Tina Turner, one of Tennessee’s most popular performers, gained international fame and attracted record-breaking audiences with her choreographed, fast-paced dancing, her musical blend of rhythm-n-blues and pop rock, and her electrifying stage show artistry. She has won seven Grammy Awards, numerous other music awards, sold more than 50 million recordings, and made several movies, music videos, and advertisements.
Tina Turner was born Anna Mae Bullock, November 26, 1939, in Nutbush to Richard and Zelma Bullock. As a child of sharecroppers, Turner harbored a dream of leaving the poverty of rural West Tennessee.
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Nutbush and other areas north of Memphis became a mecca for local and traveling gospel, classic blues, country blues, and jazz musicians. The performers appeared in the black churches, cafes, and juke joints that sprang up in the towns and backwoods. As a child, Turner was surrounded by music and music teachers; the Nutbush experiences served her well.
By age nine, Turner was singing in the Spring Hill Baptist Church choir. During her teen years, she sang blues with popular Nutbush native Bootsie Whitelow and his String Band. Even then, her strong voice and expressive mannerisms made her one of the most sought-after local talents.
In the 1950s, Turner developed her own distinct rhythm-n-blues style. After moving to St. Louis in 1956, she auditioned for Ike Turner’s King of Rhythm Band and became the lead vocalist; she was seventeen years old. By 1960 she had married Turner, who changed her name and the name of the band to the Ike and Tina Turner Revue and added female backup singers, the Ikettes. Her national popularity began in 1960 with their first Sun Records recording, “A Fool in Love.” She recorded with noted British producer Phil Spector in the mid-1960s. But her best work in these years came with the Ike and Tina Turner Revue and her performing style was admired and copied by many, including Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones. In 1972 Turner’s hit “Nutbush City Limits” became a classic in Britain and Europe.
The Revue became one of the most popular crossover acts of the rhythm-n-blues during the 1960s until its breakup in 1976, following Tina and Ike’s divorce. In 1980 Tina Turner teamed with Roger Davies Management, who promoted her as a solo artist and elevated her to superstardom and the title of “Queen of Rock-n-Roll.” In 1984 her album Private Dancer sold over ten million copies worldwide. The following February, she won the Grammy Award Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Female Vocal Performance for “What’s Love Got To Do With It.” Her “Better Be Good To Me” collected a Grammy as Best Female Rock Vocal. In addition to her recording achievements, Turner, who had earlier performed in the film Tommy, had a starring role in Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. In 1987 Turner’s “Break Every Rule” world tour closed in Osaka, Japan, after playing to four million fans during 230 appearances in twenty-five countries. Her South American tour played to 182,000 people in the Maracana Arena in Rio de Janeiro, the largest audience ever assembled for a single performer.
In the early 1990s, Turner performed in three world tours, “Foreign Affair,” “Simply the Best,” and “What’s Love.” A film, What’s Love Got To Do With It, based on her book I, Tina, which depicted her stormy relationship with Ike Turner, received popular acclaim. Her 1996 and 1997 tour was entitled “Wildest Dreams.” Turner still continues to perform and record, with a new record and world tour in 2000.