Side A 1. Rocket 88 2. I Want To See My Baby 3. Jackie's Chewing Gum 4. Make My Love Come Down 5. My Real Gone Rocket 6. Mule 7. My Baby Left Town
Side B 1. Hi Ho Baby 2. Lovin' Time 3. Fat Meat Is Greasy 4. 88 Boogie 5. You Won't Be Comin' Back 6. True Love 7. The Blues Got Me Again
My thanks to our new donor – Big Al (The Bloggers’ Pal) for sending in this Green Line LP of Jackie Brenston Chess sides. Big Al is a fellow pilgrim on the Way of the Wailin’ Tenor Sax and has sent in several contributions which will appear on the blog.
The story behind “Rocket 88” has been told often – in Robert Palmer’s “Deep Blues,” in Jim Dawson and Steve Propes’ “What Was The First Rock ‘N’ Roll Record?” and perhaps most memorably in Nick Tosches’ “Unsung Heroes of Rock ‘n’ Roll.”
It is a cautionary tale, of hopes raised and dashed, of friendships betrayed, of resentment and forgiveness, and, sadly, of an inordinate amount of boozing. The story unfolds in the year of Our Lord 1951, in Clarksdale, Mississippi, far from the usual Bebopwino arenas of Los Angeles and New York. Here we find ambitious young bandleader and deejay Ike Turner playing a few local gigs, and impressing guitarist B.B. King who was just passing through on the way to Sam Phillip’s Memphis Recording Service.
On B.B.’s recommendation, a recording date was arranged for Turner’s outfit (modestly named The Kings of Rhythm) at Sam Phillip’s studio at 706 Union Avenue where he recorded local blues musicians and leased or sold the masters to the Bihari Brothers’ Modern label in Los Angeles. And here we enter the realm of divine intervention, for lo, guitarist Willie Kizart’s amp was damaged in transit but on Sam’s insistence the session went ahead with paper stuffed into the cone. The result was a distorted fuzztone which dominated the best track on the session, “Rocket 88,” a paean to the Oldsmobile automobile of that name.
The song was written by band baritone sax player Jackie Brenston but it was really just an updated version of Jimmy Liggins’ 1947 jump blues “Cadillac Boogie.” The fortuitously distorted guitar gave the recording a sound which was different from other records of that era. The vocal was performed by Brenston, a long-time friend (some say they were cousins) of Ike. And here Sam Phillips takes another hand, for from the session he credited “Rocket 88” and “Come Back Where You Belong” to “Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats” while the other two sides, “Heartbroken and Worried” and “I’m Lonesome Baby” were credited to “Ike Turner and his Kings of Rhythm.” The sides were sent off to Chicago to be released on Chess.
“Rocket 88” was an immediate smash, tearing up the R&B charts to the number one spot and finishing as the 8th best selling R&B record of 1951. This was great news for Jackie and the Chess brothers, but not so hot for Ike Turner (whose Chess single bombed) and the Biharis. In the blink of an eye Jackie was out of the Kings of Rhythm and touring the country with a new set of Delta Cats. Sam Phillips started to think more seriously about starting his own record label and a corny country musician called Bill Haley brought out a good cover version of “Rocket 88” and decided that covering R&B records might prove to be both artistically and financially advantageous.
As for Jackie, his star was soon on the wane. The follow up release on Chess, “My Real Gone Rocket” went nowhere and there were signs of trouble when his next release, “Independent Woman,” was backed by a Billy Love side, “Juiced,” which was credited to Jackie despite his total lack of involvement in that recording. Jackie’s Chess career finally faded out in 1953. There was a brief spell in Lowell Fulson’s band before Jackie found himself back with Ike Turner, this time as a salaried sax player.
By now the Turner outfit was more like a rhythm and blues review than the tight little group which had entered Phillip’s studio only a few years before. They were signed to Federal Records and released sides credited to Ike Turner and his Orchestra, Billy Gayles, The Gardenias and even two records credited to Jackie Brenston – “What Can It Be” / “Gonna Wait For My Chance” and “The Mistreater” / “Much Later”, both in 1956.
They were reasonably good records, especially the hard rocker “Much Later,” but they were not to be the route back to stardom for Jackie. Indeed that route was now closed forever as Jackie took to some serious boozing with fellow band member (and one of the original Kings of Rhythm) Raymond Hill. He remained with Ike Turner into the early sixties and was on the international smash hit for Ike and Tina Turner “A Fool In Love” which was released on Sue in 1960. Jackie had his own single on Sue, “Trouble Up The Road” but naturally it didn’t sell. In 1962 Jackie parted with Ike Turner for the final time, worked for a while with Sid Wallace, and now sober again, made his last recording with the Earl Hooker band for the Mel-Lon label in 1963.
He returned to Clarksdale where he took up the insanely lethal combination of truck driving and wine drinking, finally passing in December 1979 while being treated in a veterans’ hospital in Memphis.
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This is a site dedicated to rockin' 1940s and 1950s music, ripped from vinyl. Some cuts are a bit on the rough side. If you're looking for audio perfection you're on the wrong site baby! If you like what you hear on this site please buy this kind of music. There are many reasonably priced reissues available from web dealers or perhaps from your local record shop, if it still exists. These reissues will be in far better sound quality than the vinyl rips on this site and they will usually have more up to date liner notes and info, so go out and splash a little cash now and again. Help keep those reissue labels going in these difficult times.
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"The night is the corridor of history, not the history of famous people or great events, but that of the marginal, the ignored, the supressed, the unacknowledged; the history of vice, of error, of confusion, of fear, of want; the history of intoxication, of vainglory, of delusion, of dissipation, of delirium." Luc Sante - Low Life