Big Joe Turner: Low Down Dog

As this paragraph from his bio at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame site makes clear, Big Joe Turner was a fundamental figure in the history of rock-and-roll. Indeed, Turner seems to have been what in science is called a “precursor”:

Big Joe Turner was the brawny-voiced “Boss of the Blues.” He was among the first to mix R&B with boogie-woogie, resulting in jump blues – a style that presaged the birth of rock and roll. Indeed, Turner’s original recording of “Shake, Rattle and Roll,” cut for Atlantic Records in 1954, remains one of the cornerstones numbers of the rock and roll revolution. Turner’s lengthy career touched on most every significant development in popular music during this century, taking him from the big bands of the Swing Era to boogie-woogie, rhythm & blues, and rock and roll. James Austin of Rhino Records noted that “[Turner’s] raucous style first blended R&B with boogie-woogie. The result was jump blues, and Joe was its foremost practitioner.”

Turner’s name often comes up when a member of the first generation of white rockers discuss their influences and which performers led them to choose to be musicians. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1987, which unfortunately was two years after he died. It’s a shame that they didn’t pay Turner his due when he could enjoy it.

Here are Shake Rattle and Roll, If You Remember, Oke She Oke She Pop and Oh Well, Oh Well. This is a unique and entertaining piece of video that is a bit strange: an older Turner is sitting a table with other folks in what seems like a club or restaurant. The others seem to be only marginally paying attention to him. He is singing with a full band behind him — including Jay McShann on piano. It’s worth a look.

11 Responses

  1. Scott Dwight

    I love Big Joe Turner. The clip with Jay McShann is from a wonderful documentary called “The Last of the Blue Devils.” It was filmed at the musician’s union hall in Kansas City. Count Basie is also featured.

  2. Carl

    Scott, as usual, thanks for your valuable contribution. In the comments to the clip, I think it says that Clint Eastwood somehow saved the film or something like that. Am I thinking of the same film? Do you know if that’s so?

  3. Scott Dwight

    Hi Carl, Actually Clint Eastwood saved “Straight, No Chaser,” the Thelonious Monk documentary that was unfinished for years. I highly recommend it if you are interested in Monk. He was quite a character.

  4. Carl

    Thanks Scott:

    Yes, I love Monk and have read a lot about him. I’ll try to find the film. Character is putting in mildly…

    This is the comment I referred to from the post in regard to the Joe Turner clip:

    We might not even HAVE this great video if not for Clint Eastwood. He rescued it from the dust bin and saw that it was re-mastered and released it a few years ago. “The Last of the Blue Devils” is the title. GET IT NOW!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

About The Author