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On this date, we celebrate the birth of Big Joe Turner in 1911. He was an African American blues singer, or "shouter," whose records were imitated by White musicians in the early days of rock and roll.
Joseph Vernon Turner was born May 18 in Kansas City, Missouri. Singing in his youth in church choirs and informally for tips, Turner drew attention as a singing bartender, accompanied by pianist Pete Johnson, in Kansas City saloons. Discovered by jazz critic John Hammond, Turner, with his convincing baritone voice, was taken to New York City for the 1938 Carnegie Hall "Spirituals to Swing" concert and stayed on to become a popular attraction, with boogie-woogie piano accompaniment, at New York nightclubs.
He began recording with top jazz musicians and touring the United States and Canada, sometimes with blues players or Count Basie's orchestra. In 1951, he made a top-selling rhythm-and-blues record, "Chains of Love," and followed it with "Sweet 16," "Honey, Hush," "Shake, Rattle and Roll," and "Flip, Flop and Fly," which were rerecorded by young White musicians, notably Bill Haley, using censored lyrics.
Turner appeared in sever" (1979), at major jazz and folk festivals in the United States and Europe, on television, and in jazz clubs, recording continually into the 1980s. Big Joe Turner died Nov. 24th 1985 in Inglewood, California.
Nothing But the Blues The Music and the Musicians
Edited by Lawrence Cohn
Copyright 1993 Abbeville Publishing Group, New York