The doctor vs. the garbage man

Voodoo psychedelics! Boozy invectives! Domestic violence! And, of course, lots of blow! Here’s an easy, point-by-point guide to distinguishing the musical minds of Dr. John and Ike Turner.

Let’s face it; navigating through the confounding history of pop music can be a daunting trip. There are so many names and dates that it can be hard to keep track of everything. Who had that ’80s hit, "Wait"? Was it White Lion, Whitesnake or Great White? Aside from each having a name that is both racist and sexist, didn’t one of those bands just burn down a concert hall? That’s why we’ve set up a handy guide to highlight the distinctions between pop legends Ike Turner and Dr. John. Which was the masochist and which the medicine man? Who buddied up to Mick Jagger? Who the hell is Miss Boozie?

Ike Turner (a.k.a. "The King of Rock and Roll") is born Izear Luster Turner Jr. in Clarksdale, Miss., on November 5, 1931.

Dr. John (a.k.a. "The Night Tripper") is born Malcolm John Rebennack, Jr. in New Orleans, La., on Nov 21, 1940.

Ike Turner starts playing piano at the age of five and takes up the guitar as a teenager. He studies with seminal boogie-woogie pianist Pinetop Perkins.

Dr. John starts playing piano at the age of three and takes up the guitar as a teenager. He studies with seminal boogie-woogie pianist Professor Longhair.

In his autobiography, Turner claims that he lost his virginity at the age of six to a 45-year-old woman named "Miss Boozie."

According to a 1976 interview, Dr. John claims to have slept with more than 100 virgins.

Ike Turner records "Rocket 88" at Sam Phillips’ studio in Memphis, Tenn., in 1951. The song is widely considered to be the first rock and roll single of all time. Phillips later founds Sun Records.

Dr. John records Gris Gris at Atlantic studios in Los Angeles, Calif., in 1968. The album is widely considered to be the first New-Orleans-Psychedelic-Voodoo record of all time. The entire album was recorded on borrowed time from Sonny and Cher.

1956: Turner meets Anna Mae Bullock. Bullock joins Turner’s traveling revue and gets pregnant by the band’s sax player. Two years later, Bullock has moved into Turner’s house and changed her name to Tina Turner.

1956: John meets a daughter of one of his mother’s friends, Ann Richards. Two years later, he gets her pregnant.

Early 1950’s: Ike Turner starts doing drugs.

Early 1960’s: Dr. John starts doing drugs.

1961: Ike Turner, the self-dubbed "King of Rhythm," plays a gig with his band in Jackson, Mississippi. After a dispute about money, he pulls a gun on the owner of the 550 Club. Turner loses his temper and never plays the club again.

1961: Dr. John plays gig with his band in Jacksonville, Florida. After the gig, he gets in the middle of a dispute between a smalltime crook named Ronnie "Kingpin" Barron and a hotel owner. Kingpin pulls a gun on the hotel owner and fires and Dr. John tries to intervene. John loses a significant part of his left index finger and never plays guitar again.

Mid 1960’s: Ike Turner grows increasingly violent and is known to beat his wife and musical partner, Tina. On occasion he burns her with cigarettes and cups of hot coffee. He makes a side remark in a 1980’s interview about hitting her with a coat hanger.

Mid 1960’s: Dr. John grows increasingly interested by hallucinogenic barbiturates. On one occasion he almost burns a Phoenix hotel room from a mislaid cigarette.

Ike Turner opens for the Rolling Stones’ 1969 American tour; he was hand-picked by Mick Jagger. During the tour he develops a pricey cocaine habit.

Dr. John’s pricey heroin habit costs him a recording contract with Atlantic. 1971’s Sun, Moon and Herbs is funded by a group of musicians, including Mick Jagger.

1973: Dr. John scores his first and only Billboard hit with "Right Place, Wrong Time."

1974: Ike Turner scores his final hit on Tina. She leaves him and files for divorce a few months later.

Afraid of being left behind by the times, Ike Turner makes a funk/pop record in 1979 including the single, "Garbage Man." The song tells the story of a garbage man who falls in love with a woman on his route and has drug-addled lyrical gems like "I know I got somethin’ that you might can use."

Dr. John was a garbage man.

Ike Turner’s drug addiction drains most of his finances, and his recording studio burns to the ground in 1982. He is publicly humiliated when he can’t make it to his Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction because he’s serving hard time on drug possession charges.

Dr. John’s drug addiction leads to a number of ill-conceived records including Hollywood Be Thy Name and The Brightest Smile in Town. He gets publicly humiliated when his rich musical legacy is overshadowed by the popularity of his Popeye’s Chicken "Luv Dat Chicken" jingle.

Ike Turner "The Father of Rock and Roll" plays Hill Auditorium (825 North University, Ann Arbor. For info, call 734-763-8587) on April 24, as a part of the "Blues on Tour" revue. Dr. John plays the Majestic Theatre (4140 Woodward Ave., Detroit. Call 313-833-9700) on Friday, April 30. Nate Cavalieri is a freelance writer. Contact him at

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