Tina Turner’s Mercer County legacy
BLUEFIELD, W.Va. (WVVA) - Tina Turner was an icon performer, bringing a singular style to her performances on stage and in the recording studio. She gained her first taste of fame with her first husband Ike Turner, who not only gave her his last name, but changed her first name to Tina.
She was born Anna Mae Bullock. Ike and Tina performed countless shows on the African American touring circuit through the south. A tour that brought them to Mercer County and the former Bluefield City Auditorium on more than one occassion. Deloris French says she saw them perform and remembers shaking Tina Turner’s hand.
“We thought even back then, we thought it was a big thing that she was here. And she may not have thought it was big back then but for us and for me it was huge because I had never been to a public dance,” said French.
Ike and Tina were frequent guests at Hotel Thelma. One of the few Mercer County listings in the Green Book, the road map for African Americans to find safe lodging while traveling the country during the days of segregation. The Turner’s requested the same room every time they stayed overnight in Bluefield. Room 22 was their save haven from segregation while in Bluefield.
“That was a trying time for people of color at that time. Actually they had to, entertainers of color they had to work harder at what they did to be recognized and noticed,” said Hotel Thelma owner, Reverend James Mitchell.
Tina Turner’s style quickly earned fans around the world. One of Turner’s former road managers lives in Bluefield and says she worked with the star on a daily basis. Helping her book a European tour in 1975. Her first impression: Tina Turner was beautiful but the Ike & Tina show was coming to an end.
“That was during the time when her and Ike were just about ready to go their separate ways. It was their last European tour together. I have very fond memories of that time with Tina. I saw her every single day,” said Bonnie Patterson.
Patterson say she was approached by Motown producer Deke Richards. Richards said the two needed someone to help manage a tour and Patterson says she took the role without hesitation.
“It almost became instant that we connected and I just said yes right away. I had the time to do that between the Wolfman Jack shows and for what the time that tour would take. So it worked out perfectly,” said Patterson.
Turner divorced Ike after that tour in the late 1970′s. Tina re-invented herself in the early 1980′s, catapulting her into superstardom with the release of her album, “Private Dancer”, featuring a string of new hits in a career that already spanned decades.
Tina Turner’s legacy will live on for those who knew her, saw her perform or maybe even only heard her music.
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