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Big Joe Turner

On 18/05/1911: Big Joe Turner was born in Kansas City, Missouri. His full birth name was Joseph Vernon Turner Jr.
Big Joe Turner (known as such due to being 6'2 and 300+lbs), was also known as "The Boss of the Blues". He began his love of music at church and began singing on street corners for money. At 14 he quit school to start working in nightclubs as a cook, before later becoming a singing bartender. He and his piano playing partner Pete Johnson would work in The Kingfisher Club and The Sunset as a resident act.
In 1936 he and Johnson would move to New York where they were on a playbill with Benny Goodman, but soon returned back to Kansas City. However they were soon back in 1938 when talent scout John H Hammond spotted them and invited them to play at one of his "From Spirituals to Swing" concerts at Carnegie Hall. It was on the back of the appearances at Carnegie Hall that they had a big hit with "Roll 'Em Pete".
In 1939 Albert Ammons and Meade Lux Lewis joined them and they became residents at The Café Society. They were on the same bill as Billie Holiday and Frank Newton's band. In the same year "Cherry Red" was recorded on the label Vocalion. The year after "Piney Brown Blues" with Decca Records.
In 1941 he moved to Los Angeles and was a part of Duke Ellington's revue "Jump for Joy" in Hollywood.
In 1944 he sang in Meade Lux Lewis's Soundies musical movies, though it would be Dudley Dickerson who would mouth the words on camera.
In 1945 Joe and Pete Johnson would open a bar called The Blue Moon Club in Los Angeles. It was also this year when he recorded "S.K. Blues", "My Gal's A Jockey" and "Around The Clock" for National Records. Aladdin records also released his duet with Wynonie Harris "Battle of the Blues".
In 1951 he was signed to Atlantic Records after being spotted by Ahmet and Nesuhi Ertegün, whilst performing with the Count Basie Orchestra at Harlem's Apollo Theater. He had a lot of success with Altlantic including the songs "Chains of Love" and "Sweet Sixteen".
In 1954 he had a great success with "Shake, Rattle and Roll", which turned him into a teenage favourite.
Hits followed with "The Chicken and the Hawk", "Flip, Flop and Fly", "Hide and Seek", "Morning, Noon and Night", "Well All Right", "Corrine, Corrina" and "(I’m Gonna) Jump for Joy".
During the 1960's and 70s he moved away from popular music and went back to small jazz combos and blues. During this period he appeared in a 'Battle of the Blues' with Wynonie Harris and T-Bone Walker.
In 1965 he went on tour in England with trumpeter Buck Clayton, trombonist Vic Dickenson, and Humphrey Lyttelton with his Band.
In 1966 Bill Hailey lent him his backing band The Comets for a series of popular recordings in Mexico.
In 1977, Turner recorded "I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter" for Spivey Records.
In 1983 he was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame.
Joe died in November 1985 from heart failure. In 1987 he was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The Music History Calendar is written by the Blues Rock artist Marshland Pete
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