Boss of the Blues

Artist: Big Joe Turner

Year: 1956

Genre: Rhythm & Blues

Grade: A-

Big Joe Turner succeeded in kickstarting the popularity of rhythm & blues—and therefore setting forth the course of rock ‘n’ roll — with his 1954 hit single “Shake, Rattle & Roll.” Yet Turner, alongside pianist Pete Johnson, had been charting music history since the early ‘30s. His jazzy “shout” blues style mixed in well with Johnson’s boogie-woogie sensibilities.

This live recording — the final reunion between Turner and Johnson — is a highlight of Big Joe’s influential career. The pair dig up some old originals, such as “Roll ‘Em Pete” (1938)  and “Cherry Red (’39), and also dust off some old, old classics, like “How Long Blues” (a Leroy Carr standard from the ‘20s) and the “St. Louis Blues” (originally published by W.C. Handy in 1914). Together, they and their backing big-band prove that a charismatic personality can not only be the Boss of the Blues, but also a rock and roll godfather.

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