Born Izear Luster Turner, Jr in Clarksdale, Mississippi in 1931, Turner's actual music career began in earnest in the late-1940s where he formed a group whom he christened The Kings of Rhythm. In 1951, the band recorded what historians have debated as "the first rock and roll record" with "Rocket 88", listed on the charts as Jackie Brenston and His Delta Cats. Brenston was both the band's saxophonist and the leading vocalist of the song and Turner was the original writer though credits initially stated that Brenston had written it also. The song was one of the first examples of guitar distortion, which happened by accident when one of the amplifiers dropped before the recording. Ike and the Kings of Rhythm settled into local fame in St. Louis where the band locally recorded for a St. Louis label and even appeared on local television shows.
Throughout this early period, Turner became a recording scout and A&R man for independent record companies including Sun Records - where "Rocket 88" was recorded, helping the likes of Howlin' Wolf, Sonny Boy Williamson, Elmore James and Otis Rush get signed. He also became a sideman playing guitar for these blues acts and more. Musically, Turner was known for his hard-hitting guitar style. He was known to put the whammy bar of his Fender Stratocaster to frequent use.
Turner's music career changed drastically after meeting a teenage singer from Nutbush, Tennessee, named Anna Mae Bullock, who demandingly grabbed a microphone during a singing session at one of St. Louis' nightspots and sang a BB King song in her now-trademark throated raspy vocals. Bullock's performance impressed Ike so much he allowed Anna to join his band as a background singer. However within a year, Ike's plans for Bullock changed after Anna recorded what he originally stated was a demo for a song that was to be sung by a male vocalist. After hearing her vocals, he let it be released under an independent label and in the process changed the name of the singer from Anna Mae Bullock to Tina Turner - naming her after Sheena - and the name of the band to the Ike & Tina Turner Revue. That song, "A Fool in Love", became a national hit in early 1960, reaching the top three in the R&B charts and becoming a top thirty pop hit in the process.
From then until 1976, Ike and Tina Turner became one of the most explosive duos in rock & soul music. The creation of the revue also led to the soul revues of the 1960s. Inspired by Ray Charles, Turner created a trio of sexy background singers and dancers who were named The Ikettes who often had their moves choreographed by Tina and Ike. The Turners eventually scored several hit singles including "It's Gonna Work Out Fine", "River Deep - Mountain High", "I Want To Take You Higher", "Proud Mary"(their biggest hit charting #4pop and #5 R&B in 1971 and won Ike-- as well as Tina--his first Grammy Award thw following year) and "Nutbush City Limits" over thirteen years.
The success the duo contributed eventually led to the creation of the Los Angeles-based Bolic Sounds studio, founded by Ike. However, after Tina abruptly left Ike after a violent altercation in 1976, Ike lost ground in the national music market.
As a solo artist, he struggled to find success after Tina and after releasing two failed solo albums, had found himself facing drug and weapons charges, in which he was convicted of in 1989. Shortly after Ike's release from prison in 1993, the musician went back on the road and back into recording music, which continued until his deah.
Alongside his former wife, he was inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991 and in 2001 was inducted into the St. Louis Walk of Fame.
In 2001, Ike released the Grammy-nominated Here & Now album. Three years later, he was awarded with an "Heroes Award" from the Memphis charter of NARAS. In 2005, he appeared on the Gorillaz' album, Demon Days, playing piano on the track, "Every Planet We Reach Is Dead". He played live with the band on the band's world tour to that particular song.
In 2007, Ike won his first solo Grammy in the Best Traditional Blues Album category for the album, Risin' With the Blues. Before his death, a collaboration between Turner and the rock band, The Black Keys, by Gorillaz' producer Danger Mouse was expected for release next year.
In the STL area, Ike Turner as well as Tina Tuner they spent most of the 1950s and 1960s living in East St. Louis in the affluent Virginia Place neighborhood. And just recently, Turner was scheduled to front a blues festival in St. Louis in September 2 but cancelled at the last minute after a controversial decision by St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay denied to give a Proclamation to Turner due to potential protestors against Ike receiving the award because of his past turbulent abuse with his former wife.
In one of his last interviews, in a St. Louis Post Dispatch newspaper article, Turner talked about the diss: "I already have a star on your walk of fame there, and I never asked for that star," Turner said in a telephone interview from his home in San Marcos, Calif. "I don't care about those things. I don't care about the Hall of Fame. I just care about making people happy in the audience."
Turner was also surprised of all teh national atention that sparked from the Proclomation controversy: "It's gotten bigger than I expected something like this to get," Turner said. "It's all over the world, about what happened to me in St. Louis. I never asked for Ike Turner Day from St. Louis, and I'm not coming for that," Turner said. "But they gave me the key to Memphis, and I did nothing for Memphis compared to what I did for St. Louis. I made St. Louis and East St. Louis a place where people want to come to have fun."
He also talked about the 1993 film, "What's Love Got to do with it," which highlighted the life and times of Ike and Tina Turner and the spousal abuse: "the movie "assassinated my career." He says that he was "doing drugs" when he signed a contract allowing someone to play him in the movie."
"It's been planted that I'm against women," Turner said. "That's the biggest lie in the world. A lot of people in St. Louis can verify that. I have nothing against women's liberation. My mother was a woman, and I loved her to death."
Longtime radio personality Bernie Hayes, who met Ike and Tina Turner in the 1960s at KATZ radio here, said Mr. Turner was misunderstood and underrated as a musician. "People questioned him ethically and morally, but he was ethically and morally committed to music," Hayes said. "He was in a class all by himself."
Vintage Vinyl in Delmar Loop currently has its marquee as "Ike Turner--RIP."
Reportedly, Ike's former wife, Tina stated that she hadn't spoken with Ike in 30 years, was aware that he had died and that she no longer had any other statement on the issue.
The cause of death wasn't released, but Turner, told the Post-Dispatch earlier this year that he had emphysema. However, rumors are brewing in Hollywood that his death may have been caused by substance abuse.