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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 Feelin’ Happy.

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Duke Ellington brought class, sophistication and style to jazz which, until that point, was proudly unpolished and raucous. His story is profound. The author, Terry Teachout, also wrote "Pops," the acclaimed bio of Louis Armstrong. Click here or on the image.

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What else is there to say? Here is the story behind every song written by The Beatles. Click here or on the image.

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The Grateful Dead don't get enough credit for the profound nature of its lyrics. Many of the band's songs are driven by a deep and literate Americana ("I'm Uncle Sam/That's who I am/Been hidin' out/In a rock and roll band" and "Majordomo Billy Bojangles/Sit down and have a drink with me/What's this about Alabama/Keeps comin' back to me?").

David Dodd's exhaustive study tells the story, song by song. Click here or on the image.