On this week in 1985, Mr. Big Joe Turner passed away at the age of 74 of heart failure. The Boss of the Blues had previous arthritis complications, and suffered from stroke and diabetes effects. Turner was then inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.
Nicknamed Big Joe Turner after his 6’1” and 300+ pound stature, the blues shouter from Missouri began his career at the age of 14; working at Kansas City nightclubs where he would cook and bartend, and was later known as “The Singing Barman”. He eventually became a set performer at The Sunset and The Kingfish Club venues along with his friend, Pete Johnson, on the piano.
Turner and Johnson soon worked their way to New York, where they began recording songs like, “Wee Baby Blues”, “Roll Em Pete” and “Cherry Red”. In 1945, while in Los Angeles for some time recording for musical movies, Turner and Johnson opened up their own bar, The Blue Moon Club.
After signing a contract to record with National Records Company in 1945, Turner had one of his greatest successes with “Shake, Rattle and Roll” in 1954; standing at #127 on Rolling Stone’s list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
Turner continued performing the blues throughout the 1960s and 1970s, going on to perform at European Jazz Festivals and releasing an album with Roomful of Blues, Blues Train. In 1983, he was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame.