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Ike and Tina Turner Biography

Izear Luster Turner aka Ike Turner (guitar, vocals, songwriter, producer; November 5, 1931 – December 12, 2007); Anna Mae Turner (nee Bullock) aka Tina Turner (vocals; born November 26, 1939)

The Ike and Tina Turner Revue was one of the highest energy ensembles on the soul circuit in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Their story began in the musically fertile Mississippi Delta. Ike Turner, who was born Izear Luster Turner in Clarksdale, Mississippi, on November 5, 1931, formed his first band, the Top Hatters, while still in high school. Some of the band members left to form the Dukes of Swing, so Turner the other band members formed the Kings of Rhythm.

In 1951, the Kings of Rhythm went to Sam Phillips’ Sun Studio in Memphis and recorded “Rocket 88,” a song about the latest Oldsmobile model. The song was released under the name Jackie Brenston and the Delta Cats. The song is considered by many to be the first rock and roll recording, and it reached Number One on the R&B charts that summer. Brenston quit the group, and Turner became an A&R man for the Los Angeles-based Modern Records. While at Modern, Turner recorded B.B.King, Elmore James and Bobby “Blue” Bland, among others. He later brought Howlin’ Wolf to Sun Records for his first recording session, and he organized the 1957 Cobra Records sessions that produced Otis Rush’s “All Your Love” and “Double Trouble” – two of the greatest blues recordings of the post-war era.

Turner then moved to St. Louis and re-formed the Kings of Rhythm. “Ike Turner and the Kings of Rhythm were what was happening,” Tina Turner wrote in her autobiography, I, Tina. “In St. Louis, they were as big as the Beatles would be later on.”

Tina was born Anna Mae Bullock on November 26, 1939, in Brownsville, Tennessee. She moved to St. Louis as a teenager and began hanging out at the Club Manhattan, where the Kings of Rhythm were regulars. Kings drummer Gene Washington was the first to notice Tina’s vocal talents when she was singing along with the group while sitting at her table. 

In 1960, after another singer failed to show up for a recording session, Tina wound up singing lead on a song called “A Fool in Love.” A St. Louis deejay sent a copy of the song to Sue Records in New York, and it was released under the name Ike and Tina Turner. The song was an R&B smash and crossed over to the pop charts. Thus began the Ike and Tina Turner Revue. With nine musicians and three female backup 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” and “I Idolize You.” The following year, they scored hits with “Poor Fool” and “Tra La La La La.”

In 1962, Ike and Tina moved to Los Angeles, and they married that same year in Tijuana. From the mid-Sixties on, Ike and Tina were major stars in England. Then, in 1965, Phil Spector invited the Revue to appear in his 1965 concert movie, The Big TNT Show. Then, the following year, Spector had Tina sing lead on his song “River Deep, Mountain High.”

In 1969, Ike and Tina were the opening act on the Rolling Stones’ tour. That exposure propelled the duo to even more success, and in the early Seventies they scored numerous hits, including “Come Together,” “I Want to Take You Higher” and “Proud Mary,” the latter cover of John Fogerty’s Creedence Clearwater Revival tune reaching Number Four on the pop charts. In 1973, “Nutbush City Limits” was a hit in both the U.S. and the U.K. Then, in 1975, Tina landed her first movie role, playing the Acid Queen in the film version of the Who’s Tommy.

Meanwhile, Ike and Tina’s personal relationship was deteriorating, in part due to Ike’s drug and alcohol use. In 1976, Tina left Ike, and in 1978, their divorce was finalized. Tina went on to a hugely successful solo career. Her U.S. breakthrough came with 1984’s Private Dancer, which sold more than five million albums. Foreign Affair, released in 1989, sold even more copies. 

Ike, meanwhile, released two solo albums. But in 1990, he was convicted on several charges, including possession of cocaine. He was in jail in 1991 when Ike and Tina Turner were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Ike Turner died as a result of a drug overdose on December 12, 2007.