Ike & Tina Turner were an American musical duo composed of the husband-and-wife team of Ike Turner and Tina Turner. The duo was once considered "one of the hottest, most durable, and potentially most explosive of all R&B ensembles".
Their early works, including "A Fool in Love", "It's Gonna Work Out Fine", "I Idolize You" and "River Deep – Mountain High", became high points in the development of soul music, while their later works were noted for wildly interpretive re-arrangements of rock songs such as "I Want to Take You Higher" and "Proud Mary", the latter song for which they won a Grammy Award. They were also known for their often-ribald live performances, whose musical spectacle was matched only by the likes of James Brown and the Famous Flames.
Ike & Tina Turner
Ike and Tina Turner, 1972
|Origin||St. Louis, Missouri, United States|
|Labels||Sue, Kent, Loma, Blue Thumb, Minit, Liberty, United Artists|
|Associated acts||Tina Turner (solo career), The Ikettes|
|Past members||Ike Turner (deceased)|
In 1954, blues musician Ike Turner had moved to St. Louis from Memphis to find work for him and his band, the Kings of Rhythm. By 1956, Turner and his band had become one of the most popular live performing attractions to the St. Louis and neighboring East St. Louis club scene. Prior to the move to St. Louis, Turner worked as a talent scout for R&B labels such as Modern and RPM Records. Around this time, a young high school student from Nutbush, Tennessee who had moved to St. Louis from Brownsville named Anna Mae Bullock, began attending the predominantly African American nightclub, Club Manhattan, where she saw the Kings of Rhythm for the first time, later writing that the band's performance "put her in a trance".
Bullock eventually got to know Turner and his band and later dated Kings of Rhythm saxophonist Raymond Hill, with whom she had her first child, Craig, in 1958. In 1957, Bullock, who had tried to convince Turner to let her perform onstage with him, was given a microphone from the band's drummer Eugene Washington, the boyfriend of Bullock's sister Alline, who was a bartender there. Turner was playing the B.B. King R&B ballad, "You Know I Love You, when Bullock sang the lyrics. Impressed by her strong vocal delivery, Turner asked Bullock if she knew more songs. By the end of the night, Bullock had led the Kings of Rhythm on vocals with Ike on piano and guitar. After convincing her mother to let her perform with his band, Turner had Bullock and the Kings of Rhythm perform regularly in all of the clubs in the St. Louis and East St. Louis areas. Bullock was one of many other singers, mostly male, who would front the band at times.
Inspired by her skinny, long-legged frame, and her dramatic soulful vocals, Turner gave Bullock the first stage name of "Little Ann". Later in 1958, Bullock added her vocals on an Ike Turner record, titled "Box Top," which was released on the St. Louis label, Tune Town Records. Bullock later moved into Turner's home in East St. Louis where she was trained by Ike on vocal control and performance. Though Bullock insisted on recording more vocals, Turner was initially resistant, especially after he began working with singers such as Billy Gayles and Art Lassiter. Despite their eight-year age difference, Turner and Bullock developed a close friendship, and acted more like "brother and sister." By 1959, however, their friendship turned into a relationship and by early 1960, Bullock was pregnant with Turner's child.
In March 1960, R&B singer Art Lassiter became the new front man for the Kings of Rhythm and also hired Lassiter's background vocalists, a girl group named The Artettes. Turner had written a song for Lassiter and the Artettes titled "A Fool in Love". On the day Lassiter was to show up to Technosound Studios in St. Louis to record his vocal, the singer was a no-show. Having already booked expensive studio time, Turner allowed the 20-year-old Bullock, still going by "Little Ann", to record the song as a dummy track for Lassiter. After recording Bullock and the Artettes, Turner sent the song to a St. Louis radio disk jockey who was so impressed by the song that he convinced Turner to send the record to Juggy Murray, the president of the New York-based R&B label, Sue Records. Murray was impressed by Bullock's vocal delivery on the song, calling it "raw and funky" and that it "sounded like raw dirt". Murray bought the rights to the song and gave Turner a $20,000 advance, convincing Turner to not erase Bullock's vocals and "make her the star". Prior to this move and the recording of "A Fool in Love", Turner had conversations with Bullock about singers in his band that would leave his group only to find bigger success elsewhere, Bullock said she convinced Turner that if they ever had a hit together that she "wouldn't leave him" if they became successful. Paranoid that Bullock could leave him for a solo career, Turner changed her stage name from "Little Ann" to "Tina Turner".
Though small and skinny, Turner felt Bullock could be his "wonder woman" and imagined Bullock like his favorite TV show characters such as Nagoya. He named her Tina after another of his favorite characters, Sheena, Queen of the Jungle. To assert control, Turner added his name, making the act "Ike and Tina Turner", though the young couple weren't married. Turner trademarked the name in order to retain control of her rights. In case Bullock left, he could hire another female artist and have her perform under the moniker of "Tina Turner". Ike completed the transformation by adding one of the Artettes, Robbie Montgomery, and two other backing singers he hired, Venetta Fields and Jessie Smith, and renaming them The Ikettes, inspired by Ray Charles' Raelettes. When "A Fool in Love" was released in the summer of 1960, Ike booked his entire band under the name, "The Ike & Tina Turner Revue", later venturing into a grueling series of one-nighters. "A Fool in Love" became an immediate hit after its release in the summer of 1960, peaking at #2 on the Hot R&B Sides chart and #27 on the Billboard Hot 100, eventually selling a million copies. In the 1986 Tina Turner autobiography, I, Tina, co-author and journalist Kurt Loder described the song as "the blackest record to ever creep the white pop charts since Ray Charles' 'What'd I Say' a year before". Ike and Tina Turner made their first national television debut that fall on American Bandstand, and performed in front of a receptive audience at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York. The series of rehearsals, one-nighters at the chitlin' circuit, and Tina's confusing relationship with Ike began to take a toll. Tina complained to Turner that she wanted to leave. Ike responded by hitting her in the head with a wooden shoe stretcher, starting a period of domestic abuse that would endure for nearly two decades. Ike and Tina later married in 1962 in Tijuana, Mexico.
After the duo's follow-up, "I'm Jealous", performed horribly, the duo scored another top five R&B hit with "I Idolize You". All three songs were part of the first Ike and Tina album, The Soul of Ike & Tina Turner, released in 1961. That year, a trip to the hair salon to dye her hair blonde led to Tina's hair falling out by accident. To cover up the incident, Tina and the Ikettes quickly put on wigs, leading to a fashion trend. Tina also helped to buy her and the Ikettes dresses, first wearing conservative gowns. Later in 1961, the duo released the pop ballad, "It's Gonna Work Out Fine", which featured Mickey Baker of Mickey & Sylvia fame, in Turner's role. It was also the first song released that wasn't composed by Turner. The song became their second million-seller and later won the duo a Grammy Award nomination, their first. Now an established R&B band, Ike and Tina toured all throughout the United States, later breaking racial barriers after successful performances in front of integrated audiences in Southern clubs and venues. Follow-up hits in 1962 included "Poor Fool", "Tra La La La" and "You Should'a Treated Me Right". The group would gig for 300 days a year to make up for lack of more hit records, while Ike constantly recorded Tina, the Ikettes and the Revue, releasing tons of records that failed to be successful. By this point, Tina and the Ikettes began incorporating dance moves to the act, helping the Revue to build a reputation as the most explosive R&B ensemble to perform outside of James Brown's own Revue. In 1962, Ike and Tina moved their entire band to Los Angeles and by 1964, Ike and Tina had settled at the View Park-Windsor Hills section of Los Angeles, where they lived next to celebrities such as Ray Charles. That same year, Ike and Tina signed with Kent Records after four years with Sue. When that deal failed to give them hits, the duo signed with Loma Records and hired Bob Krasnow as their new manager after Ike severed ties with Murray, who had been the duo's manager and promoter during their Sue tenure.
Turner continued to struggle to produce and compose a hit single during this period. The upbeat soul tune, "I Can't Believe What You Say", wasn't successful after its release. Another song, "Goodbye So Long", became a modest hit, and later became a highlight of the duo's live shows during the '60s. Later that year, Krasnow convinced the duo to release live albums. The duo's first, Live! The Ike & Tina Turner Show, was released in January 1965 on Loma's parent label, Warner Bros. Though Krasnow was their personal manager, Turner booked his own shows in various places, forcing Tina to sometimes perform if she was ill or right after the duo had a fight. Throughout 1965, Tina performed on several teen rock and roll shows on TV including Shindig!, Hollywood A Go-Go and American Bandstand. By the end of the year, the Revue became the show-stealers on the concert film, The Big T.N.T. Show, with their dancing now becoming a vital part of their live shows along with Turner's own frenetic dancing and vocal prowess. At the end of 1965, the original members of the Ikettes abruptly left Ike Turner after the group signed a recording deal and began recording their own album, leading Turner to hire another round of dancers and had them perform as the Ikettes, starting a revolving door of women into the backing group that would last until the Revue's end.
In early 1966, Phil Spector caught a show Ike and Tina performed in Los Angeles and called Krasnow asking him if he could produce for the pair, to which Krasnow agreed. Spector asked Ike to produce Tina on her own, to which Ike reluctantly agreed after Spector gave him $25,000 to not interfere in the studio, having heard of Turner's reputation as a hard taskmaster. Tina recorded the Ellie Greenwich/Jeff Barry composition "River Deep – Mountain High" in March 1966 at Gold Star Studios in Hollywood in front of Spector's so-called "Wall of Sound". Convinced he had recorded a masterpiece, Spector signed Tina and Ike to his Philles record label and released the song that late spring. The song failed to chart successfully in the United States, only reaching number 88. However, in Europe, the song became a hit, reaching number three on the UK charts. Its global success prompted Spector to state in interviews later in the decade, "Benedict Arnold was quite a guy", in regards to the United States' indifferent reaction to the song. Both Ike & Tina later blamed the U.S. resistance to the song on racism and the arrival of the Black Panthers and similar black liberation movements, with pop radio rejecting it for being "too black" and black radio rejecting it for being "too white".
Following its UK success, The Rolling Stones offered Ike and Tina a chance to be one of their opening acts on their fall tour in the United Kingdom, which they accepted.. The duo's 12-date gig opening for the Stones in the UK became a success. Inspired, Ike booked them in other European cities, as well as Australia, that year, where they were received more warmly than they ever had been in the states, stunning the duo. Ike Turner later noted, "there wasn't anything like my show." Now wearing longer wigs and miniskirts, Tina Turner gained a reputation for her wild "raunchy" look. By 1967, the Revue started to book bigger venues in the United States and began a series of "exclusive deals" during this period, to help Ike increase his finances. Tina and Ike's personal relationship continued to fall apart and before a show in Los Angeles, Tina attempted suicide swallowing 50 Valium pills, to which she made a recovery. Starting around 1968, the duo also began touring and headlining casinos and resorts in Las Vegas. It wasn't until signing with Blue Thumb Records in late 1968, when Ike and Tina started their most successful period, first releasing the albums, Outta Season and The Hunter, both in 1969. Outta Season produced the duo's successful cover of Otis Redding's "I've Been Loving You Too Long", while The Hunter produced the Sly and the Family Stone-esque "Bold Soul Sister" and a Grammy-nominated cover of the title track, originally recorded by Albert King.
It was also while in Vegas that Turner, who prior to 1968 had lived a teetotal, drug and alcohol free life, began using cocaine, which he claimed he was introduced to by "two famous Las Vegas headliners". In November 1969, the Stones once again asked the duo to open for them on their American tour. Following the tour, the Ike and Tina Turner Revue's fortunes changed in the United States.
In 1970, after recording an album for the R&B label Minit Records, the duo was reassigned to the more successful and mainstream Liberty Records. It was also around this time that Tina, tired of singing "depressing" R&B numbers, convinced Ike to have her record and cover rock music. The result was 1970's Come Together, an album Liberty credited to Ike, Tina and the Ikettes. The album included two charted hits, covers of The Beatles' "Come Together" and the Sly and the Family Stone composition, "I Want to Take You Higher", the latter song becoming a top 40 hit. In January 1970, the group performed on The Ed Sullivan Show. Later in 1970, the duo accepted the opportunity to perform in the Milos Forman film, Taking Off, which was later released to theaters in 1971. The Revue's performance fee increased from $1,000 a night to $5,000 a night following their successful run.
During live performances, Ike and Tina included the Creedence Clearwater Revival's hit "Proud Mary" on their sets. Sensing hit potential, Bob Krasnow and executives at Liberty convinced the duo to record a version of the song. In January 1971, Ike and Tina and the Revue entered a Los Angeles studio and re-arranged the entire song. Set at first to a slow acoustic rendition sung softly by both Ike and Tina, the song then transformed into a frenetic rock and soul dervish led by Tina and the Ikettes. Released at the end of January 1971, the song reached its peak position of number four on the Billboard Hot 100 and sold more than a million copies, becoming their best-selling single to date and later winning the duo their first and only Grammy Award. The song was included on their second Liberty album, Workin' Together, which sold a quarter of a million copies after its release in 1971. Workin' Together also included notable covers of the Beatles' "Get Back" and "Let It Be" along with the Alline Bullock composition, "Funkier than a Mosquito's Tweeter". Later that year, the band released the live album, Live at Carnegie Hall: What You Hear Is What You Get, which later was certified gold for selling over a million copies. Later in 1971, Liberty Records was absorbed into United Artists Records, where Ike and Tina would record their later albums. At the end of the year, the Turners opened their own recording studio, naming it Bolic Sound, where the Revue would record the rest of their material.
In 1973, Tina composed the duo's final hit, "Nutbush City Limits", which peaked at number 22 in the States and number 4 in the UK, and also hit several international charts as well. During this era, Tina was introduced to a form of Buddhism called the Nichiren Shōshū and constantly recited the chant, Namu Myōhō Renge Kyō, as a well of building back up confidence. After first trying the chant before recording a song with Ike, Turner lent her money to go shopping. Tina saw it as a sign of progress and had fully converted at the end of 1971. Starting in 1974, Tina recorded her first solo album titled Tina Turns the Country On. With Ike, she also recorded the album, The Gospel According to Tina Turner. Both projects received Grammy nominations but weren't commercially successful as Ike's cocaine habit wreck havoc on their careers. In 1975, Tina accepted the role of The Acid Queen in the rock musical, Tommy. Her role won praise by critics. Despite Ike having given Tina the blessing to do the role as well as record solo albums, the musician grew increasingly jealous at the attention Tina was getting outside the Revue, leading to more arguments.
By 1976, Ike Turner's addiction to cocaine was so strong that he had burned a hole in his nasal septum, leading to nosebleeds, from which he would relieve himself by using more cocaine. Turner spent more time at Bolic Sound where he would go on cocaine binges that sometimes lasted a week. In July 1976, Turner was planning to leave United Artists for a new record company, Cream Records, for a reported yearly amount of $150,000. The contract had a key person clause, meaning Ike would have to sign the contract in four days, keeping Tina tied to Ike for five more years. On July 1, 1976, the Ike and Tina Turner Revue traveled by airplane to Dallas, Texas where they were to perform at the Dallas Statler Hilton throughout that week's Bicentennial celebration. While on the plane, the two became embroiled in an altercation, which led to a physical fight in their limousine. Tina claimed in her book that Ike had slapped her and cursed at her in the car, leading to Tina cursing back at him and hitting him with her fists, also scratching and kicking him. Ike claimed the pair "went around like prizefighters for awhile". By the time they arrived to the Hilton, both Ike and Tina were bleeding. After going up to their suite, Ike retired to a sofa.
Once Ike had fallen asleep, Tina grabbed a few toiletries, covered herself in a hat and scarf without her wig and escaped from the back of the hotel, running across an active freeway before stopping at a local Ramada Inn hotel. She claimed that she later hid at several friends' homes for a time. Ike claims in his book that Tina initiated the fight by purposely irritating him so that she'd have a reason to break up with him before they were scheduled to sign a new 5-year contract upon their return from Dallas. He reveals that three weeks after they split, they met for a meal at Ship's Restaurant in Los Angeles. Ike says Tina said maybe they'd get back together after eight or nine years. On July 27, 1976, Tina Turner filed for divorce on the grounds of irreconcilable differences.
Ike and Tina fought for a year in divorce court arguing over money and property. By late 1977, Tina decided to stop her pursuit of any financial earnings. In the settlement, Tina gave Ike her share of their studio, publishing companies, four cars, and real estate — a gift worth close to $500,000, stating that her freedom "was more important." Tina also agreed to retain only the use of her stage name. Ike revealed in his book Takin' Back My Name that Tina made an offer through her lawyer for them to continue performing together but their marriage would end due to Ike's infidelity. Tina also wanted him to buy her and their sons a separate home. Ike declined this offer. The divorce proceedings ended in November 1977 and was finalized on March 29, 1978. She also agreed to pay a significant IRS lien. United Artists responded to the couple's abrupt split and divorce by finishing up unfinished albums, releasing them until 1980.
Looking to pay the IRS back taxes from the shows she walked out on, Tina managed a successful cabaret act between 1977 and 1979. In the interim, she finished her United Artists contract by releasing two solo albums, the rock-heavy Rough album, and Love Explosion, which included more disco and soul. Both albums failed to chart and Tina left 1979 as an artist without a label. In 1980, she hired Roger Davies to manage her career and convinced a skeptical music industry to sign another contract. After Turner told Davies of her plans to perform in huge arenas like The Rolling Stones and to become a rock star, Davies convinced her to stop the cabaret act and hire her own rock band. A successful performance at the Ritz Theatre led to her performing with Rod Stewart on Saturday Night Live on October 3, 1981. The following month, Tina opened several shows for Stewart during his arena tour, later captured on a televised performance of "Get Back" and "Hot Legs". In December, the Rolling Stones had Turner opened for them on their arena tour of the States.
Another successful run of shows at the Ritz, as well as a recommendation by David Bowie, Tina was given a solo contract with Capitol Records. Following the successful release of her cover of Al Green's "Let's Stay Together", Tina signed a three-album deal with the label, demanding her to release the first album in less than two months, resulting in what Ebony magazine later called "an amazing comeback".. Tina recorded her breakthrough album, Private Dancer, in London, England in less than two weeks, the album was done in a month's notice and was later released in June 1984. The album's lead single, "What's Love Got to Do with It", peaked at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 that September. Featuring other hits such as the title track and "Better Be Good to Me", Private Dancer peaked at number three on the Billboard 200 and went on to sell more than five million copies in the States alone, winning Tina three Grammy Awards, making Tina a superstar. Tina would follow up with the platinum-selling Break Every Rule and the gold-selling Foreign Affair album, releasing such hits as "We Don't Need Another Hero (Thunderdome)", "Typical Male", "Two People" and "The Best" and performing at both big rock arenas and stadiums, performing at her biggest show in January 1988 at the Maracanã Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, earning her a spot on the Guinness World Records. Following the end of her Twenty Four Seven Tour in 2000, Tina made another Guinness World Record by selling more concert tickets than any solo performer in history at the time.
Ike tried continuing his career after the divorce but later admitted his first post-Tina years was a period in which his behavior had grown increasingly erratic. Ike's Bolic Sound studios burned to the ground in January 1981 on the day he was set to present it for sale to investors. Ike had failed to pay taxes, which led to the studio being put into foreclosure. In 1982, he was alleged to have shot a 49-year-old newspaper delivery man who he accused of assaulting his wife, Ann Thomas. He was later found not guilty of the charge of assault. Ike Turner would be convicted of drug offenses, culminating in a four-year sentence for cocaine possession in 1990. Sent to California Men's Colony, San Luis Obispo, he completed 18 months of his prison sentence before being released on parole in September 1991.
Tina's accounts on her life with Ike Turner were later documented in the autobiography, I, Tina, released in 1986. In 1988, both Tina and Ike signed away their rights to have their lives dramatized in a biopic based on Tina's book. Ike Turner later claimed that he signed against his will since he was heavily addicted to crack at the time and accepted a $50,000 payment, waiving the right to sue the film company for their portrayal of him in the film. The film What's Love Got to Do with It cemented Turner's reputation as an abusive husband.
Following his release, Ike began working on a comeback. In 1993, he received royalties from Salt-N-Pepa's sample of his song "I'm Blue" for their hit single "Shoop", and responded by recording a duet version with Billy Rogers. After contributing to Joe Louis Walker' Great Guitars, he toured with the blues musician and was paid $5,000 a night for six songs. Following this, he revived the Kings of Rhythm in 2001 and released the album, Here & Now, which won him a Grammy nomination. Five years later, his album, Risin' with the Blues, won him his second Grammy Award, his first as a solo artist.
On December 12, 2007, Ike Turner was found dead at 11:38 am at his home in San Marcos, California. He was 76. His death was found by the San Diego County Medical Examiner's Office to be from a cocaine overdose, exacerbated by hypertensive cardiovascular disease and emphysema. Turner had been clean for over a decade prior but relapsed in 2004 after coming to the aid of a drug-addicted friend and Turner returned to cocaine after he "smelt the fumes".
Following news of her former partner's death, Tina Turner's personal spokeswoman released a statement that the couple hadn't spoken to each other "in over 30 years" and that no further public comment would be made. Turner's funeral was held at the City of Refuge Church in Gardena, California. In February 2008, little over a month after Ike was buried, Tina came out of retirement, returning to perform on stage at the Grammy Awards alongside Beyoncé. Later that October at age 68, she launched a 95-date concert tour celebrating her 50th anniversary in show business. The tour continued until May 2009, ending in England. In October 2007, just two months before Ike's death, a three-disc compilation, The Ike & Tina Turner Story: 1960-1975, was released by Time-Life Music.
In 2018, while promoting a musical based on her life, Tina told The Sunday Times she has forgiven Ike. "As an old person, I have forgiven him, but it would not work with him. He asked for one more tour with me, and I said, 'No, absolutely not.' Ike wasn’t someone you could forgive and allow him back in. It’s all gone, all forgotten."
Ike & Tina Turner were inducted to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1991; Ike Turner was still incarcerated and Tina did not attend, stating through her publicist she was taking a leave of absence following her tour and that she felt "emotionally unequipped to return to the U.S. and respond to the night of celebration in the manner she would want." Phil Spector accepted their induction on the former duo's behalf.
The group was nominated several times for Grammy Awards.
The group received a NAACP Image Award. Both Ike and Tina each received stars and were inducted individually onto the St. Louis Walk of Fame.
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