If it’s true that one’s personality is revealed through one’s music, then Ike Turner is probably every bit the lowdown, badass motor-scooter his reputation implies. And on this collection of rockin’ blues instrumentals from 1954 to ’64, he attacks his Stratocaster with a viciousness unmatched by anyone before or since.
Ike may or may not be responsible for the “first” rock and roll record – 1951’s “Rocket 88” by Turner sideman Jackie Brenston, according to many genre historians (debatable, since Fats Domino, for one, had already established his style and recorded as far back as ’49) – and he may or may not have been the Svengali who made Tina Turner the dynamo she is. But one thing is undeniable: the man was a peerless bandleader and an extremely gifted guitarist. Whammy bar in hand, he was capable of strangling any number of squalls and snarls from his Fender, and he had an uncanny knack for catchy hooks, not unlike Freddie King. But with its ice-pick-in-the-forehead treble and freight-train groove, “Prancin'” (recorded in ’54 under the name “Icky Renrut”) makes Freddie, Albert Collins, and Johnny “Guitar” Watson sound like Spyro Gyra. The only players who come close to this level of reckless abandon are Mickey Baker and Wild Jimmy Spruil.
“The Rooster” and “Going Home” (both from ’62) reveal that Turner had his ear pressed to the radio when Duane Eddy came on. But “Trackdown Twist” (from the same sessions), with its wide bends, whammy shakes, and rapid vibrato, is reminiscent of Buddy Guy or Otis Rush – although, again, they sound almost tame compared to Ike. To borrow a phrase, this is “extreme guitar,” and Ike is indeed the king.
Included here are the instrumentals from Turner’s much-coveted Crown album, Ike Turner Rocks the Blues (cut in Clarksdale, Mississippi, in ’54), including his nine-minute medley of blues riffs, “All The Blues All The Time.” With a fatter, more distorted tone, he gets things going with the lick from Junior Parker’s “Feelin’ Good” before things peter out and he cranks them up with Parker’s “Love My Baby.” Another dead stop, then B.B. King’s “Please Love Me,” Hooker’s “Boogie Chillun,” Elmore’s “Dust My Broom,” “Rock Me Baby,” Muddy’s “Hoochie Coochie” – just the signature riffs and a little bit of soloing – before ending up with B.B.’s “Woke Up This Morning.” An almost surreal patchwork resumé of bandstand blues – taped, stapled, and knotted together, rather than stitched.
This is some raw, good, essential stuff.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Aug. ’01 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.