Big Joe Turner

One of the key figures, the vehicle we took from R&B to Rock N’Roll, was Big Joe Turner. Born in 1911 in Kansas City, Big Joe’s dad was killed when he was 15. To help his family, Joe worked at a variety of odd jobs..from shining shoes to running liquor. In 1929 he began to play boogie-woogie with Kermit “Pete” Johnson in clubs around the Midwest. They were discovered and brought to New York to play Carnegie Hall.

The next week they began recording for a label and a star was born. Joe was characterized by his incredible deep singing voice. He didn’t play any instruments, his voice was all he needed. New York Times music critic Robert Palmer said: “…his voice, pushing like a Count Basie solo, rich and grainy as a section of saxophones, which dominated the room with the sheer sumptuousness of its sound.” Big Joe died of kidney failure in 1985..