‘Everybody Likes My Rocket 88 . . .’

Originally posted December 18, 2007

Pondering the legacy of Ike Turner, as many have been doing in the past week since his death, I also got to wondering about the legacy of “Rocket 88,” the song that Turner wrote and recorded in 1951 with Jackie Brentson taking the lead vocal (thus allowing Chess to release it under the name of Jackie Brentson and the Delta Kings instead under Ike Turner and His Kings of Rhythm).

So I took a look at All-Music Guide, which notes that authorship of the song is disputed and credits Brentson with writing the song. Wikipedia says, “Although Brenston was given author credit rather than Turner, it is now agreed that Brenston’s contribution was overstated for financial reasons,” but there is no source listed for that statement. I’ve always heard it was Turner’s song. A few years ago, while planning a trip to Mississippi that did not come about, I spoke to Frank Ratliff, the owner of the Riverside Hotel in Clarksdale, Mississippi, who told me that Turner wrote the song in his hotel, which Ratliff said his family has owned for many years. (The hotel was once a hospital, and is the place where famed singer Bessie Smith died in 1937.)

Numerous artists, of course, have covered “Rocket 88” in the more than fifty years since Turner or Brentson wrote it. Among them have been Bernard Allison, Nappy Brown, Bill Haley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Muddy Waters. I’ve heard a few of those versions, but the cover of the song I like the best is the very brief one that James Cotton did with his band for the mid-Sixties series of records called Chicago/The Blues/Today.

James Cotton – “Rocket 88” [1965]

Thanks!
A huge and humble “thank you” to Any Major Dude With Half A Heart. In the inaugural Major Dude awards, Echoes In The Wind was honored as the Best Singles Blog. And once you’ve checked out the awards, bookmark Any Major Dude . . . It’s a great blog itself!*

*Since that post, the Major Dude has moved. He is now at Any Major Dude With Half A Heart, still a great read with great tunes! Note added May 27, 2011.

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