“The Boss of the Blues”
Providing an essential link between the blues and rock 'n' roll, Big Joe Turner is best remembered for his classic 1954 hit Shake, Rattle and Roll, one of the pioneering songs of rock 'n' roll. Although Turner enjoyed his greatest recorded success with Atlantic Records between 1951 and 1956, rock 'n' roll was actually his second (or third) successful musical career.
He started out as an important member of the burgeoning Kansas City jazz scene and helped popularize boogie woogie in the late '30s with pianist Pete Johnson. He also pursued an influential career as one of the most potent blues shouters of the '40s. He was one of the few jazz and blues singers of his generation to become popular with the teenage rock 'n' roll audience. After spending the '60s in relative obscurity, Big Joe Turner returned to jazz and blues, singing on the Pablo label with the likes of Count Basie and Jimmy Witherspoon.
Big Joe Turner began singing in Kansas City clubs in his early teens and formed a musical partnership with boogie woogie pianist Pete Johnson near the end of the '20s. Touring with regional bands led by Bennie Moten and Count Basie, among others, Turner first went to New York in 1936, returning in 1938 with Pete Johnson to perform on Benny Goodman's Camel Caravan CBS radio show and the legendary Spirituals to Swing concerts at Carnegie Hall, the first concert series to promote black music to white audiences.