Stories --> Tina
When Tina first saw Ike he was
24 and she was 16 years old. As a teenager he had played records at
a radio station in his home town in Mississippi. Then, while he was
still at school, he formed an eighteen-man band: The Tophatters. After
a year or two The Tophatters divided into two smaller groups. One of
them, led by Ike, was The Kings of Rhythm.
The group became a popular dance band in Mississippi. Mostly they copied
the top forty songs, but they played their own special kind of rhythm
and blues, too. Then B. B. King, a famous black musician, arranged for
them to make a record. One of the songs they played was Rocked 88, (the
name of a new car). Many people believe it was the first ever rock and
roll record. At the time, though, it didn't make Ike Turner a star.
Three years later, The Kings of Rhythm moved to St Louis. There they
began to play at dances and in clubs. Soon, the group was playing lots
of shows every week around St Louis. One of the clubs they worked in
was the Manhattan. The people who came to the shows were all black and
didn't want to hear copies of the top forty white music. Instead they
wanted to hear what the Kings really enjoyed playing - rough, hot rhythm
Anna Mae Bullock had never heard such exciting music in all her life.
Soon she became a regular at the Manhattan. Together with Alline she
got to know the musicians in the band. She even told Ike that she wanted
to sing on stage with the Kings. "Good idea", he replied,
"I'll give you a chance one day soon". But the weeks passed
and Anna's chance never came. Then, "One night, somebody in the
band asked Alline to sing, but she refused so I just started singing."
Ike jumped off the stage, ran across the room and lifted Anna off the
ground. "I didn't know you could really sing", he said. After
that Anna Bullock became one of several singers with The Kings of Rhythm.
Ike called her "Little Ann" and started to buy her clothes
and jewellery. Pink, silver and blue dresses - he even bought her a
gold tooth. Anna thought she was in heaven.
There was a problem, though - Zelma. Anna was still a high-school student
and hadn't told her mother about her new job with The Kings of Rhythm.
Then one day a friend of Ike's - another singer - called at the Bullock's
house. She asked Zelma if "Little Ann" was ready to come and
practice some new songs with the band. Suddenly Anna's secret wasn't
a secret any more.
Mother and daughter argued. At first Zelma simply refused to allow Anna
to go on appearing at clubs and dances. She told her: "No more
singing - don't even ask." The a few days later Ike drove up to
the house in a pink Cadillac. He talked to Zelma and explained that
he wanted to look after Anna like an older brother. She had a beautiful
voice and he believed she was going to be a big star. Zelma wanted her
daughter to be a success, didn't she? Wasn't that what every mother
wanted for her children?
After that, "Little Ann" sang with The Kings of Rhythm more
and more often. At first Ike really did look after her like an older
brother. He gave her expensive presents and taught her a lot about the
music business. Soon, as Tina explains, "I could sing his songs
the way he heard them in his head."
Around the same time, when she was 18 years old, Tina had a baby boy.
The father was a player in Ike's group, but he soon left them. Now Tina
was a mother and a singer. At 20 years old, "Little Ann" was
the main singer with The Kings of Rhythm. Even so, she wasn't Ike's
first choice to record A Fool In Love. Instead he chose and old friend
- Art Lassiter. At the last minute, though, Ike and Lassiter argued
about money. That's when he asked "Little Ann" to sing the
song. She agreed.
Six months after A Fool In Love became a hit all over America. And not
just in the black music charts - it reached the white top forty, too.
Suddenly, after ten years of waiting, Ike Turner had the hit he had
been waiting for. Happy and excited, he told "Little Ann"
about his plans for the future. He wanted to move to California and
leave The Kings of Rhythm behind. From now on she was going to be the
star in his new band. Not only that, she was going to have a new name
- "Tina Turner"
The Ike and Tina Turner
"After one year with Ike I knew what he was really
like. One thing stuck in my mind. 'When I've made him rich, I'll leave
him'" - Tina
The idea for "Little Ann's" new name and look came from films
and picture-books. As a boy, Ike had always loved stories about "wild
African women". One of his favorites was "Sheena - Queen of
the Jungle". "Sheena" became "Tina", and Tina
became Ike's personal wild woman.
Next he decided to add some backing singers to the act. At that time,
another black singer, Ray Charles, always appeared on stage with three
girls - the Raelettes. Why not copy Ray Charles? Ike employed three
young singers, gave them stage clothes like Tina's and called them the
Ikettes. With their long hair, short skirts and high shoes, dozens of
Ikettes danced and sang behind Tina over the years. There were always
rules, though. No Ikette was allowed to be taller or prettier than Tina.
Also, no Ikette was ever allowed to try and "steal the show".
By the end of 1960 A Fool In Love was number two in the rhythm and blues
charts. Then, just when Ike wanted to take "The Ike and Tina Turner
Revue" on tour, Tina became ill. She spent six weeks in hospital,
but at last Ike decided that enough was enough. He sent some friends
to the hospital and told them to bring Tina back home. The next evening
she was on stage in Cincinnati. That was the beginning of the first
So far, Tina had hardly traveled at all. Now she hardly did anything
else. In the two years after A Fool In Love, the Revue appeared in clubs
all over the country. They also had several more rhythm and blues hits,
including Poor Fool and It's Gonna Work Out Fine. Traveling meant hotels,
smoky clubs and long hours, but at first Tina was happy. She was becoming
a star and that's what she wanted. On stage she sang and danced twice
a night and the crowds screamed and shouted for more. She was earning
a lot of money, too. It was all like a dream.
The things began to change. Both on-stage and off, Ike Turner controlled
the Revue completely. He chose the songs, the musicians in the band,
the clubs they played in - everything. He also began to control Tina.
Before long it became clear that Ike could also be violent. Soon Tina
was regularly appearing on stage with a black eye or a cut lip. At the
time she thought he would change but he didn't. Many people have asked
Tina why she stayed with Ike. Her answer is: "I didn't know anything
else- or anybody else. And I wanted to sing."
Tina was also now a mother of two children. She had a second son. Ike
was the father. They were now almost a family, with Tina also looking
after Ike's two sons from his first marriage. Tina's life was hard and
busy. The Revue were now one of America's top black bands. They even
appeared on TV, and then in Las Vegas for the first time.
But although they were a success, Ike and Tina still hadn't scored a
really big hit in the white pop charts. Ike was prepared to do anything
to get one. That's why the Revue toured and recorded so much in the
early '60s. Ike knew that Tina was the real star of the Revue. He also
knew that without her he might never get the number one records and
millions of dollars he wanted so badly. Somehow he had to have total
control over her. The answer was marriage.
Soon after the Revue moved from St Louis to California in 1962, Ike
asked Tina to become his wife. She accepted because she was frightened.
Two days later Ike drove her to Tijuana in Mexico. Tina expected a real
wedding with a white dress and a cake. Instead all she remembers was
somebody "pushing this paper across a table, and I signed it. And
I thought, 'This is my wedding'"
The next day Tina called her mother in St Louis and told her the news.
Zelma said she was very happy. Tina wanted to tell her the truth, but
couldn't. "I wanted to say, 'Ma, forget it, this is not a marriage'.
But it was too late for that. I was now Mrs. Ike Turner."
River Deep Mountain High
"A perfect record from start to finish" - George
By the middle of the '60s, the records were selling well, and Ike and
Tina were on of America's top bands. Between Ike and Tina themselves,
though, things were getting worse. Ike was growing more and more violent.
Also he had started going out with other women. Meanwhile Tina still
had to be his "pet" at hoe and "Queen of the Jungle"
At that time the Revue toured for 270 days of each year. No wonder Tina
described herself as "the hardest-working woman in rock".
The really big shows and number one records of Ike's dreams still hadn't
happened, though. The Phil Spector stepped in.
Spector was a hugely successful 25-year-old record producer. In the
early '60s he produced over twenty hits, one after one. The Crystals,
The Ronettes, The Righteous Brothers and his "wall of sound".
Now he decided to make a record with Tina. There was a problem, though.
Spector wanted to work with Tina only - not with Ike or the rest of
the Revue. At first Ike wasn't sure, but when Spector agreed to put
the names "Ike and Tina Turner" on the record, Ike agreed.
What happened next was really the start of Tina's future success on
her own. For two weeks she practiced the new song - River Deep Mountain
High with Spector. Short (160 cm, the same height as Tina) and shy,
Spector played the piano as Tina sang. At last they were ready to record.
Without Ike the 26-year-old Tina suddenly felt free at last. She loved
the song and she wanted to do her best for Spector.
By May 1966 River Deep Mountain High was ready. Bob Krasnow, the Turner's
manager, described Tina's work on the song as "electric".
Everyone - even Ike - was sure it was going to be a big hit. But when
it came out they realized they were wrong. River Deep Mountain High
only reached number 88 in the US pop charts. The reason, Tina now believes,
was that "it was too black for the pop radio stations and too pop
for the black stations."
She was disappointed, but not sorry she had recorded the song, because
"it showed people what I had in me." Then in July all the
disappointment disappeared. News arrived that River Deep Mountain High
had reached number three in the British pop charts. It wasn't the direction
Tina had expected success to come form, but it was still great news.
Not only that - one of Britain's top bands, the Rolling Stones, asked
the Turners to play on their autumn tour. Ike and Tina accepted.
Twenty years later, Tina looked back on that first European tour as
"the start of everything for me. I had never known my real home
until I came to Europe." During the tour she and Ike became good
friends with Mick Jagger and the rest of the Stones. They also made
a lot of friends in the British public. The Revue was being accepted
not just by black music fans, but by white fans, too. Ike put it like
this: "We were breaking the chains that were holding us back from
a mass audience."
He also thought that the Revue's European success sent a loud, clear
message to the American record business. "Hey, this is a band that
can reach all kinds of people!"
Musically then, things were better than ever, but personally Tina was
still very unhappy. With River Deep Mountain High she had worked without
Ike for the first time. It had felt wonderful, but was it ever going
to happen again? Tina hadn't confidence to leave and start again on
her own, so she just carried on as before. She now says about herself
in those days: "Tina Turner - that woman who went out on stage
- she was somebody else. I was like a shadow."
There was hope, though. During the British tour a friend took Tina to
see a woman who said she could read the future. She told the singer,
"You will be among the biggest of stars, and the person with you
will fall away like a leaf from a tree." At that moment, Tina now
says, she began to believe in herself for the very first time. It was
"the beginning of my escape from Ike Turner."
"You mean you can actually spend $70,000 at Woolworth's?"
- (rock manager Bob Krasnow talking about the Turners' Los Angeles house
in the ' 70s)
After their return to America in 1966, Ike and Tina went back on the
road. Now, though, things were different. Instead of $500 for two shows
a night, they began to earn $20,000 for one show a night. They also
began to appear on all the top US television shows. Suddenly TV hosts
like Ed Sullivan, Johnny Carson and Andy Williams were presenting Ike
and Tina Turner to fans in their millions.
Inside the Revue, though, little had changed. The circle of violence
and hard work only seemed to get worse for Tina. More and more she began
to feel like a prisoner. Once she even tried to run away, but Ike found
her and brought her back. That was the first time he beat her with a
wire coat hanger. At that point Tina thought her life was like a horror
Controlled by fear she stayed with the Revue. She also stayed because
of the children. Between them Ike and Tina had four boys. Two were Ike's
from his first marriage. One was Tina's son from her early days in St
Louis and the fourth was Ike and Tina's own son. In the late '60s all
four were still very young. So Tina stayed, waiting for things to get
better and suffering as she waited.
By 1968 she had become a regular visitor at her local hospital in Los
Angeles. Usually she only came with cuts and marks and black eyes, but
once it was much more serious. That was the night Tina Turner tried
to kill herself. The attempt failed, but only just. Afterwards, when
Tina woke up, Ike told her, "You want to die? Then die." It
was the lowest point in Tina's entire life.
She survived, though, and again musical success gave her a reason to
go on living.
In 1969 the Revue toured with the Rolling Stones again - this time in
America. They played eighteen shows in thirteen cities, and reached
the biggest number of fans so far. They also began to play a new kind
of music - rock and roll. Tina was tired of just singing rhythm and
blues. It was time to try something different. She knew exactly which
songs she wanted to sing, too. One was the Beatles' Come Together.
"I said to Ike, 'Please, please let me do that song on stage'."
Another was Proud Mary, which had been a hit for Creedance Clearwater
Revival. The first time she heard it Tina remembers thinking that it
was the kind of song she really wanted to sing.
At first Ike wasn't sure that the Revue should play rock and roll. But
when he saw how much the Rolling Stones' fans loved it, he changed his
mind. He was even more pleased two years later when Proud Mary became
the Ike and Tina Turner Revue's biggest ever American hit. It went to
number four in the pop charts and sold more than a million copies. Europeans
loved Proud Mary, too. Finally Ike's dream was coming true. After ten
years in Mississippi and ten more with the Revue, he was at the top.
In the early '70s, Ike and Tina played at the Hilton and the International
Hotels in Las Vegas every year. Sometimes they opened the show for Elvis
Presley. Once Ike and Tina returned to Los Angeles with suitcases full
Those were also the years the Turners lived in a rich area of Los Angeles
called Inglewood. They had a huge house there with an all-green kitchen,
mirrors on the bedroom ceiling and a waterfall in the living room. There
was a coffee table in the shape of a guitar. The Turners ex-manager
Bob Krasnow, saw all this for the first time and said "You mean
you can actually spend $70,000 at Woolworth's?"
Most of the ideas were Ike's. Tina, as usual, didn't argue. She just
worked hard, looked after the boys and tried not to make Ike angry.
Then Ike got another idea. He decided to build a place where he could
make records. It was only five minutes from the Inglewood mansion and
he called it "Bolic Sound". At first Tina was pleased. "When
he built it, I thought, 'Wonderful - I'll be rid of him.' But then the
'phone calls started three 'clock the morning. 'Tina- Ike wants you'
." "It's possible to push a person too far, and I was pushed
beyond the limit" - (Tina)
Ike began to spend more and more time at Bolic Sounds. Sometimes he
worked there for five days without any sleep. He and his musicians used
drugs to keep awake. And all the time he was looking for just one thing
- the Revue's next hit. When it came, though, it didn't come from Ike
himself, but from Tina.
When she was 33, she decided to write about her early days in Tennessee.
The result was one of the most powerful songs in American rock history
- Nutbush City Limits. It reached number 22 in the US charts and number
2 in the UK It was another big international hit for the Revue - but
it was also their last.
More money, more touring and more violence from Ike followed the record's
success. It was the same pattern Tina had known for fourteen years.
Slowly, though, something new was beginning to happen. Instead of just
accepting Ike's violence, Tina started to get angry. She looked around
and saw other people changing their lives. All over America women and
black people were demanding and winning more freedom. Society had begun
to accept new ideas.
Then in 1974 Cher Bono left her husband Sonny. Sonny and Cher had had
one of the most famous and public marriages in show business. If Cher
could leave Sonny and survive professionally...
Tina first tried to explain to Ike that she needed more independence.
"I kept saying things, but he didn't listen. Then he listened and
he didn't like what he heard, and he tried to stop me saying it."
Ike refused to change, though. Tina was moving forwards towards the
'80s, but he was still stuck in the '50s.
Anger wasn't enough, though. Tina knew she needed strength, too, and
the ability to really believe in herself. That's what she found in Buddhism.
In 1974 Ike brought a woman called Valerie Bishop to the Inglewood house.
Valerie was a secretary at the Revue's Los Angeles office - she was
also a Buddhist. At the time Tina knew nothing about Buddhism, so Valerie
began explaining it to her. Immediately Tina realized it was what she
had been looking for.
Everyday she began repeating the special words "Nam-myo-ho-renge-kyo"
over and over again. She also read about Buddhism and talked to other
Buddhists about their beliefs. Slowly the anger inside her changed to
strength. She was ready for the next step.
She was 34. That's when film director Ken Russell asked Tina to play
in his new film "Tommy". It was a rock musical written by
The Who and starring Roger Daltrey, Eric Clapton, Elton John, Jack Nicholson
and Ann-Margret. Russell was offering a lot of money, so Ike agreed
to let Tina appear. Tina was delighted. She had always wanted to act.
"Tommy" was important to Tina Turner for two reasons. First,
it proved that she was more than just half of Ike and Tina Turner.
"My part was small, but it was my part. It gave me strength. I
could feel myself growing." Second, it gave her the chance to work
with singer and actress Ann-Margret. The two women had met before and
liked each other. Now, during "Tommy" they became really good
friends. After the film, Ann-Margret was going to make a TV "special"
in England. She asked Tina to sing in the show and Tina was happy to
On the show, she and Ann-Margret sang three songs together. Proud Mary,
Nutbush City Limits and Honky Tonk Women. It was the first time Tina
had appeared without Ike and the Revue. As she flew back to California
afterwards, though, she decided it was not going to be the last. During
1975 the Revue became less and less successful.
In fact they only managed to get one song into the US top 100 that year
- Baby Get It On. But it wasn't only the hits that were getting fewer.
It was the fans too. Even on tour the Revue was less popular than in
Tina was now 35. If she wanted to be a success on her own, she knew
she had to leave soon. But it wasn't going to be easy. Ike's drug problem
was going from bad to worse. So too was his violence towards her. She
couldn't talk to him any more. All she could do was wait.
Then, on 2 July 1976, all Tina's waiting ended. That day the Revue was
leaving California to begin yet another US tour. This time the first
concert was going to be in Dallas, Texas. In the car on the way to Los
Angeles airport, Ike offered Tina a piece of chocolate. She refused,
and he began to hit her. That's when Tina remembers thinking "Today
I'm fighting back."
Sixteen years of anger were suddenly set free. She began to kick and
hit Ike as hard as she could. She knew this was the end.
The couple fought all the way to the airport. They even continued on
the 'plane. Then, in the car from Dallas airport to the Hilton Hotel,
Tina told Ike exactly what she thought of him. He couldn't believe his
ears, and said, "You never talked to me like this before!"
At the hotel they explained the blood on their clothes by saying there
had been an accident. Then they went up to their room. There, Ike lay
down on the bed - he hadn't slept for five days. Tina waited until he
was asleep. Then she looked at her face in the mirror. It was covered
in blood. Quickly she washed, then put on a pair of dark glasses and
a coat. Her heart was beating faster than it ever had before. And then
with just 36 cents in her pocket. Tina Turner walked out.
Back to Work
"You take everything I've made in the last sixteen
years. I'll take my future." - (Tina)
In the first two months after she left Ike, Tina moved several times.
One reason was that she didn't want Ike to find her. Another was that
she couldn't afford to pay any of the friends she was staying with.
Instead, she helped to clean their houses .
She began repeating her Buddhist words for as much as four hours each
day. And she also started carrying a gun.
She needed it. One night Ike and several of his friends arrived in cars
outside the house where she was staying. Tina refused to answer the
door. Instead she called the police. Then, when they arrived, she pointed
out of the window and told them "I am Tina Turner. That's Ike.
I left him and I'm not going back."
In time, even Ike realized she was serious. That's when he sent the
four children to live with her. He also informed her, through his lawyer,
that she owed him $500,000 in lost shows and broken agreements. He wanted
to make her life as difficult as possible and force her back into the
Revue. But Tina didn't change her mind. Instead she got a lawyer of
her own and informed Ike that she wanted to end the marriage. She was
under terrific pressure, but she never smoked, drank or took drugs.
Instead she simply began to build a new life for herself. It was difficult,
but she was happy, because for the first time ever she felt free and
had her own friends. For a year Tina didn't work. She says now that
she needed a break from music.
In the end, though, she decided to start a new chapter. She found herself
some musicians and began to sing again. As soon as she was in front
of a band again, she felt all the old excitement. She was now 37 and,
although the worst was over, Tina still had a long way to go.
The first and biggest problem was money. Next was her future in the
music business. How was she going to prove that Tina Turner could be
a star on her own? Thirdly there was the ending of the marriage. Ike
wasn't accepting it easily. In fact he was fighting to keep everything-
even Tina's jewelry. In the end Tina decided not to play the same game,
and told him: "You take everything I've made in the last sixteen
years. I'll take my future."
The divorce judge asked her: "Young lady, are you sure?" Tina
was sure. She knew that if she tried to fight Ike with lawyers, it might
never end. For Tina, her own life was more important. She had been Ike's
wife. Now it was time to be herself.