Izear Luster “Ike” Turner Jr. (November 5, 1931 – December 12, 2007) was an American musician, bandleader, songwriter, arranger, talent scout, and record producer. An early pioneer of fifties rock and roll, he is best known for his work in the 1960s and 1970s with his then-wife Tina Turner in the Ike & Tina Turner Revue.
Turner began playing piano and guitar as a child, then formed a group, the Kings of Rhythm, as a teenager. He employed the group as his backing band for the rest of his life. His first recording, “Rocket 88” (1951) (credited to “Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats”), is considered a contender for the distinction of “first rock and roll song”. During the 1950s, Turner also worked as a talent scout and producer for Sun Records and Modern Records. He was instrumental in the early careers of various blues musicians, such as B.B. King, Howlin’ Wolf, and Bobby “Blue” Bland. When Turner relocated to East St. Louis in 1954, his Kings of Rhythm became one of the most renowned acts on the local club circuit. There, he met Ann Bullock who he renamed Tina Turner. He then formed the Ike & Tina Turner Revue, which over the course of the 1960s became a soul/rock crossover success. Turner recorded for many of the key R&B record labels of the 1950s and 1960s, including Chess, Modern, Trumpet, Flair, and Sue. He progressed to larger labels such as Blue Thumb, Liberty, and United Artists with the Ike & Tina Turner Revue.
Turner’s cocaine addiction and legal troubles, together with accounts by Tina Turner of domestic violence (published in her autobiography I, Tina and the portrayal of him in its film adaptation What’s Love Got to Do with It), impacted his career in the 1980s and 1990s. Addicted to cocaine for at least 15 years, Turner was convicted of drug offenses and served 18 months in prison (Feb. 1990 – Sept. 1991). He spent the rest of the 1990s drug-free, but relapsed in 2004. Near the end of his life, Turner revived his career with live performances as a front man and returned to his blues roots. He produced two albums that were critically well-received and award-winning.
Hailed as a “great innovator” of rock and roll by contemporaries such as Little Richard and Johnny Otis, Turner received critical acclaim as well. Rolling Stone magazine editor David Fricke ranked Turner #61 on his list of 100 Greatest Guitarists and noted, “Turner was one of the first guitarists to successfully transplant the intensity of the blues into more-commercial music.” Turner won five Grammy Awards, including two competitive awards and three Grammy Hall of Fame Awards. Turner was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with Tina Turner in 1991. He is also inducted into the St. Louis Walk of Fame, the Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame, the Blues Hall of Fame, and the Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame.