Big Joe Turner: Feel So Fine A Bio-Discography

Big Joe Turner: Feel So Fine, Derek Coller’s exhaustive bio/discography of the legendary alumnus of Kansas City’s colorful past has been recently published to critical acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic.

Big Joe Turner: Feel So Fine is a massive study of the “original blues brother, a true legend and the man who first recorded ‘Shake, Rattle and Roll.’” A man of huge physical stature with a voice “that rolled like thunder,” “Big Joe” was born in the African American quarter of Kansas City on May 18, 1911. He cut his musical teeth in the city before stepping onto the national scene in the late 1930s, followed in post-war years by travels to Europe, Australia, and Mexico.

Red Wood Coast

“Joe Turner was like a force of nature,” writes Derek Coller. “Small bands, big bands, trios, pianists, rock groups, choirs, all styles of accompaniment rocked to his rhythm, making everyone feel fine.”

Big Joe kept up this irrepressible lifestyle over five decades, from KC saloons to New York’s Carnegie Hall until his death at the age of 74 on November 24, 1985. Sadly, like so many other great figures of the music business, Big Joe died in poverty. Thankfully his legacy lives on through a wealth of recordings and now in the pages of Feel So Fine.

But what was the fascination for Joe Turner that prompted Derek to uncover every scrap of evidence he could find about Turner’s life and times and listen to every one of his recordings?

Hot Jazz Jubile

“Big Joe’s recordings with pianist Pete Johnson caught my schoolboy imagination way back in the 1940s, along with Louis Armstrong, Sidney Bechet and Bessie Smith. They were the pride of my early record collecting days,” Derek told Jeff Harris in a recent interview for the New York-based radio show Big Road Blues.

“Those were the day of hefty 10-inch 78rpm records,” Derek continued. “Unlike today when you can download music in an instant, I had to save up my pennies to buy a record. They were in short supply, especially jazz records.” Finding the information about the personnel and recording details of these treasured discs was even more difficult. Undaunted, Derek began to compile notes and press cuttings about his favorite musicians, correspond with other enthusiasts around the world and sometimes with the musicians themselves. “I made two trips to America to search for material at first hand,” Derek recalls.

“My notes gradually accumulated over the years,” Derek declared, “and provided the source material for books on pianists Dick Cary, Johnny Guarnieri and Jess Stacy, clarinetist Tony Parenti and jazz in Chicago as well as many articles and contributions to reference works such as The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz. Big Joe Turner: Feel So Fine, is my latest offering.”

Derek’s writing is rich in detail, but what really stands out is his love of the music and love for his subjects. This is especially true of Big Joe Turner and Feel So Fine.

Derek was fortunate enough to see Big Joe perform with trumpeter Humphrey Lyttelton’s band on a UK tour in 1965. He recalls that Joe arrived at London’s Heathrow Airport without a work permit. “You’ve got a nerve,” declared an officious immigration officer. “That’s what it takes these days daddy,” Joe replied. He just wanted to sing and have a good time.

Evergreen

The BBC had the good sense to record “Big Joe” in action with the Lyttelton band along with fellow guest stars Buck Clayton and Vic Dickenson for the groundbreaking Jazz 625 series. A recently colorized version of the program can be found on tinyurl.com/joeturnerBBC1965.

Feel So Fine is a handsomely bound portrait of “Big Joe” Turner, the greatest of the blues shouters and without doubt a founding figure of rock ’n’ roll. In addition to the biography it includes a full discography of Turner’s recordings, a bibliography and a list of his compositions. It is lavishly illustrated in both color and black/white with photographs, personal letters, posters, tickets and record labels et al. It will appeal to lovers of jazz and blues and anyone with an interest in the roots of popular music. As you turn the pages you will be irresistibly drawn to listen to the music.

Big Joe Turner: Feel So Fine is published in both hardback and paperback by Hardinge Simpole and available to order online.

Nauck

With such a monumental achievement under his belt one might expect Derek Coller to take a well-earned rest. But no, he is already hard at work to rescue more of his jazz heroes from obscurity.

The full interview with Jeff Harris, host of Big Road Blues (Jazz90.1 Rochester, NY), accompanied by many of Big Joe’s classic recordings can be heard on tinyurl.com/bigroadblues20231001.

Big Joe Turner: Feel So Fine
A Bio-Discography by Derek Coller
www.hardingesimpole.co.uk
amazon.com
ISBN: ‎978-1843822332 (paper); $30
ISBN:‎ 978-1843822325 (cloth); $60

Nauck

Trevor Bannister developed an ear for jazz as a youngster and was firmly hooked by his mid-teens, buying records, listening to live bands, and avidly reading Melody Maker each week.He lives in Reading, UK.Contact:[email protected].

Or look at our Subscription Options.