Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Which Joe Turner?

This photograph from an excellent New York Times feature caught my eye:

[From “Before and After Chuck Berry,” New York Times, March 23, 2017. Click for a larger view.]

I called the Times today to suggest a correction. Though I can’t be certain, I’m virtually certain that the photograph above is of the pianist Joe Turner, not the singer Big Joe Turner. Notice especially the shape of the hairline, eyebrow, and mouth. Big Joe Turner, or Joe Turner?

[Big Joe Turner and Joe Turner. Click either image for a larger view.]

I differ with the Times in omitting the quotation marks from “Big Joe.” Big Joe Turner was big, not “big.” I sat next to him once in a bar where he was performing. Trust me.

If the Times makes a correction, I suspect that Orange Crate Art readers will be among the first to know.

[That the Times photograph is from Getty Images doesn’t mean that it’s correctly captioned. At least one other photograph from Getty misidentifies Joe Turner as Big Joe Turner.]


March 30: The Times replied and let me know that “Before and After Chuck Berry” now has a photograph that is unmistakably of Big Joe Turner. Hurrah!

[Click for a larger view.]

Big Joe Turner is one of my earliest musical memories. I highly recommend The Boss of the Blues, a 1956 album with a stellar cast (Lawrence Brown, Pete Brown, Pete Johnson, et al.) and a memorable catalogue number: Atlantic 1234. “What makes grandma love old grandpa so? He can still do the boogie like he did forty years ago.”


Later that same day:

The Getty photograph that the Times first used was taken at the Cannes Jazz Festival, July 12, 1958. Joe Turner the pianist played at that festival. His name appears in a Library of Congress description of a television show about the festival. And Turner appears in this compilation of performances from the festival. I think it's unmistakably Joe Turner the pianist in the first Times photograph.

A description of the 1958 photograph in the book 1950s (Getty Images, 1998) manages to turn the two Turners into one person, pianist and singer: “an expert in the hard-driving ‘stride’ piano style, Turner was also known as the ‘Boss of the Blues.’” Yipes.

comments: 5

The Crow said...

Definitely two different men. Good eye, Michael.

Slywy said...

The shape of the ear is the real clue.

Chris said...

AS far as I know neither Joe Turner has anything to do with the W. C. Handy composition entitled "Joe Turner's Blues" nor with the (entirely different) "Joe Turner" sung by Mississippi John Hurt (not to be confused with the actor).

Michael Leddy said...

Right — no connection.

Michael Leddy said...

Nor to William Hurt or J. M. W. Turner.