Thursday, January 18, 2007


Ike Turner and the Kings of Rhythm, Get It Over Babe.
Ike Turner and the Kings of Rhythm, How Long Will It Last.
Ike Turner and the Kings of Rhythm, I'm Gonna Forget About You (Matchbox).

While the lives of Ike Turner and Sam Phillips had intersected throughout the 1950s, these tracks mark the terminus. For Turner, the future held untold promise, as in a year's time he would meet a singer named Anna Mae Bullock; for Phillips, life was starting to wind down.

Phillips and Turner had known each other since 1951, when Turner's band had recorded "Rocket 88" at Sun Studios. The record, which had put Sun on the map and is one of those evergreen candidates for "first rock & roll record ever made," had also been Turner's first-ever recording session. Turner had wanted to sing, but Phillips told him to stick to guitar (Turner wound up playing piano on "Rocket 88" too) and let Jackie Brenston sing lead.

Turner, grateful to have a hit record, served as a talent manager of sorts for Phillips in the early '50s, sending a number of blues musicians down to Memphis, telling them that there was one odd white man on Union Avenue who would let black musicians play the way they wanted to.

But by 1958, it had been two years since Sun had released a record by any black artist other than Sun mainstay Rosco Gordon. After selling the rights to the Elvis Presley sessions, Phillips had concentrated on breaking country/rockabilly acts. But one by one, his proteges left him. Johnny Cash went to Columbia in '58, while newcomer Roy Orbison went to RCA. And Phillips' biggest artist, Jerry Lee Lewis, saw his career implode after his "cousin marriage" scandal erupted and stopped recording for a few years.

Sometime in 1958, Ike Turner showed up at Sun with some tracks he had recorded in St. Louis, and Phillips bought them. Perhaps Phillips meant to pass them on to some of his affiliated labels, like Flip; maybe Phillips was considering releasing black music again. Or maybe, as the curators of the Sun Records: The Blues Years box suggest, it was simply "an acknowledgement of former shared glories." In any case, Phillips never released the tracks.

The Turner tracks aren't lost masterpieces by any means, but they are some catchy jump blues, sung with gritty soul by Tommy Hodge. There's a nice, relaxed tone to the band's sound, and Turner's guitar (the brittle rhythm playing on "Get It Over Babe," and his fleet lead guitar work on "I'm Gonna Forget About You") is always compelling.

The tracks feature Carlson Oliver (tenor sax), Fred Sample (p), Jesse Knight (b) and the Unknown Drummer. On The Sun Sessions.

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