Under the Hood: Ike Turner on the First Rock & Roll Recording

Ike Turner may be best known as the former husband of Tina Turner.  But before the two met, Ike was a successful musician and talent scout.  He played with BB King and Sonny Boy Williamson and helped start the recording careers of Howlin’ Wolf and Little Milton. Ike Turner also played piano on a song many music historians consider the first rock & roll record, Jackie Brenston’s “Rocket 88.”  According to Ike Turner, that song came together on the way to the recording studio.

We didn’t think about writing no songs or nothing, right? So then we all get in the car man, and we had the upright bass tied on top of the car, you know with the tarpaulin over it so it wouldn’t get wet if it rained, and we had the bass drum hanging out the trunk. And we were going from Clarksdale to Memphis, Tennessee. Finally man, somebody, one of the band boys said, hey man, you know, we don’t have no original songs. And so that’s when we started writing “Rocket ’88,” in the car. So then we get to Memphis so now I’ve got to put it together real fast. And the amplifier had got uh, when he plugged it up the water had cracked the tube because some water had got in it. That’s why the guitar sounds (vocalizes). We got $20 a piece for cutting that record. – Ike Turner