Blues News

Big Joe Turner – Boss of The Blues!

Big Joe Turner – Serenading Bartender

While hailed as the “Boss of the Blues,” during the 1930s Kansas City’s musical heyday. “Big Joe” Turner is the greatest blues singer in town. As an innovator, he made enormous contributions to both jazz, rhythm and blues. With his over the top vocals and talent for improvising lyrics he made performing seem easy.  As if this wasn’t enough, he also played a role in the development of rock ‘n’roll.  Influencing and including the likes of Chuck Berry, Bo diddley and Elvis!  Below is a performance of Flip Flop Fly by Big Joe Turner at American Folk and Blues Festival 1966.

Success In NYC

At an early age he started singing in church and on street corners for spare change.  Later at age fourteen he leaves school to work in Kansas City’s nightclubs. Starting out at first as a cook and later as a singing bartender. He becomes known as “The Singing Barman” and works in such venues as the “Kingfish Club” and the “Sunset”, where he and his partner, the boogie-woogie pianist Pete Johnson, became resident performers. 

In 1936, he and Pete Johnson check out New York City and appear on a playbill with Benny Goodman. Unfortunately, things don’t pan out and they head back to Kansas City.  Eventually, talent scout John Hammond in 1938, invites them back to New York to appear in one of his “From Spirituals to Swing” concerts at Carnegie Hall.

Furthermore, this proves to be instrumental in introducing jazz and blues to a wider American audience.  This is the tipping point for him which led him to have a successful career in music! And the rest is history!  

Be sure to check back next week to see what’s new on KTBA!  If you like what you read, please share.

Keeping the Blues Alive

Help us with our mission of Keeping the Blues Alive in schools!

To learn more or donate to Keeping The Blues Alive, visit our website at https://keepingthebluesalive.org/

Credits: Photo – Video Screen Shot

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HELPING YOU STAY INFORMED

KTBA is committed to sharing high-quality educational resources with music teachers and schools affected by the COVID-19 Crisis. As school districts adapt to virtual/distance-learning platforms, we have updated our Music Education Resources page.