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ArtistBig Joe turner

Referenced from

Music Style Rock n Roll

Born Joseph Vernon Turner in Kansas City, MO, May 18, 1911; died in Los Angeles, CA, November 24, 1985; married, 1954; wife's name, Lou Willie (died, 1972).

Toured regionally with Kansas City bands led by George E. Lee, Bennie Motein, Count Basie, and others, late 1920s to early 1930s; appeared with pianist Pete Johnson in the "Spirituals to Swing" concert at Carnegie Hall and on Benny Goodman's Camel Caravan radio program, 1938; appeared at Cafe Society, New York City, 1939-44; recorded extensively for Vocalion, 1938-40, and Decca, 1940-44; recorded hit "Roll Em Pete" with the Boogie Woogie Boys; signed to Atlantic Records, 1951; recorded rock and roll and R&B hits in the 1950s, including "Shake Rattle and Roll," 1954, and "Teenage Letter," 1957; left Atlantic to play Los Angeles clubs, 1962; recorded a series of jazz albums on the Pablo label, 1970s.

Awards: Silver Award for Male Vocalist in All-American Jazz Band, Esquire magazine, 1945; named Best New Male Singer, Down Beat magazine critics' poll, 1956; named Top Male Singer, Melody; Maker magazine critics poll, 1965; Best Blues Record, Jazz Journal poll, 1965; Outstanding Achievement Award from Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley.

Blues and jazz singer Big Joe Turner began his career as a teenager, singing in the beer joints and nightclubs of Kansas City. In the late 1930s he moved to New York City, where he sang in society cafes and helped to spark a nationwide boogie-woogie craze. After recording a long-running series of boogie-woogie hits, he became one of the few singers of his generation to cross over into rock and roll in the 1950s. In the later years of his career, he released a series of critically acclaimed jazz albums and continued to perform regularly until his death in 1985.

As a singer, Turner was an "original who could sing urbane jazz or down-and-dirty blues," according to Mark Rowland in Musician. "His voice," critic Benny Green wrote in the notes to Turner's album Nobody in Mind, "had a body to it, a certain aural succulence, which makes its impact very nearly a physical sensation."

Joseph Vernon Turner was born in Kansas City, Missouri, on May 18, 1911. Like many black entertainers of his era, he began his career as a boy, working the streets for tips. When he was in his early teens, his father died and Turner left school for a series of jobs in Kansas City nightspots, working variously as a bartender, cook, and bouncer.

Learned From the Pros
Turner would occasionally sing at after hours jam sessions and get pointers from more experienced performers. "I got acquainted with a lot of musicians," he told Living Blues. "They used to help me a lot you know, teach me all the gimmicks and things. I got so I was pretty good at it. So from then on I just took it up for a profession." With the help of his musician friends, Turner began singing around Kansas City. In the late 1920s and early 1930s he occasionally toured with the regional bands led by Bennie Moten, George E. Lee, Andy Kirk, and Count Basie, but his most common partner was childhood friend and boogie-woogie pianist Pete Johnson.

At the time, Kansas City musicians like Basie and Kirk were combining big-band jazz and rural blues to create what Rowland in Musician called a "driving, danceable R&B." Turner and Johnson participated in this innovation by taking "the traditionally laconic 12-bar blues … upbeat and uptown," according to Rowland.

In 1936 Turner tried to make it in New York City but failed. Two years later he got another chance. Famed jazz promoter John Hammond was traveling through Kansas City when he caught Turner and Johnson's live act. Hammond was impressed and booked the duo to play at his Christmas Eve "Spirituals to Swing" concert at New York's Carnegie Hall.

Spread Boogie-Woogie Fever
"Spirituals to Swing" was a huge success, and with Hammond behind him Turner soon became a successful performing and recording artist. He and Johnson appeared on Benny Goodman's Camel Caravan radio broadcasts. He was booked into what became a five-year engagement at New York City's Cafe Society, and he recorded frequently with Johnson as well as pianists Art Tatum and Joe Sullivan.

Perhaps most significantly, his recording of "Roll Em Pete" with the Boogie Woogie Boys—Johnson, Albert Ammons and Meade Lux Lewis—"ignited the boogie-woogie fever that subsequently swept the nation," according to Blackwell's Guide to Recorded Blues. Through the late 1930s and early 1940s Turner recorded often and successfully with the Vocalion, Varsity, Okeh, and Decca labels. He displayed himself as a line jazz singer, a blues shouter, and a master of boogie-woogie. His themes were "wine, women and song … and [he] sang them in a way that let you know he'd researched his subjects well," according to Musician's Rowland.

In the late 1940s Turner, like many jazz singers, experienced a decline in popularity. He returned to Kansas City, and given the general direction of popular music, it seemed likely that he would fade into obscurity. But in 1951 he was approached by a young record producer named Ahmet Ertegun. Ertegun had recently started Atlantic Records and had a plan to make Turner a renewed success. Ertegun coupled Turner with a relatively unknown pianist and songwriter named Harry Van Walls. Over the next few years the duo knocked out one hit disc after the next, including "I'll Never Stop Loving You," "Bump Miss Suzie," and "Still in Love."

On a Roll With Rock in the '50s
In 1954 Turner travelled to Chicago and New Orleans where he recorded some protean rock and roll. Rock proved fertile ground for Turner, and he became one of the few jazz/blues singers of his generation to regain healthy record sales in the teenage rock and roll market. He hit the charts repeatedly with songs like "Morning, Noon, & Night," and "Lipstick, Powder and Paint." His biggest hit—"Shake, Rattle & Roll"—became a teen anthem, though most kids heard versions of the song recorded by white artists Bill Haley and Elvis Presley.

While the 1950s were commercially successful years for Turner, some argue that they marked a deterioration in the quality of his material. David Penny in Blackwell's Guide to Recorded Blues commented that Turner's songs of adolescent love were "unworthy of his talent," and that it was only when he reverted to "such standards as 'Trouble in Mind' or 'Tomorrow Nights'… that the old Joe Turner shone through."

In the early 1960s Atlantic producers began saddling Turner's records with vocal choirs and symphonic string sections. Dissatisfied with this approach, Turner left Atlantic in 1962 and spent a decade playing clubs in Los Angeles, making an occasional film appearance, and releasing singles on the Coral and Kent labels.

In 1970 Turner was reintroduced to a national audience by the enterprising Bluesway label, and in 1971 he was signed by the Pablo label. Until his death in 1985 Turner remained a vibrant presence, recording a series of fine albums often surrounded by old colleagues such as Count Basie, Eddie Vinson, Pee Wee Crayton, Jay McShann, Lloyd Glenn, and Jimmy Witherspoon. Writing in Musician, Rowland recalled a 1981 appearance in which Turner was backed by the rock and roll group the Blasters. "Big Joe had just turned 70 and needed crutches to maneuver his ample frame and a stool on the bandstand," wrote Rowland. "But … an amazing transformation took place: Swinging the mike in his mighty paw, Turner began to belt out rich swinging boogie woogie blues.… For two hours the room had exploded, and by the end it was the kids who were staggering."

ArtistBig Joe turner

Referenced from

Music Style:Rock n Roll

Big Joe Turner (Joseph Vernon Turner Jr., Kansas City, Missouri, May 18, 1911 – Inglewood, California, November 24, 1985) was an American blues shouter.

Although he came to his greatest fame in the 1950s with his pioneering rock and roll recordings, particularly "Shake, Rattle and Roll", Turner's career as a performer stretched from the 1920s into the 1980s.

Known variously as The Boss of the Blues, and Big Joe Turner (due to his 6'2", 300+ lbs stature), Turner was born in Kansas City and first discovered his love of music through involvement in the church. Turner's father was killed in a train accident when Joe was only four years old. He began singing on street corners for money, leaving school at age fourteen to begin working in Kansas City's club scene, first as a cook, and later as a singing bartender. He eventually became known as The Singing Barman, and worked in such venues as The Kingfish Club and The Sunset, where he and his piano playing partner Pete Johnson became resident performers. The Sunset was managed by Piney Brown. It featured "separate but equal" facilities for white patrons. Turner wrote "Piney Brown Blues" in his honor and sang it throughout his entire career.

At that time Kansas City was a wide-open town run by "Boss" Tom Pendergast. Despite this, the clubs were subject to frequent raids by the police, but as Turner recounts, "The Boss man would have his bondsmen down at the police station before we got there. We'd walk in, sign our names and walk right out. Then we would cabaret until morning".

His partnership with boogie-woogie pianist Pete Johnson proved fruitful. Together they headed to New York in 1936, where they appeared on a bill with Benny Goodman, but as Turner recounts, "After our show with Goodman, we auditioned at several places, but New York wasn't ready for us yet, so we headed back to K.C.". Eventually they were spotted by the talent scout, John H. Hammond in 1938, who invited them back to New York to appear in one of his "From Spirituals to Swing" concerts at Carnegie Hall, which was instrumental in introducing jazz and blues to a wider American audience.

Due in part to their appearance at Carnegie Hall, Turner and Johnson scored a major hit with "Roll 'Em Pete". The track contained one of the earliest recorded examples of a back beat. It was a song which Turner recorded many times, with various combinations of musicians, over the ensuing years.

In 1939, along with boogie players Albert Ammons and Meade Lux Lewis, they began a residency at Café Society, a club in New York City, where they appeared on the same bill as Billie Holiday and Frank Newton's band. Besides "Roll 'em, Pete", Turner's best-known recordings from this period are probably "Cherry Red", "I Want a Little Girl" and "Wee Baby Blues".

In 1941, he headed to Los Angeles where he performed in Duke Ellington's revue Jump for Joy in Hollywood. He appeared as a singing policeman in a sketch called "He's on the Beat." Los Angeles became his home base for a time, and in 1944 he worked in Meade Lux Lewis's Soundies musical films. Although he sang on the soundtrack recordings, he was not present for the filming, and his vocals were mouthed by comedian Dudley Dickerson for the camera. In 1945 Turner and Pete Johnson opened their own bar in Los Angeles, The Blue Moon Club.

Turner made lots of records, not only with Johnson but with the pianists Art Tatum and Sammy Price and with various small jazz ensembles. He recorded on several record labels, particularly National Records, and also appeared with the Count Basie Orchestra. In his career, Turner successively led the transition from big bands to jump blues to rhythm and blues, and finally to rock and roll. Turner was a master of traditional blues verses and at the legendary Kansas City jam sessions he could swap choruses with instrumental soloists for hours.

In 1951, while performing with the Count Basie Orchestra at Harlem's Apollo Theater as a replacement for Jimmy Rushing, he was spotted by Ahmet and Nesuhi Ertegün, who signed him to their new recording company, Atlantic Records. Turner recorded a number of hits for them, including the blues standards, "Chains Of Love" and "Sweet Sixteen". Many of his vocals are punctuated with shouts to the band members, as in "Boogie Woogie Country Girl" ("That's a good rockin' band!", "Go ahead, man! Ow! That's just what I need!" ) and "Honey Hush" (he repeatedly sings "Hi-yo, Silver!", probably in reference to The Treniers singing the phrase in their Lone Ranger parody "Ride, Red, Ride"). Turner's records shot to the top of the rhythm-and-blues charts; although they were sometimes so earthy that some radio stations wouldn't play them, the songs received heavy play on jukeboxes and records.

Turner hit it big in 1954 with "Shake, Rattle and Roll", which not only enhanced his career, turning him into a teenage favorite, but also helped to transform popular music. The song is fairly raw, as Turner yells at his woman to "get outa that bed, wash yo' face an' hands" and comments that she's "wearin' those dresses, the sun comes shinin' through!" He sang the number on film in the 1955 theatrical feature Rhythm and Blues Revue.

Although the cover version of the song by Bill Haley and his Comets, with the risqué lyrics incompletely cleaned up, was a bigger hit, many listeners sought out Turner's version and were introduced thereby to the whole world of rhythm and blues. Elvis Presley showed he needed no such introduction. His version of "Shake, Rattle and Roll" combined Turner's lyrics with Haley's arrangement, but was not successful as a single.

In addition to the rock 'n' roll songs, he found time to cut the classic Boss of the Blues album.

After a number of hits in this vein, Turner left popular music behind and returned to his roots as a singer with small jazz combos, recording numerous albums in that style in the 1960s and 1970s. In 1966, Bill Haley helped revive Turner's career by lending him the Comets for a series of popular recordings in Mexico (apparently no one thought of getting the two to record a duet of "Shake, Rattle and Roll", as no such recording has yet surfaced). In 1977 he recorded a version of Guitar Slim's song, "The Things I Used To Do".

In the 1960s and 1970s he was reclaimed by jazz and blues, appearing at many festivals and recording for the impresario Norman Granz's Pablo label, once with his friendly rival, Jimmy Witherspoon. He also worked with the German boogie-woogie pianist Axel Zwingenberger.

It is a mark of his dominance as a singer that he won the Esquire magazine award for male vocalist in 1945, the Melody Maker award for best 'new' vocalist in 1956, and the British Jazz Journal award as top male singer in 1965. His career thus stretched from the bar rooms of Kansas City in the 1920s (at the age of twelve when he performed with a pencilled moustache and his father's hat), on to the European jazz music festivals of the 1980s.

In 1983, only two years before his death, Turner was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame.

He died in Inglewood, California in November 1985, at the age of 74 of a heart attack, having suffered the earlier effects of arthritis, a stroke and diabetes. Big Joe Turner was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.

The late, New York Times music critic Robert Palmer, said: "…his voice, pushing like a Count Basie solo, rich and grainy as a section of saxophones, which dominated the room with the sheer sumptuousness of its sound.

ArtistBig Joe turner

Referenced from

Music Style:Rock n Roll

Profile: Joseph Vernon Turner Jr.
Profile:Big Joe Turner (May 18, 1911, Kansas City, MO, USA - November 24, 1985, Inglewood, CA, USA) was an American blues shouter.

Turner often collaborated with pianist Pete Johnson. In addition he worked with the pianists Art Tatum and Sammy Price and with various small jazz ensembles. He also appeared with Count Basie Orchestra.

Turner's most known recordings include: "Roll 'Em Pete", "Cherry Red", "Wee Baby Blues", "Chains of Love", "Honey Hush", "Flip, Flop and Fly" and "Midnight Special".

He was married to Lou Willie Turner.

Inducted into Rock And Roll Hall of Fame in 1987 (Performer).

ArtistBig Joe turner

Referenced from

Music Style:Rock n Roll


Artist Recording Company Track number Chart Position      

Referenced from
Roy Brown, Wynonie Harris, Ray Charles, Pete Johnson, Louis Jordan, Jay McShann, Dave Bartholomew, Sammy Price, Smiley Lewis, Jimmy Witherspoon, Louis Prima, Cootie Williams, Hank Ballard, Bill Haley,

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References: The Sound of the City ( The Rise of Rock and Roll ) by Charlie Gillett, A Brief history of Rock n Roll by Nick Johnstone, web links copyright david crowfoot 2009, 2010.