Blues Musician. He is best remembered for his recording of the song, "Rocket 88" (1951), and for his association with musician Ike Turner (future husband of singer Tina Turner) and his band, the Kings of Rhythm. Born Jack Brenston in Clarksdale, Mississippi, in 1928 (some sources say 1930), he took an interest in music at an early age. He furthered his music career throughout the 1930s and 1940s and became a successful tenor saxophonist. His music career was just taking off when it was interrupted by World War II. He then decided to enlist in the service and fight for his country. He joined the United States Army and was given the rank of Private First Class. In 1947, following the war, he returned to his hometown of Clarksdale, Mississippi, and began to take up music once again. He began with more work on the tenor saxophone and eventually began taking on vocals as well. In 1950, he met musician Ike Turner and began playing locally with him and his band, the Kings of Rhythm. In 1951, Ike, Jackie and the Kings of Rhythm were having great success when the legendary blues musician B.B. King recommended that they go to Memphis, Tennessee, and record some recordings for the Memphis Recording Service (later Sun Records Studio) founder Sam Phillips (Phillips, of course, was famous for discovering Elvis Presley, the King of Rock 'n' Roll, and many others). A few months later in March 1951 the band traveled to Memphis, Tennessee, and played some shows around the local music scene and also met with Phillips and other record personalities. The band played several recordings for Phillips including a couple that Jackie had written. Phillip's was very impressed with the Kings of Rhythms playing style, and thanks to Jackie's frenetic vocals, Ike's wild piano playing, Raymond Hill's tenor sax, and Willie Kizard's fuzzy guitar, the band came out on top. They eventually played the single, "Rocket 88" for Phillips also, and it was this recording that would make a name for the group. The song was a hymn of praise to the joys of the Oldsmobile "Rocket 88" automobile, which had recently been introduced, and was based on the 1947 song "Cadillac Boogie" by Jimmy Liggins. It was also preceded and influenced by Pete Johnson's "Rocket 88 Boogie" Parts 1 and 2, an instrumental, originally recorded for the Los Angeles-based Swing Time Records Label in 1949. The recording of "Rocket 88" was released on the Chess Records Label in Chicago, Illinois, under the name of Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats, rather than under Ike Turner's name. The record was also credited to Jackie Brenston for vocals and writing. The record landed at the Number 1 spot on the U.S. Billboard R&B Chart and stayed at the position for over a month following its release. The record has also been claimed to be the first rock and roll record. It made a lot of money for many people including Sam Phillips who improved Sun Records Studio the following year. After the success of the record, Brenston played one more session with the Ike Turner and the King of Rhythms before calling it quits. He then played with Lowell Fulson's band for two years before returning to play for Ike Turner from 1955 to 1962. He played occasionally as lead singer but was banned from playing "Rocket 88." During this time, he became an alcoholic and supported himself by playing with local bands. He recorded one final time with Earl Hooker in 1963. After music, he worked as a truck driver. He passed away in Memphis, Tennessee, from a heart attack at the age of 51. In 2018, "Rocket 88" was inducted into the Rock and Roll of Fame Singles Category.
Bio by: Kris 'Peterborough K' Peterson
PFC US Army
World War II