Kings of Rhythm

Publié le 12 Mars 2020

The Kings of Rhythm are an American rhythm and blues and soul group formed in the late 1940s in Clarksdale, Mississippi and led by Ike Turner through to his death in 2007. Turner would retain the name of the band throughout his career, although the group has undergone considerable line-up changes over time. The group was an offshoot of a large big band ensemble called "The Tophatters". By the late 1940s Turner had renamed this group the "Kings of Rhythm". Their early stage performances consisted largely of covers of popular jukebox hits of the day. 

A 1951 line-up of the group recorded the song "Rocket 88 (credited to Jackie Brenston and His Delta Cats)", which was an early example of rock and roll. In the 1960s they became the band for the "Ike & Tina Turner Revue". For a few years in the early 1970s they were renamed "The Family Vibes", and released 2 albums under this name, both produced by, but not featuring Ike Turner. The band have continued, for a time under the leadership of pianist Ernest Lane (himself a childhood friend of Turner's), and continues to tour with vocalist Earl Thomas. The group has been running for at least 64 years. 

Kings of Rhythm

Formation: The Tophatters

In high school, a teenage Ike Turner joined a huge local rhythm ensemble called "The Tophatters", who played dances around Clarksdale, Mississippi, playing big band arrangements from sheet music. Members of the band were taken from Clarksdale musicians, and included Turner's school friends Raymond Hill, Eugene Fox and Clayton Love.

At one point the Tophatters had over 30 members, and eventually split into two, with one act who wanted to carry on playing dance band jazz calling themselves "The Dukes of Swing" and the other, led by Turner becoming the "Kings of Rhythm". Rivalry between the two former factions of the Tophatters lasted for some time, with the two staging an open air 'battle-of-the-bands' where they played from atop two flatbed trucks every fortnight. 

1940s: Early years

The Kings of Rhythm had a regular Wednesday night residency at Clarksdale's Harlem Theater. This got them bookings around the Mississippi Delta region. Their early stage performances consisted largely of covers of popular jukebox hits. In March 1951 whilst driving between gigs, the Kings of Rhythm dropped in on a B.B. King club date in Chambers, Mississippi. Turner persuaded King to let the band sit in and play a number with him. King contests this, remembering that it was only Turner who sat in with his band. They were well received and the club owner booked them for a weekend residency, whilst King recommended them to Sam Philips at Sun Studios in Memphis, Tennessee. In the 50s, The Kings received regular airplay from live sessions on Clarksdale radio station WROX-Am, at the behest of DJ Early Wright. The band would sometimes play a session that lasted an hour.

1951: Rocket 88

Sam Phillips invited the Kings of Rhythm down to Memphis to record at Sun Studios, and the group had to devise an original song at short notice for the session. The saxophonist, Jackie Brenston, suggested a song about the new Rocket 88 Oldsmobile. Turner worked out the arrangement and the piano introduction and the band collaborated on the rest with Brenston on vocals. "Rocket 88" came out with the group credited as Jackie Brenston and His Delta Cats and went on to sell half a million copies, reaching the top of the Billboard R&B charts in June 1951. 

The success of the record caused divisions within the group, with Brenston believing he was now the star and should front the group, and Turner and Raymond Hill bitter that they had received little recognition or recompense for writing and recording a hit record. The group's regular singer was signed away to a contract with King Records, but Turner still refused to allow Brenston to take over as singer, so the saxophonist left to pursue a solo career, taking half the group with him. However Turner held onto the name and reformed the Kings of Rhythm with a new line-up.

1950s: St. Louis

In 1955, Turner took the reformed version of Kings of Rhythm north to St. Louis, including Kizart, Sims, O'Neal, Jessie Knight, Jr. and Turner's third wife Annie Mae Wilson Turner on piano and vocals. It was at this time that Turner moved over to playing guitar to accommodate Annie Mae, taking lessons from Willie Kizart to improve. Turner maintained strict discipline over the band, insisting they lived in a large house with him so he could conduct early morning rehearsals at a moment's notice. He would fire anyone he suspected of drinking or taking drugs, and would fine or physically assault band-members if they played a wrong note. He controlled everything from the arrangements down to the suits the band wore onstage. Starting off playing at a club called Kingsbury's in Madison, Illinois, within a year Turner had built up a full gig schedule, establishing his group as one of the most highly rated on the St. Louis club circuit, vying for popularity with their only real competition, Sir John's Trio featuring Chuck Berry. 

The bands would play all-nighters in St. Louis, then cross the river to the clubs of East St. Louis, Illinois, and continue playing until dawn. In St. Louis for the first time Turner and the band were exposed to a developing white teenage audience who were excited by R&B. Clubs the Kings played in St. Louis included Club Imperial, which was popular with white teenagers, The Dynaflow, The Moonlight Lounge, Club Riviera and the West End Walters. In East St. Louis, the group would play Kingsbury's, Club Manhattan and The Sportsman. In between live dates, Turner took the band to Cincinnati to record for Federal in 1956 and Chicago for Cobra/Artistic in 1958. He befriended St. Louis R&B fan Bill Stevens, who in 1958 set up the short-lived record label, Stevens, financed by his father Fred. Turner recorded numerous sessions for Stevens with various vocalists and musician lineups of the Kings, of which seven singles were released (these are collected on the Red Lightnin' compilation "Hey Hey - The Legendary Ike Turner and the Kings of Rhythm"/RL0047). None of the Stevens records had wide distribution and the operation ceased after a year. In addition the band appeared on local television shows. They toured the "Chitlin' Circuit" of black southern clubs for many years. 

1960s: The Ike & Tina Turner Revue

After the addition of his new wife Anna Mae Bullock (Tina Turner) as lead singer, Turner changed the name of the band from The Kings of Rhythm to the Ike & Tina Turner Revue. The creation of the revue was in a large part the birth of the soul revues of the 1960s. The band and Tina were joined on stage by the Ikettes who contributed backing vocals and choreographed dance moves. As backing band to the duo, the band played on many substantial soul hits, including the million sellers "A Fool In Love" (1960) and "It's Gonna Work Out Fine"(1961) both for Sue Records. In the mid-1960s Jimi Hendrix briefly played backing guitar in the band. Turner fired him because his guitar solos became "so elaborate they overstepped the bounds."

Band members

1951 Rocket 88 recording band (Jackie Brenston and His Delta Cats)
  • Ike Turner – piano
  • Jackie Brenston – saxophone, vocals
  • Willie Kizart – guitar
  • Raymond Hill – saxophone
  • Willie "Bad Boy" Sims – drums
1950s / 60s members
  • Ike Turner – piano
  • Jackie Brenston – saxophone, vocals
  • Johnny O'Neal – lead vocals
  • Willie "Bad Boy" Sims – drums
  • Raymond Hill – Saxophone
  • Bobby Fields
  • Bob Prindall – drums
  • Edward Nash
  • Eugene Washington – drums
  • Eddie Jones – Tenor Saxophone
  • Eugene Fox
  • Clifford Solomon
  • Clayton Love
  • Jimi Hendrix – guitar
  • Ernest Lane (late 50s – early 60s and 1999–2009)
  • Willie Kizart – guitar
  • C. V. Veal (Ike's cousin)
  • Jesse Knight, Jr. (Ike's nephew) – Bass
  • Bonnie Turner – Piano, lead vocals
  • Annie Mae Wilson – piano
Studio lineup for A Black Man's Soul (1969)
  • Bass – Jesse Knight
  • Drums – Mack Johnson
  • Guitar – Ike Turner
  • Percussion – Teasky Tribble
  • Piano – Fred Sample, Ike Turner, Billy Preston on "Getting Nasty"
  • Saxophone – Washee
  • Trombone – Jesse Heron
  • Vocals – Tina Turner
1970s members
  • Edward Burks – trombone
  • Jackie Clark – guitar
  • Warren Dawson – bass
  • McKinley Johnson – trumpet
  • Mark Landon – guitar[5]
  • John Leland – bass
  • Mary Reed – tenor saxophone
  • Jimmy Smith—tenor saxophone
  • J.D. Reed – baritone saxophone
  • Soko Richardson – drums
  • Ike Turner – Bandleader and arranger, Organ
Current line-up
  • Paul Smith - Keyboards, Organ
  • Leo Dombecki – Keyboards, saxophone
  • Bill Ray – Drums
  • Armando Cepeda – Bass
  • Ryan Montana – Saxophone
  • Seth Blumberg – Guitar


  • 1962: Dance With Ike & Tina Turner's Kings of Rhythm
  • 1969: Ike Turner & the Kings of Rhythm: A Black Man's Soul
  • 1972: Ike Turner & the Family Vibes: Strange Fruit
  • 1973: Ike Turner Presents the Family Vibes: Confined to Soul
  • 1973: Bad Dreams
  • 1984: Hey Hey – The Legendary Ike Turner and the Kings of Rhythm/Red Lightnin' compilation RL0047

Rédigé par Rolling Stones Stories

Publié dans #Groupe

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