Photo Courtesy of THE TELEGRAPH
I was lucky to meet Tina Turner. It was a late afternoon in early '66 and I was doing an air shift on WERK AM in Muncie. A black Cadillac pulled onto the gravel driveway of our rural studio. The office staff had left for the day and the only people in the building were Larry McCabe, our program director and me.
Ike and Tina and another man were at the station looking to buy ads to drum up business for the Ike and Tina Turner Revue playing Muncie that night, just hours away. Ticket sales had not taken off. I don't recall there had been any publicity. This was before their 1966 hit River Deep Mountain High before-producer Phil Spector had seen them and saw magic.
On this day in Muncie they were simply trying to sell tickets, to pay the venue and make enough to stay on the road.They were an R&B act who had charted R&B tunes, which meant they were not stars, but struggling musicians. In the '60s R&B, horn bands, and some blues artists drove between small cities in the mid-west and south, playing venues like supper clubs, National Guard Armories or community arenas. This was a long way from the glamor of music stardom.
Only a couple of hours before showtime, McCabe explained it was too late to cut commercials but they could buy 15-30 minutes of air time for an impromptu interview program called WERK SOUNDS OFF. In small market radio there was always a way to make a sale. The details are hazy, but I'm sure Larry asked how much they had and settled on a price including tickets to the show- as long as we did not re-sell them.
So, in the middle of my shift, before the day time station signed off for the evening, I was in our small studio sitting elbow to elbow and butt to butt with this exotic and sensual woman and her husband who at the time was given to mumbles and nodding off and who would suddenly be alert and blurt something about the timing and pace.
I was familiar with Ike and the Ikettes. I loved dance music. Soul and R&B were on our playlist. The Ikettes were a college boy's fantasy with their leggy moves and bumps and grooves. Sitting next to Tina my heart was in my throat. Ike sort of rambled on about the evening's playlist. When he nodded off Tina, in a soft voice, talked about how she and the girls put so much into the music and the show. She pleaded with folks to come and see them.
There is no disrespect in this, only a recitation of the facts. It was clear they had been on the road in the car since the last night's show and apparently had missed a shower. Ike was in his flashy stage shirt. Tina was wearing a long coat over a go go style skirt, but she was perfumed in some exotic aroma that only strengthened her power over me. She was kind, almost frightened, shy at first, but came alive when she talked about the Revue. She was adorable.
I was a fan for the rest of her career. She had an arc to life. I met her when she was on the beginning curve, but I can tell you I knew on that day in Muncie she was something very special. She was a queen in waiting, waiting to be freed and given a chance to fly on her own. She gave us a lifetime of pleasure and joy. RIP Tina.
See you down the trail.