Jackie Brenston Biography

15 August 1930, Clarksdale, Mississippi, USA, d. 15 December 1979, Memphis, Tennessee, USA. Often credited with making the ‘first’ rock ‘n’ roll record, Brenston’s career quickly reached a peak as a result and then entered a 25-year decline. He had returned from army service in 1947 and learned to play saxophone from local musician Jesse Flowers. Shortly afterwards, he met Ike Turner who was recruiting for his band the Kings Of Rhythm. Their local fame prompted B.B. King to recommend them to Sam Phillips in Memphis. Both Turner and Brenston made singles on 5 March 1951 and both were sold to Chess Records, but it was ‘Rocket 88’ (released under the name Jackie Brenston & His Delta Cats) that became a hit, due in part to the distorted sound of Willie Kizart’s guitar.

Subsequent singles, including ‘My Real Gone Rocket’ and ‘Hi-Ho Baby’, failed to reproduce that sound and after two solid years of touring behind his hit, Brenston’s career began to languish. He worked in Lowell Fulson’s band for a couple of years and then rejoined Turner’s Kings Of Rhythm, with whom he recorded two singles for Federal and, in 1961, one for Sue Records. Brenston recorded one last single, ‘Want You To Rock Me’, with Earl Hooker’s band. He worked for a time in the Shakers, the band of St. Louis bass player Sid Wallace, but by then alcohol had taken over his life and was a contributory factor to his fatal heart attack. In an interview, he spoke his own epitaph: ‘I had a hit record and no sense.’

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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