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1949-1954

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Album Review

A native of Atlanta, GA, Titus Turner was only 16 years old when he made his first recording, billed as Mr. T & His Band. For his precocious debut on Aladdin Records, Turner emulated Billy Eckstine's suavity and even injected a bit of his own stylized whistling into Duke Ellington's "I'm Just a Lucky So and So." His Regal recordings from March 1951 are much more substantial and therefore begin to impart a glimpse of where this remarkable man was headed. His first session for OKeh Records took place on October 16, 1951, with the Howard Biggs orchestra, including real jazz musicians like trumpeter Buck Clayton, tenor saxophonist Joe Thomas, and baritone saxophonist Pinky Williams. Two sides cut with Danny Kessler's orchestra on April 23, 1952, are stunningly powerful. After a teeth-grinding guitar intro, the singer describes how he's "Got So Much Trouble" in no uncertain terms: "My father's dead and gone, my mother's makin' time, my brother's in Korea and I'm almost out my mind." The flip side, "Please Baby," which obviously caused an irreversible chemical reaction inside of James Brown, develops almost painfully as Turner contorts his voice to suit the mood. Things grow strange as "My Plea" has weird reverb imposed with the setting so far off center that his voice sings back over itself like a John Giorno poetry reading. The effect becomes somewhat psychotropic when even the saxophone gets caught up in the sound loops. On "Big Mary," the Leroy Kirkland Orchestra shifted into a Delta rhumba rhythm, a mode that Turner obviously preferred. This fascinating slice of the Titus Turner chronology closes with a series of tunes recorded in January 1954, gradually mutating from a sensitive treatment of "Over the Rainbow" through a smooth crooning exercise called "Hello Stranger" through "My Lonely Room," a neurotic study in heartache containing the threat "I'm goin' to the doctor, without a doubt, I'm gonna have my heart cut out" and culminating in a rocking tribute to a satisfyingly "Devilish Woman." These passionately rendered recordings form a valuable basis for Titus Turner's better-known career as a composer of songs made famous by Elvis Presley, Dinah Washington, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Little Milton, Little Willie John, Louis Jordan, Jackie Wilson, the Everly Brothers, and the Beatles.

Biography

Born: 01 May 1933 in Atlanta, GA

Genre: R&B/Soul

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s

Although he recorded regularly during the 1950s and 1960s, R&B singer Titus Turner today remains best known as a composer, authoring such perennials as "Leave My Kitten Alone," "All Around the World," and "Sticks and Stones." Born in Atlanta, GA, in 1933, Turner made his recorded debut for OKeh in 1951, in all recording nine singles for the label including "Got So Much Trouble." None made much commercial impact, however, so he moved to Mercury's Wing imprint, where chart success continued to...
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1949-1954, Titus Turner
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