The death of Tina Turner last week sent me roaring back in time to a hot, humid night in August of 1971 when the Ike and Tina Turner Revue played at Memorial Stadium in Savannah.
I grew up in Savannah but had moved about 90 miles away to Ailey in Montgomery County eight months prior to the show.
An acquaintance of the family had a geeky daughter about my age whom I recall knowing vaguely. She may have even been a distant cousin.
I arrived home one day from my summer job at the sawmill my Daddy ran to learn I had a date with the lass in question. I immediately balked but the protest ended when Mama tossed out a crucial nugget of information.
The girl had won two tickets to see the Ike and Tina show from local radio station WSGA and I was her designated escort for the evening because as I was older and more mature in that my 17th birthday was two and a half weeks later.
Yeah, I laughed, too!
The girl had just turned 16 and had been gifted a Volkswagen Beetle with a four-speed transmission that I, the mature one, was to drive three or four miles to the show. I knew how to operate a three-speed transmission on the steering column from driving an older Rambler we called ‘The Bomb’ my grandaddy had passed down. My brothers and I camouflaged it using spray paint so you can imagine just what a beauty it was.
Somebody dropped me off at the girl’s home and, to my surprise, she had grown up and was considerably better looking than I remembered. She was giddy with excitement about going to her first concert. Things were looking up until I got behind the wheel of the VW and realized the four on the floor was quite different from what I was used to.
I ground gears all the way but we made it to the stadium. The tickets were all general admission and we worked our way up to a position pretty near the stage. It was hot. We were sweating and getting along well. Then Ike and the Ikettes came out to get started. Ike played rhythm guitar had killer players on lead and the sax. They got the crowd going quickly.
After a few tunes, Tina came out and Ike hit the first few chords from ‘Proud Mary’. He and the Ikettes were crooning ‘Rolling, Rolling’. Tina started the song slow and sultry and then she exploded into her dance routine.
I had never seen anything like it. I forgot all about my date and let the music overpower me. Nobody in the crowd ever sat down. Tina had us all mesmerized. A tall black guy who looked like Shaft from movie fame was standing next to me and he exclaimed, “That girl can go!” over and over again.
Indeed she could. I thought I knew the definition of sexy but Tina rewrote that definition for me that night.
When it was over, I got the VW and the girl back home safely. I never saw her again. I don’t remember her name but I sure as hell remember Tina.
As it turned out, Ike abused Tina and she left him. He was left along life’s roadside, just so much detritus. Tina became a superstar but she was never again as good as she was that night. When she and Ike were hitting on all cylinders, they were the best funk act around bar none.
Tina was living near Zurich, Switzerland when she died. Zurich is where my father was born.
It’s a small world. Ours are short lives but they are full of memories and that night with Tina is one of my best.