Big Joe Turner
Compiled and processed by W. Last for Our World using Our World audio processing technologies. All tracks originally recorded 1941 to 1946
All Music Guide
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Big Joe Turner was one of the best blues shouters ever-and he paved the way for coming rock 'n' roll stars such as Bill Haley, Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley.
Joseph Vernon Turner was born on the 18th May 1911 in Kansas City As a child Turner began to sing in church choirs of his home town and on street corners. After the death of his lather, in 1930, the teenager left school and worked as a "singing bartender" in the crowded nightclubs of Kansas City. He sang in the pre-microphone tradition and was acoompanied on piano by Pete Johnson, whom he worked with time and time again throughout his almost 50 years lasting career. Turner's characteristic hatf-shouted blus was surely also a result of these first performances in loud crowded bars, with no microphones - they were probably the birthplace of the big blues shouter Turner.
However, Big Joe Turner, along with Johnson's impressive boogie-woogie piano did not only attract the attention of guests and club owners, he impressed also bandleaders such as Bennie Moten, Andy Kirk, and Count Basie, whom he was later to do successful tours with.
Fame was finally to come in 1938. In that year, the leading talent-scout and producer John Hammond - who has discovered and featured many great artists such as Benny Goodman, Count Basie or Billie Holiday - visited Kansas City. He immediately recognized the talent of Turner and Johnson and invited them to play at the Spirituals to Swing concert in the Carnegie Hall, in New York City. It was an historic - some say legendary - show: Turner and Johnson played amongst others with Big Bill Broonzy, Sonny Terry. The Golden Gate Quartet and Count Basie. Performing songs such as Roll 'Em Pets, Big Joe Turner and "roilin" Pete Johnson started a sheer boogie-woogie mania.
Due to the convincing performance in New York, Turner was offered to sing regularly at the legendary Cafe Society, one of New York's finest jazz clubs. He played together with Johnson and with two other greats of boogie-woogie: Meade "Lux" Lewis and Albert Ammons.
In 1938 Turner recorded his first songs for the Vocation label. At the beginning of the Forties Turner moved to California, where he was getting more and more busy. He produced many records for the labels Decca and OKeh and performed as a singer in Duke Ellington' revue
Jump lor Joy in Hollywood. At that time Turner was already an established artist in the blues-, jazz- and boogie-woogie- scene. But his greatest success was still to come.
In the Fifties, after the decline of boogie-woogie. Big Joe turned to rhythm 'n' blues and eventually signed a contract with Atlantic Records. He worked with musicians such as T-Bone Walker, Lowell Fulson and Pee Wee Crayton. He had several hits in the r 'n' b charts during the early Fifties, including Chains of Love (1951) and Sweet Sixteen (1952). But it was two years later, in 1954, that Turner finally shot to national fame: he released Shake, Rattle and Roll. This astonishing piece -considered by many the world's first rock 'n' roll song - reached No. 1 on the charts. "Shake, Rattle and Roll" stayed on the charts for twenty-seven weeks and was covered by Bill Haley and the Comets short time later. So it was Turner who helped give birth to rock 'n' roll, and who later was often described as the "Father Figure of Rock 'n' Roll". Turner also appeared in the movie Shake, Rattle, and Rock, in 1957, and toured with Alan Freed's rock & roll package shows.
Toward the end of the Fifties, Turner - who was also called "The Boss of the Blues", returned to his R'n'B roots, while refreshing his partnership with Pete Johnson. Turner and Johnson then successfully toured the USA and Europe. During the Sixties and Seventies he still performed at many festivals, for example he headlined the Monterey Jazz Festival in 1964. Even in the Eighties Big Joe regularly produced records and performed live - in spite of his old age.
Big Joe Turner was a multi-talented innovator. He made enormous contributions to jazz, rhythm and blues, boogie-woogie and rock 'n' roll. He enjoyed great success in each genre and influenced various musicians such as Elvis Presley, Ray Charles, Wynonie Harris and B.B. King.
The fact that Turner has been inducted into the Blues Halt of Fame in 1983 as well as the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, proves his important role in many musical genres.
Big Joe Turner, the "Father Figure of Rock 'n' Roll" and the "Boss of the Blues" died from a heart attack on the 24th of November, 1985 in Inglewood, California