Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Ike Turner, Rocket 88 and the Invention of Rock and Roll (1951)

It was March 3, 1951 when Jackie Brenston and His Delta Cats; featuring Ike Turner on lead guitar; recorded what many believe to be the first real “rock and roll” record; “Rocket 88”. But, that’s like saying Chuck Berry invented the guitar break when he did his bit on “Maybelline.”

So many people had a hand in developing rock and roll; each one taking a little piece from here and there; that it would be just about impossible to credit any one individual with the feat of creating the genre. I think that’s true of all art. Shakespeare refined it; but the play had been around previous to his efforts. He just took it in a new direction.

But it would be hard to ignore the influence that this one record had; and continues to have; on music fans all over the world. It ranks alongside of “Rock Island Line” by Lonnie Donnegan as one of the rare records which influenced many future rock and rollers to buy that first guitar and learn to play.

I saw Ike Turner with Tina in Central Park back in the early 1970’s. It was one of the Schaefer Beer Festival concerts. They were always lively affairs. Between the excitement of the concert itself, along with the people trading acid and weed; which sometimes included me; plus the actual beer vendors, the crowd was; to put it mildly; very loose.

And the police were always on hand to guard “the rock” which overlooked the Wolman Skating Rink and offered a very clear; and free; view of the concert form the side of the stage. So, there was always kind of a friction between the police; who were trying their best to get the people off the rock in a civilized manner. But sometimes; depending on the combination of beer, acid and weed; this did not go smoothly. But it was all part of the attraction for these concerts.
Then there was the night I saw Ike and Tina Turner and someone tried to get up on stage to get to the Ikettes; the scantily clad New Orleans looking backing group known for their modest way of dressing. Ike saw the guy get past the security and climb up the stage front; then, between chords he managed to get his Stratocaster off and using the neck just bashed this guy in the head. The guy went down and Ike missed nary a note.

I think Keith Richards learned some of his moves from Ike. He had the same problem at a concert in Europe and did the same thing. By the way, Ike Turner was one of the opening acts for the Stones at the Garden in 1969. In his book, “Life”, Richards describes Ike pulling him into his dressing room at knife point; demanding to be shown “That 5 string open tuning shit.” Richards says it took him 45 minutes to get it down. The next Ike and Tina Turner album was done all in 5 string open tuning.

Anyway, whether or not you consider this recording to be the first actual rock and roll recording; or not; it’s one fine record and definitely a step ahead of all that followed.

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