved to St. Louis, where he and his newly reconstituted Kings of Rhythm became a hot draw at several nightclubs.

Anna Mae Bullock was born in Brownsville, Tennessee in 1939 and raised nearby in the small town of Nutbush. She and her older sister Alline relocated to St. Louis in 1956, after being deserted by their mother and later, their father. The sisters became regular singers at local dance clubs, and Anna Mae would repeatedly ask Ike Turner if she could sing with his band. He said that she could, but never called her to the stage.

One night, 16 year old Anna Mae, who had never sung professionally, but had been appearing in talent shows since childhood, simply grabbed the microphone and started singing. Ike invited her to join the band and gave her the stage name of “Tina”.

While touring with the group, she became pregnant by Ike’s saxophone player [you have to watch out for those sax players! -RS] and gave birth to her first son, Raymond.

Tina later moved into Ike’s house, began a relationship with Ike, and eventually, also gave birth to Ike’s baby. They were married in a quickie Tijuana ceremony, which turned out to be illegal, since Ike never bothered to divorce his first wife.

Even so, they first recorded as “Ike and Tina Turner” in 1960 after a singer failed to appear for a session. Tina stood in for the missing singer, and the song, “A Fool in Love” became a hit in 1960 (#27 pop, #2 R&B).

Ike then developed his entire revue around Tina. With nine musicians and three scantily clad female background singers called “the Ikettes”, the Ike and Tina Turner Revue became a major soul act.

In 1961 they charted with “It’s Gonna Work Out Fine” (#14 pop, #2 R&B) and “I Idolize You” (#5 R&B). The following year, “Poor Fool” (#38 pop, #4 R&B) and “Tra La La La La” (#9 R&B) were hits.

From the mid-Sixties on, they were major stars in England, where artists such as the Rolling Stones were unabashed fans.

In 1966, Phil Spector produced what proved to be his last ‘Wall of Sound’ single, “River Deep, Mountain High.” It went to #3 in England, but did so poorly in the U.S. that Spector did not produce again until 1969.

The Turners continued to make pop hits into the late Sixties. They opened for the Rolling Stones on their 1969 tour. They were especially successful into the early Seventies with steamy cover songs like “Come Together” (#57 pop, #21 R&B), “I Want to Take You Higher” (#34 pop, #25 R&B), and “Proud Mary” (#4 pop, #5 R&B), featuring Tina’s “We never, ever do nothin’ nice and easy” spoken intro.

In 1973, “Nutbush City Limits” (written by Tina) hit #4 in England and #13 R&B and #22 pop in the U.S. Two years later, Tina got her first movie role, playing the Acid Queen in one of the most memorable scenes of Ken Russell’s film version of the Who’s Tommy.

Ike had assumed complete control over Tina’s life, forcing her to work a gruelling tour schedule and beat her if she got out of line. According to Tina, and as she wrote in her 1986 bestselling autobiography, “I, Tina“, her life with Ike was marked by near-constant physical and emotional abuse.

By the late Sixties, Ike had become deeply involved with cocaine and alcohol and was prone to violent outbursts. Tina’s litany of his crimes against her include hitting her, pouring hot coffee on her face, burning her lip with a lighted cigarette, and forcing her to perform while ill and pregnant.

After an unsuccessful suicide attempt in 1968, Tina finally walked out on Ike in 1975, carrying nothing more than thirty-six cents and a gas station credit card. Career-wise, it seemed like the end for Tina, who many thought would disappear without Ike’s musical muscle. Tina relinquished almost all claims for compensation, deciding her complete freedom from Ike was more important than the money. In debt, she briefly lived on food stamps before climbing her way back up by working small-time nightclub gigs six days a week.

Two years later, her divorce from Ike was final. Ike has often indicated publicly that, while he does not deny having battered Tina, he denies that her version of events is entirely true.

In 1979, Tina met Roger Davies, a young Australian manager who had recently relocated to Los Angeles. Davies took the challenge of helping Tina redefine and revamp her career. With his help, Tina rediscovered the rock ‘n’ roll raunch of her best records, infused it with the intuitive soulfulness she had never lost, and started over again.

Tina’s comeback began in earnest in 1981, when the Rolling Stones offered her a few opening spots on their U.S. tour. Around that time she also opened some shows for Rod Stewart and toured the world. In 1983 she landed a solo recording deal and by year’s end had a UK hit with her steamy cover of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” (#26 pop; #6 U.K.).

And as 1984 dawned, Tina prepared for the release of a new album: “Private Dancer“. Propelled by the single “What’s Love Got To Do With It“, “Private Dancer” went on to attain worldwide sales in excess of 11 million copies, and ushered in an extraordinary catalogue of achievements for Tina over the next decade — achievements made all the sweeter by the rough times which preceded them. She followed with “Better Be Good to Me” (#5, 1984) and “Show Some Respect” (#37, 1985).

Her next two singles were non-album songs from the Mel Gibson film “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome” (1985), in which Tina co-starred as Auntie Entity: “We Don’t Need Another Hero (Thunderdome)” (#2, 1985) and “One Of The Living” (#15, 1985). Tina swept the 1984 Grammys, with “What’s Love Got to Do With It“, winning Best Female Pop Vocal Performance and “Better Be Good to Me” taking Best Female Rock Vocal Performance. “What’s Love” was also recognized as Song of the Year and Record of the Year.

Break Every Rule (#4, 1986), another platinum release, included “Typical Male” (#2, 1986), “Two People” (#30, 1986), and “What You Get Is What You See” (#13, 1987).

In late 1985 she released a live duet with Bryan Adams, “It’s Only Love“, which went to #15 in the U.S.

Tina, long legendary for her live shows, toured tirelessly. She has always been especially popular in Europe and in England, where “Tina Live in Europe” went to #8 as compared to #86 in the States.

She did a duet with Mick Jagger at Live Aid in 1985 and is a favourite of British rock stars. Her international tours broke records in many cities.

In 1989, Tina’s first album of new material in over three years, “Foreign Affair” went to number 31 on the album charts. Its singles included “The Best” (#15, 1989), which featured a sax solo by Edgar Winter, and Tony Joe White’s “Steamy Windows” (#39, 1990). While it was not her most successful album in the U.S., it outsold Private Dancer in the UK.

Also in 1989, Tina celebrated her 50th birthday with a star-studded party that included Mark Knopfler (who wrote “Private Dancer“), Eric Clapton, and other admirers.

Tina and Rod Stewart’s remake of the Marvin Gaye-Tammi Terrell hit “It Takes Two” went to #5 in the UK. in 1990.

A year later, her greatest-hits package, “Simply the Best” went to #1 in the UK. but didn’t make the Hot 100 albums chart in North America.

In 1992, Turner signed with Virgin Records. Her first single for that label, “I Don’t Wanna Fight” (#9, 1993), was co-written by Steve DuBerry and Lulu.

Around the time Tina left Ike Turner, Ike retired to his studio in Inglewood, California, and released two solo LPs. The studio was destroyed by fire in 1982.

After 11 arrests on various charges in 1990, Ike was convicted on several charges, including possessing and transporting cocaine, and sentenced to 18 months in jail.

He was in prison when he and Tina were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in January 1991. In September of that year, he was released from jail and has since attempted to sell his own autobiography.

Tina’s book was made into a hit feature film, “What’s Love Got To Do With It” (1993).

Following an extended period of relative silence (though she did show off her legs in a series of pantyhose commercials), Tina Turner once again got ready to strut her stuff on stage. In 1997, she embarked on her first North American tour in six years. Proving her staying power, Turner’s tour proved to be the seventh most popular draw of 1997, earning $24.8 million.

Two years later, Tina was once again ready to prove her stage prowess. On April 13th, she joined Whitney Houston, Cher, and Brandy on the stage of New York City’s Beacon Theater as one of VH1’s second wave of “Divas Live“. Other events on Turner’s 1999 calendar included a “greatest hits” album as well as a fall tour with Elton John.

In the fall of the year 2000, at age 61, Tina announced that she would no longer be involved with large scale tours. She played the final show of her farewell tour in front of 18,000 fans who packed the Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim, 30 miles south of downtown Los Angeles, on December 6th. At year’s end, she was declared the most popular touring act of 2000, earning over $80 Million, outselling the Back Street Boys, N’Sync and Brittany Spears.

Tina continued to give some live performances however, working from her home in Switzerland, where she has lived since 1994. In September, 2004, she released a new “Greatest Hits”, double CD, which contains all of her hits dating back to her days with Ike, as well as three new songs.

The broad-ranging accomplishments of her 40 year career underscore Tina Turner’s status as one of the consummate performers of our time. Although she is a deeply private person, in her professional life, she is one of the world’s most widely recognized entertainers and her recordings will continue to touch millions of fans with the same energy and urgency that she had displayed way back in her teens (when she grabbed Ike’s mic).

Meanwhile, Ike managed to rehabilitate his image somewhat in his later years, touring around the world with his band the Kings of Rhythm and drawing critical acclaim. He won a Grammy in 2007 in the Traditional Blues album category for “Risin’ With the Blues“. Sadly, Ike Turner died at his home in suburban San Diego on December 12th, 2007 after suffering a heart attack. He was 76.

In early May of 2008, it was announced that 68 year old Tina Turner would return to the stage in October with a 40 show tour of North America, likely to be followed by Europe and other international dates.



5 responses to “Ike and Tina Turner!

  1. Rocket 88 has so much Boogie Woogie behind it that I would call it a hybrid. The sax pulls it in to R&R, but I think “That’s All Right Mama” by Arthur Crudup in 1946 would better fit the “First R&R recording”. No expert but I love them all.

    • Hi Paul
      Thanks for your very insightful comment. I think it is a bit challenging to differentiate between Rock ‘n’ Roll and R&B. The lines of distinction become blurred. I guess for me, R&B is more like “bump and grind” or “race” music, whereas Rock ‘n’ Roll is a bit more up-beat, coming out of the Boogie Woogie and the jazz/swing era.

  2. The anthologies that you fellows put together are awesome; interesting, informative, and very enjoyable. Keep up the good work


    In the Summer months my sons and I do Car Cruises we have been successful for over 40 years the first song that starts our show is blasting “ROCKET 88” it gets everybody in the mood for a fun evening. Thanks to CHESS RECORDS who I would visit when in CHICAGO in the 1960’s.


  4. Pingback: Ike Turner and the Kings of Rhythm | Russ & Gary's "The Best Years of Music"

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