Ten years ago, I spent a few nights at Ike Turner's house. I was writing a profile of Ike for The Oxford American magazine, and I arranged to stay at his house outside San Diego. He and his wife, Jeanette, were genial and hospitable hosts—she fed me the best catfish and cornbread I've ever had and he fed me some of the best stories I've ever heard.
My first night there, I retired to the guest room to read, and after a few minutes, there was a knock on the door. It was Ike, dressed in pajamas with smile-y faces and puppy dogs on them. "I just wanted to say, 'Good night,'" he said. And then he gave me a hug.
Getting hugged by Ike Turner in smile-y face pajamas just might be the most surreal experience of my life.
I've recently been thinking about Ike for two reasons: he passed away last December 12th, and my profile has just been anthologized in The Oxford American Book of Great Music Writing. That piece includes the pajama incident, and some of Ike's best stories. Ike's childhood was truly amazing. Among other things, he talks about getting piano lessons from Pinetop Perkins and rebuilding his piano from scrap material—using wire from truck tires, metal wrenches, and felt from old hats—after it burned in a fire. He also talks about his troubled, turbulent personal life.
The book also includes stories by Peter Guralnick, Nick Tosches, Tom Piazza, R. Crumb, Steve Martin, and many others.