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Flip Flop and Fly

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Published on Jan 8, 2011

Big Joe Turner died in Inglewood, California in November 1985, at the age of 74 of a heart attack, having suffered the earlier effects of arthritis, a stroke and diabetes. He was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. Turner was an American blues shouter from Kansas City, Missouri According to the songwriter Doc Pomus, "Rock and roll would have never happened without him. Although he came to his greatest fame in the 1950s with his pioneering rock and roll recordings, particularly "Shake, Rattle and Roll, Turner's career as a performer stretched from the 1920s into the 1980s.


Known variously as The Boss of the Blues, and Big Joe Turner (due to his 6'2", 300+ lbs stature), Turner was born in Kansas City and first discovered his love of music through involvement in the church. Turner's father was killed in a train accident when Joe was only four years old. He began singing on street corners for money, leaving school at age fourteen to begin working in Kansas City's nightclub scene, first as a cook, and later as a singing bartender. He eventually became known as The Singing Barman, and worked in such venues as The Kingfish Club and The Sunset, where he and his piano playing partner Pete Johnson became resident performers. The Sunset was managed by Piney Brown. It featured "separate but equal" facilities for white patrons. Turner wrote "Piney Brown Blues" in his honor and sang it throughout his entire career. Turner hit it big in 1954 with "Shake, Rattle and Roll", which not only enhanced his career, turning him into a teenage favorite, but also helped to transform popular music.[ The song is fairly raw, as Turner yells at his woman to "get outa that bed, wash yo' face an' hands" and comments that she's "wearin' those dresses, the sun comes shinin' through!, I can't believe my eyes, all that mess belongs to you. He sang the number on film in the 1955 theatrical feature Rhythm and Blues Revue.

Suddenly, at the age of 43, Turner was a rock star. His follow-ups "Well All Right," "Flip Flop and Fly," "Hide and Seek," "Morning, Noon and Night," and "The Chicken and the Hawk" all continued the good-time feel of "Shake, Rattle and Roll.

"Roll 'em boy,
Gonna jump for joy,
Yeah man, happy as a baby boy,
My baby just brought me a brand new choo-choo toy."
"Roll 'Em Pete" - by Joe Turner and Pete Johnson

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