Blues Legend Big Joe Turner Passed Away Today Back in 1985

0 Posted by - November 24, 2020 - Gone But Not Forgotten

Photo credits: SPV Blue Label Archives

Joseph “Big Joe” Turner (pictured) was an American musician whose music included the blues, jazzrhythm and blues, and boogie-woogie.

Turner was born on May 18, 1911, in Kansas City, Missouri. He has been credited as a progenitor of jump blues and of early rock and roll. Singing in his youth in church choirs and informally for tips, Turner drew attention as a singing bartender. He was accompanied by pianist Pete Johnson, in Kansas City saloons.

Discovered by jazz critic John Hammond, Turner, with his powerful baritone voice, was taken to New York City for the 1938 Carnegie Hall “Spirituals to Swing” concert. He 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, Turner made a top-selling rhythm-and-blues record titled “Chains of Love.” He followed that up 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 expurgated lyrics).

Turner appeared in several movies (including the documentary Last of the Blue Devils, 1979), at major jazz and folk festivals in the United States and Europe, on television, and in jazz clubs, recording continually into the 1980s.

However, Turner died on November 24, 1985, in Inglewood, California. He was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1983 and into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.

Reference: Bauer, P. (2020, November 20) Big Joe Turner: American Singer. Retrieved from

* writer and historian Victor Trammell edited and contributed to this report.

No comments