Ike Turner RIP
If you know him primarily for an overhyped cover of "Proud Mary" and abusing his ex-wife and drugs, you don't know all about Ike Turner, one of the true pioneers.
Aside from discovering one of the greatest female vocalists in Tina and spotlighting her in their duo act beginning around 1960, his band The Kings Of Rhythm's seminal recording of "Rocket 88", orignally released on 78 at the dawn of the 50's and credited to one of his sometime male-vocalists and sax-players named Jackie Brenston because Ike wasn't the greatest singer, is frequently cited as being the mythical 'first rock and roll record'. It was Ike's debut release and went to #1 on the R&B charts, but the fact that it didn't hit under his own name set a precedent that would hold throughout his inveterate behind-the-scences hustler's career: Ike was never to be the star.
He was an influential talent scout/A&R man in the blues/R&B field throughout the early 50's, working with many labels such as Sun, Chess, Federal/King, RPM, Kent, and Modern. It was Ike who first brought Howlin' Wolf to Sam Phillips's Sun Studio (from whence he migrated to Chicago's Chess Records).
As a musician Ike was a multiple-threat: songwriter, guitarist, pianist and bandleader/arranger, and one of the first players to exploit two innovations made popular by Leo Fender in the whammy bar-equipped solid-body electric guitar and tremolo amplifier.
A child prodigy and teenage disk jockey from the Delta blues hub of Clarksdale, Mississippi, Ike backed such artists as Sonny Boy Williamson and Robert Nighthawk on piano when he was still in grade school, and as a session booker and player was involved with a plethora of the great Memphis and St. Louis blues recordings of the 50's by artists like B.B. King, Little Milton and many others. In all, Ike appeared on or was involved in literally hundreds of releases, with what seems like almost as many artists and labels.
With Tina and the various Ikettes performing non-stop in the Ike & Tina Turner Revue, Ike was in the forefront of the developing sound of soul at the beginning of the 60's with national hits including "A Fool In Love", "It's Gonna Work Out Fine" and "I'm Blue". Though Ike & Tina's biggest commercial success still lay ahead of them, his importance as an artistic trailblazer waned with the onslaught of the British Invasion, and the failure of their 1966 collabortion with Phil Spector on the legendary "River Deep - Mountain High" single to reach the top of the charts or spawn a concomitant hit album (the same can be said of Spector himself).
It was mostly in later decades that connoisseurs rediscovered the potency of Ike's lesser-known instrumental sides released under his own name, like the sophisticated funk of 1969's "A Black Man's Soul" LP, or his earlier guit-twisting single workouts (some under the nom-de-disk of Icky Renrut).
Ike's faults, difficulties and the revelations by Tina after she went on to solo superstardom have been well documented, and his musical significance within the histories of rock, soul, blues and R&B remains underappreciated to this day IMO. But overshadowed as they may be (deservedly or not) in the popular mindset, his genius and accomplishments will never be forgotten by lovers of the music.