On this day: Big Joe Turner

by Gerelyn Hollingsworth

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On this day a hundred years ago, Joe Turner was born in Kansas City.

"During K.C.'s heyday there was an extraordinary abundance of nightlife. Of literally hundreds of clubs that rose and fell, the most famous are the Sunset, the Subway, and the Reno. Of the countless performers making the scene, many achieved acclaim. Two of them, Joe Turner and Pete Johnson, merit special mention because they are so strongly identified with the joyous spirit of K.C. nightlife."

"Joe was the greatest blues singer in town (probably the greatest blues singer in any town, and certainly among the fathers of rock and roll), and Pete was the local king of boogie-woogie piano."

"Joe and Pete usually played at the Sunset Club, located at Eighteenth and Highland, in the center of the black downtown of the early thirties. . . . Joe was the bartender and would sing from the bandstand, from behind the bar, and occasionally out in the street while the band rocked inside. Joe referred to the street sorties as 'calling the children home.' He would face first up one side of the street and then down the other, shouting the blues at passersby, encouraging them to come and swing inside".

-- Goin' to Kansas City, by Nathan W. Pearson, Jr., University of Illinois Press, 1987, pages 107-113.

On pages 97-98, Pearson explains why Joe Turner (and all of them) loved Piney Brown.

Click here to hear Joe Turner sing "Piney Brown Blues".

Click here to hear Joe Turner singing "Roll 'em Pete", with Pete Johnson playing piano.

Click here for "Big Joe Turner" in Wikipedia.

Click here for "Big Joe Turner", by Terry Currier, from Blue Notes.

Joe Turner's music at Amazon.

Joe Turner's grave.

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