Ike Turners’ first recording, Rocket 88 is a legitimate contender for the title of first rock and roll song. Recorded in 1951 the song, like many aspects of Turner’s life, is surrounded by controversy. The song was recorded by Turner’s band, but it is unclear who wrote it.
Turner was born in Clarksdale, Mississippi and had a troubled childhood. He saw his father beaten almost to death and was sexually assaulted as a six year old. After seeing Pinetop Perkins play at a friend’s house, Turner wanted to learn piano. His mother agreed to pay for lessons, but Turner instead took the money to a pool hall where he convinced Perkins to teach him in the boogie-woogie style.
Turner and his band recorded Rocket 88 in Memphis, but the record was sold on to Chicago’s Chess Records. It reached number one on the R&B charts but was not credited to Turner, with the band credit mixed up in the transfer.
Ann Bullock accompanied her sister to see Ike Turner perform in New York. When Turner was told she could sing he said he would bring her on stage, but never did. Eventually Ann forced her way on stage and when she sang Ike was impressed. After assisting in her first recording, the record executive who heard it told Ike he should make her the centerpiece of his show. After renaming her ‘Tina’, the Ike and Tina Turner Revue was born.
From 1960 to 1976 Ike and Tina Turner had numerous hits. The group disbanded abruptly after a violent altercation. Tina Turner moved on to a very successful solo career.
Ike Turner saw his own attempts at furthering his career impacted by his cocaine abuse and frequent legal problems. Ike and Tina Turner were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991 while Ike was in prison.
Ike’s last record came in 2006 and at the time of his death in 2007 he was working with Danger Mouse on new material.