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CHESS 1459; MARCH 1951



Usually we don’t do this… have consecutive reviews of two records that came out on the same label.

We like to split them up even though admittedly it’s as much for aesthetic reasons when scanning the Master Index as it is for logistical ones. But doing so also keeps us from covering the same ground day after day when it comes to the behind the scenes characters, be it record label owners, producers or session musicians.

But here that’s precisely the point, because in order to tell the complete story of one of the most indelible records of the early 1950’s we need to look at all of the key decisions that shaped its legend including how the bandleader who forever resented not being given official credit of the massive hit wasn’t so much the victim of any nefarious dealings, but rather just suffered from a bit of bad luck.


All Because Of You
If you haven’t yet, obviously you need to go back and read the preceding two reviews starting with the record on which all of this drama hinges, Rocket 88, a Number One smash that retains an enormous amount of historical acclaim (some of it admittedly misguided) all these years later.

But for the lazy, here’s the basic plot points relevant to today’s record.

Ike Turner’s band had lost their lead vocalist, Johnny O’Neal, just before traveling north from Mississippi to Memphis to audition for Sam Phillips who had an open door policy in regards to recording sessions and would attempt to sell the master recordings to an interested record label.

The band itself was solid with Turner holding down the piano, Willie Kizart on guitar and a pair of saxophonists in Raymond Hill and Jackie Brenston to go along with the rhythm section, but without O’Neal fronting them they were going to be at a disadvantage entering a studio for the first time with vocal records obviously an easier sell than a batch of instrumentals unless you had a virtuoso in your midst.

So here’s where we come to the steady stream outright lies, or at best revisionist memories, as Sam Phillips recounted this session years later. “Ike Turner wanted a record out real badly. I said, ‘Ike, man, you’re a hell of a piano player, you play guitar real good, but you just can’t sing”.

Okay, Sam, then why did you record him singing and sell the songs to Chess? Furthermore Ike Turner didn’t even PLAY guitar at the time. He was strictly a pianist, so Phillips is once again trying to re-write history to make himself seem far more omnipotent than he really was (the fact nobody ever challenged him on this stuff is the real problem).

As for Turner’s vocal efforts on Heartbroken And Worried, well they might not be anything with hit potential but they’re actually slightly better than Jackie Brenston’s painful turn on Come Back Where You Belong if that counts for anything.

No, then again I guess it really doesn’t after all.


My Heart Is Filled With Sorrow
With its rudimentary piano triplets in the opening you’re not sure where this is going at first but once Turner starts singing it sounds like a Floyd Dixon outtake. Same nasal tone, a sad theme but with a more prominent electric guitar in the bulk of the song, which is somewhat surprising considering that you’d think Turner would want to feature himself a little more on piano.

It probably wouldn’t matter much, the mood of Heartbroken And Worried is effectively conveyed by Willie Kizart’s guitar, coaxing lines out in between Turner’s vocals as if he were pulling teeth. The solo takes the same hesitant approach for the most part, fraught with tension while suggesting a melody without fully delivering on it.

Though they get little room in the arrangement the saxophones provide a welcome relief in their supporting roles, as they’re the only thing to offset the stark sounding tones of the piano and guitar, balancing the track just enough to make it more tolerable.

With despondent lyrics and a crawling pace that’s dominated by the slightly ominous guitar this is a really bleak performance that doesn’t invite repeat listening even if there’s some interesting aspects of the record to pick through, such a few grammatically incorrect lines that leave you wondering whether the song was awkwardly written or if Turner merely fumbled them when the tapes were rolling.

During the bridge he comes close to battling his shortcomings as a singer to a draw even if he has no hope of fully overcoming those weaknesses but this was just not the right type of song for him to try as too much hinges on the vocal and there’s not nearly enough compelling musical support to off-set it.


My Baby Has Left Me With Another Man She Met
Ike wasn’t completely out of line for being annoyed with how fate dealt him a bad hand in this instance… it WAS his band after all and Brenston was just a minor member of said band who got a chance to sing due to circumstance. It’s certainly true he made the most of it, but the song wasn’t original and Turner didn’t get ripped off nearly as much as Jimmy Liggins did for having his own song Cadillac Boogie appropriated for the new record.

The best case scenario for Turner would’ve been had Leonard Chess followed the Johnny Otis prototype and had Turner’s name prominently featured as the bandleader on every release with whatever vocalist was being used simply getting the “Featuring” designation, something which Joe Morris was now doing as well.

That wouldn’t have helped Heartbroken And Worried though, which while not completely terrible is also not anything you’d go out of your way to hear if not for the historical implications.

Considering it’d be almost a full decade before he’d make a really big impact, what this record shows was that talented and driven though he may be, Ike Turner still had more to learn when it came to making good records.


(Visit the Artist page of Ike Turner for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)