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.

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