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Joseph Vernon Turner Jr. (Big Joe Turner)

Born: 1911 AD
Died: 1985 AD, at 74 years of age.

Nationality: American
Categories: Musicians, Singer


1911 - Big Joe Turner, Joseph Vernon Turner Jr., born on the 18th of May, was an American blues shouter from Kansas City, Missouri.

1920 - 1980 - Career as a performer stretched, although he came to his greatest fame with his pioneering rock and roll recordings, particularly "Shake, Rattle and Roll".

1936 - Headed to New York, where they appeared on a bill with Benny Goodman, but as Turner recounts, "After our show with Goodman, we auditioned at several places, but New York wasn't ready for us yet, so we headed back to K.C.".

1938 - Spotted by the talent scout, John H. Hammond, who invited them back to New York to appear in one of his "From Spirituals to Swing" concerts at Carnegie Hall, which was instrumental in introducing jazz and blues to a wider American audience.

1939 - Along with boogie players Albert Ammons and Meade Lux Lewis, they began a residency at Café Society, a club in New York City, where they appeared on the same bill as Billie Holiday and Frank Newton's band. Besides "Roll 'Em, Pete", Turner's best known recordings from this period are probably "Cherry Red", "I Want A Little Girl" and "Wee Baby Blues".

1941 - He headed to Los Angeles where he performed in Duke Ellington's revue Jump for Joy in Hollywood. He appeared as a singing policeman in a sketch called "He's on the Beat". L.A. became his home base for a time.

1945 - Opened his own bar, The Blue Moon Club with Pete Johnson.

        - Won the Esquire magazine award for male vocalist.

1951 - While performing with the Count Basie Orchestra at Harlem's Apollo Theater as a replacement for Jimmy Rushing, he was spotted by Ahmet and Nesuhi Ertegün, who signed him to their new recording company, Atlantic Records. Turner recorded a number of hits for them, including the blues standards, "Chains of Love" and "Sweet Sixteen" before hitting it big with "Shake, Rattle and Roll", which not only enhanced his career, turning him into a teenage favorite, but also transformed popular music.

1956 - Won the Melody Maker award for best 'new' vocalist.

1960 - 1970 - After a number of hits in this vein, Turner left popular music behind and returned to his roots as a singer with small jazz combos, recording numerous albums in that style. He was reclaimed by jazz and blues, appearing at many festivals and recording for the impresario Norman Granz's Pablo label, once with his friendly rival, Jimmy Witherspoon. He also worked with the German boogie-woogie pianist Axel Zwingenberger.

1965 - Won the British Jazz Journal award as top male singer.

1966 - Bill Haley helped revive Turner's career by lending him the Comets for a series a popular recordings in Mexico (apparently no one thought of getting the two to record a duet of "Shake, Rattle and Roll", as no such recording has yet surfaced).

1977 - He recorded a version of Guitar Slim's song, "The Things That I Used to Do".

1983 - He was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame.

1985 - Died in Inglewood, California in November, at the age of seventy four of a heart attack, having suffered the earlier effects of arthritis, a stroke and diabetes.

1987 - He was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.


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Page last updated: 1:24pm, 12th Jan '11