Jackie Brenston (b 15 August 1930, Clarksdale, Mississippi - d. 15 December 1979, Memphis, Tennessee) was an R&B musician who recorded, with Ike Turner’s band, the first version of the proto-rock and roll song “Rocket 88”.

Returning to Clarksdale from army service in 1947, Brenston learned to play the tenor saxophone, linking up with Ike Turner in 1950 as sax player and occasional singer in his band. The local success of Ike Turner & The Kings Of Rhythm prompted B.B. King to recommend them to studio owner Sam Phillips in Memphis, where the band made several recordings in early March 1951, including “Rocket 88” on which Brenston sang lead and which he was credited with writing.

Phillips passed the recordings on to Chess Records in Chicago, who released “Rocket 88” as by “Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats”, rather than under Turner’s name. The record soon reached # 1 on the R&B charts. Because of its theme, sound, success and influence across different markets, it has often been suggested as the first rock and roll record, although there are numerous other candidates. Phillips used the success of the record to start Sun Records the following year.

After one further recording session, Brenston and Turner parted company, and Brenston went on to perform in Lowell Fulson’s band for two years. He returned to play in Turner’s band from 1955 to 1962. Although he occasionally sang with the band, Turner apparently forbade him from singing “Rocket 88”.

By now an alcoholic, Brenston continued playing in local bands. After a final recording session with Earl Hooker in 1963, he worked occasionally as a truck driver before a fatal heart attack at the age of 49.

Edited by teesdale on 29 Sep 2009, 05:50

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