Soul Serenade: The Ikettes, “I’m Blue”
Sometimes when you’re a kid you hear a sound that is so removed from your world that it might as well come from another planet. There are a handful of records that fit this description for me even today, and certainly “I’m Blue” by the Ikettes is one of them. I’ve been trying to figure out what these records have in common, but I haven’t had much success. There’s just something about that sound. Maybe you know what I’m talking about.
Believe it or not, the Ikettes were not the original vocal group that backed the Ike & Tina Turner Revue. That group was called the Artettes. I don’t know what happened but for some reason Ike decided that he needed Ikettes. Exit the Artettes. He put the Ikettes together, combining the talents of Delores Johnson, Eloise Hester, and Joshie Armstead.
The first recording that the newly formed trio (in later years the Ikettes became a quartet at times) did was backing Tina on her debut single “A Fool In Love” in 1960. The following year they recorded a hit for themselves. The Revue was on the road much of the time and that’s where most of the recording was done. “I’m Blue” was no exception.
The song was written by Ike Turner while he was killing time in the studio, and specifically intended for the Ikettes. Tina helped to arrange the vocal parts, and she sings background vocals on the record. That’s Ike on piano, and his Kings of Rhythm providing the backing track. The production is credited to Ike Turner and Tina Turner, an “I-&-T-T Production.”
Since Ike and Tina were recording for Sue Records at the time, Ike decided to look elsewhere for a label to release the single. In late 1961 he made a deal with Atco Records to put the record out. “I’m Blue” was released in 1962 and it was a major hit for the Ikettes. It reached #19 on the Billboard Hot 100, and #3 on the R&B chart. It was the third hit single to come out of the Ike & Tina Turner Revue camp, and the only big hit for the original lineup of the Ikettes.
There were cover versions of “I’m Blue” by the Spencer Davis Group, the Shangri-Las, and the Newbeats, and Salt-n-Pepa famously sampled the song for their massive hit “Shoop” in 1993.
The Ikettes name was owned by Ike Turner, and as you might imagine the group’s lineup changed constantly over the years. There are nearly 50 women who can say that they were Ikettes at one time or another. Some Ikettes, like Brenda Holloway, Bonnie Bramlett, and Venetta Fields went on to big careers after they left the group. Although the group’s various incarnations recorded a number of hits, they never much got recognition for the work released under their name, and they never got any royalties either.
Today we celebrate freedom and independence, two things that the Ikettes never had in their professional lives.