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RPM 356; MAY 1952



When in doubt, return to the basics.

That’s pretty good advice no matter what predicament you find yourself in, but it seems to work particularly well when it comes to music.

Sometimes artists forget what it was that got them to a certain point in their career and while we admire experimentation and stretching out, trying new things doesn’t always pay off and so going back to something tried and true can never hurt.

Of course Ike Turner at this point hadn’t had any success under his own name with his vocals out in front to fall back on, so in his case he simply took someone else’s song structure and another artist’s vocal approach and adapted them for himself.



I Did So Much Wrong…
The fallout over the credit for the Number One hit Ike Turner felt rightly should’ve been his was destructive for everyone involved, showing just how vital the twin pillars of honesty and integrity – two words not found in any record company’s vocabulary – were to sustaining a profitable business.

This deception had been precipitated by Sam Phillips who was trying to let Chess Records think that he was recording two artists rather than just one band with two leads and when the hit came from the one credited to Jackie Brenston And His Delta Cats rather than Ike Turner’s Kings Of Rhythm, an indignant Turner blew up. He soon parted ways with baritone saxophonist and occasional singer in his band and promptly signed with RPM, an off-shoot of Modern Records, where he’d act as a talent scout, bandleader and de facto producer for the L.A. based label throughout the Southeast.

To his credit Turner kept busy for them and oversaw a good deal of records by some future stars – Bobby “Blue” Bland and Little Junior Parker among them, as well as playing behind B.B. King on a huge hit – but Turner himself wanted more public credit than he’d ever get if he merely stayed behind the scenes so in the spring of 1952 he took vocals on a few songs cut with Ben Burton’s band.

One of these was Trouble And Heartaches, but like the flip side where he appropriated another song for the basic structure (as he did for that matter with “Brenston’s” Rocket 88 which they lifted intact from Jimmy Liggins’ classic rocker from early 1949 Cadillac Boogie)– Turner would do the same here, going back a little further this time around and settling on a vital pre-rock song, perhaps hoping its source would be a little more obscure by now.

But at least that gives us the chance to talk about Roy Milton, the drummer and bandleader whose smash R.M. Blues is the source of this cut and who was one of rock’s forefather’s in the mid-1940’s.

That song and this song are one in the same, but I suppose you can grant Ike at least part of the songwriting credit he claims here for speeding it up and coming up with new lyrics, even if it’s largely a similar story.

If nothing else the adaptability of it shows just how vital Milton was in anticipating rock’s arrival. The churning rhythm, Milton’s snare drum adding to the beat, and the steady groove they created with Camille Howard’s boogie piano prominently in the mix, were all vital components that would get further distilled – and muscled up – in rock ‘n’ roll as Turner shows here.


Sleepless Nights And Misery
The idea of writing new lyrics to someone else’s song may have paid off once for Turner, or for Brenston as it were, but it was definitely not a good habit to get into.

For starters there were copyright laws to contend with and while he got away with it here, and they weren’t even nabbed on the Liggins’ re-write, that didn’t mean it was safe sledding legally and it’d probably hurt more than his pride if he got credit for a hit only to have to hand over the royalties to someone else.

But the other reason why this was problematic was because the original records he was stealing from tended to be popular in their own right and thus it was far too easy to see what he was doing. Maybe fans didn’t mind – then again maybe the older ones who had followed Milton might – but record companies that may be interested in signing Turner should his deal with the Bihari brothers run aground would likely be less inclined to pursue him if one of the “talents” listed on his résumé – songwriting – was actually more like “re-writing”.

Besides, it’s not as if he came up with anything radically different on Trouble And Heartaches, as Milton’s record has him asking a former flame why they broke his heart while Turner informs us he’s failed at multiple relationships, not just one. At least that aspect was true to life.

Granted it’s a little more interesting to our ears, possibly because we’re impressed that in 1952 Turner is admitting on record that he’s slept with lots of women, not merely inferring it as most records would, coming right out and using those words which is something of a surprise to hear the first time through. Then again, it’s not as if the moral police were patrolling records like this heard in out of the way juke joints and discount record bins.

With his nasal Floyd Dixon impersonation on vocals it’s hardly going to be very stirring a performance, though at least the tempo change from the Milton record definitely brings this a little more up to date, as does replacing the trumpet-led break with one featuring Turner’s piano and a (rather sickly) saxophone.

On the whole this doesn’t sound bad… but when you’re basing it on one of the best records of its era it’s not as if too much credit can come Turner’s way despite the reshuffled arrangement he was responsible for. .


If I Ever Get Lucky
We’ll be generous here – with reservations – and say that purely as an aural experience with no hang-ups over its obfuscated source this is slightly better than the flip side.

But that said, this is becoming a rather unavoidable red flag when it comes to Ike Turner… he may be a very good bandleader but he’s not yet creative enough to come up with good original material, he can’t sing well enough to carry the records and he’s already lost most of, if not all of, his terrific original band, forcing him to team up with Ben Burton’s crew for Troubles And Heartaches.

So while we’ll give him begrudging credit for altering the arrangement enough to bring it up to date and even scribbling down some interesting alternative lyrics, this is still more of a testament to the groundwork laid down years ago by Roy Milton… not just for this song, but in clearing the land for rock ‘n’ roll itself.

Normally we might say it was unfortunate for Milton that this didn’t become a big hit to turn people on to his contributions in that area, but then again the huge hit that went out under Brenston’s name with Ike Turner doing the same slight of hand trick hasn’t gotten Jimmy Liggins more than a few off-hand mentions in most myopic rock history recaps, so maybe it’s not such a tragedy at that.

But as for the guy who does get credit here, until he figures out how to craft his own songs and gets himself a singer with more punch than he’s got, Ike Turner’s shaping up to be more of a journeyman than a potential star in his own right.


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