Big Joe

by wjw on November 4, 2011

So . . . who invented rock and roll?

My money’s on this guy.

Not only did he record “Roll ‘Em Pete”, the first song with a backbeat, in 1938, but he mastered a whole series of musical genres.  Blues, jump blues, R&B, jazz, big band swing, and finally rock and roll.

In addition to recording with jazz greats Art Tatum, Duke Ellington, and Sammy Price, he gave the Basie Orchestra a big shot in the arm with their collaboration.

And then “Shake, Rattle, and Roll,” with its risque lyrics, made him a middle-aged rock star.  And then in short order there was “Flip, Flop, and Fly,” “Honey Hush,” “Morning, Noon, and Night,” and “Corrina Corrina.”

He won the Melody Maker award for Best  New Vocalist in 1956!  “New” . . . gosh.

He walked away from rock stardom by the Sixties to return to R&B, a decision that was probably made easier by the fact that he never made much money as a rock star— that all went to other people.

But hey, he made history.  And here’s Big Joe Turner, live at the Apollo, singing “Moke-She-Moke-She-Bop,” a rock and roll title if ever there was one.

Dave Bishop November 4, 2011 at 9:57 am

Seeing that clip instantly took me back to last night and an extraordinary film that was screened in one of our local pubs.
In 1964 some Blues and Gospel ‘greats’ did a tour of the UK. Among them were Muddy Waters, Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. Granada TV put on an open-air concert, on a railway station, in our Manchester suburb of (would you believe?) Chorlton-cum-Hardy (the station was re-named “Chorltonville” for the occasion). The artists performed on one platform and the audience was across the tracks. Being Manchester, of course, it rained! Sister Rosetta sang ‘Didn’t it Rain’ – and it sure did!
Sister Rosetta was a revelation – a large lady, in high heels and a voluminous woolen coat, bopping up and down the platform whilst playing an electric guitar. It was a bit like watching your granny doing groovy riffs on a Stratocaster! Her singing was spectacular too.
Last night’s film, and your clip of Big Joe Turner, have served to remind me of the amazing virtuosity and artistry of African-American musicians of that generation. I think that it’s very unfortunate that, in the intervening years, that great artistry seems to have inspired so much awful, ‘post-music noise’!

wjw November 4, 2011 at 11:17 pm

Thanks for the memories of Sister Rosetta Tharpe, who seems to have escaped my attention till now. I see bright shiny CDs in my future!

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