I just started collecting old records that have a connection to Kansas City’s music history. I’ll be spotlighting these in future blog posts.
First up is my prized possession and probably the most important record made by a Kansas City musician: Shake, Rattle and Roll by Big Joe Turner.
Turner had an amazing career, having a hand in most of the significant musical developments in the first half of the 20th Century, including blues, big band, boogie-woogie, rhythm and blues, and rock ‘n’ roll.
Born in Kansas City, Mo., Turner first sang in church. When he was about 14, he started singing in KC’s nightclubs. He performed at the important From Spirituals to Swing concerts at Carnegie Hall in 1939, which lead to his recording career.
A gig with the Count Basie Orchestra in the early 1950s resulted in Turner being signed to Atlantic Records. Turner recorded a number of R&B hits for Atlantic, but Shake, Rattle and Roll took his career to a whole new level.
Shake, Rattle and Roll is one of rock ‘n’ roll’s foundational records. With this performance, Turner became one of the transitional artists between R&B and rock ‘n’ roll. According to legendary songwriter Doc Pomus, “Rock ‘n’ roll would have never happened without him.”
Shake, Rattle and Roll was recorded in New York on Feb. 15, 1954. Released in April 1954, it hit No. 1 on the R&B chart in June 1954. (Interestingly, Bill Haley & His Comets recorded their version the same week Turner’s version hit No. 1 and was released later that year.)
Turner continued to record and perform into the 1980s. He died in 1985 at age 74. He’s a member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the Kansas Music Hall of Fame.
Big Joe Turner: Rock & Roll Hall of Fame • Kansas Music Hall of Fame