Happy 100th Birthday to Big Joe Turner

Slightly belated congratulations to the greatest of the blues shouters, who was born in Kansas City on May 18, 1911.  I’m sure Joe won’t mind me being a day late, as he’s been playing a steady gig in R&B heaven since 1985.

He started singing on the streets & in church, and later became known as The Singing Barman.  He and partner/pianist Pete Johnson ended up performing in the first of John Hammond’s “Spiritual to Swing” concerts at Carnegie Hall in 1938, and the pair made their first record the next year, “Roll ‘Em, Pete”.

It seems a big jump for a 1930’s KC bluesman to become a rock & roller in the 50’s, but Joe made it look easy.

Some videos:

  • Joe at The Apollo, “Oke-She-Moke-She-Pop“,  1955
  • Hide and Seek“, at the 1966 American Folk Blues Festival at the Albert Hall, London. That’s Otis Rush on guitar, Little Brother Montgomery (with beret) on piano, Jack Myers bass & Fred Below, drums.
  • “Big & Happy” from the movie, “Shake, Rattle & Roll“.

And a brief bio of Joe from BluesNotes magazine (1997).

One of a kind.