Tina Turner rocked Evansville — and gave a local musician his start

Sarah Loesch
Evansville Courier & Press

EVANSVILLE — When Tina Turner played Roberts Stadium in 1985, a Courier & Press reporter described her as a woman who could start a fire if she stood still long enough.

Turner, 83, died Tuesday at her home in Switzerland after a long illness. USA Today reported Turner had dealt with poor health for years, including intestinal cancer in 2016 and a kidney transplant in 2017.

Nearly 40 years earlier, playing to a sold out crowd in Evansville, Indiana, Turner worked the crowd "hot," according to a Courier & Press story from the show.

Tina Turner at Roberts Municipal Stadium in Evansville, Indiana on September 8, 1985. Photo by Daniel R. Patmore for the Evansville Press.

"After a few circles round the stage, (her) vest was gone," the story read. "Turner then heated the auditorium and the emotions of her fans like a propane torch."

She melded rock and R&B, leaving fans on the edge of their seats during a performance of "Private Dancer."

"Had it been anyone else, the act may have appeared dangerously strip-tease," the paper wrote. "Maybe it is different because, after all, this is Tina Turner. Or maybe it was an elegant boa."

Tina Turner at Roberts Municipal Stadium in Evansville, Indiana on September 8, 1985 Photo by Daniel R. Patmore for the Evansville Press.

She performed her Grammy-winning Record of the Year "What's Love Got To Do With It" as she reportedly "glided" across the stage in high heels. And Turner's encore included a rendition of Bruce Springsteen's "Dancing in the Dark."

The crowd was reported to be a mix of ages: those who knew her from performing with her husband Ike Turner, and those finding her in her solo years.

"Both groups are fascinated by her comeback and how the singer of 30 years keeps drawing," the Courier & Press reported. "It's the Turner mystique."

Local ties through an Evansville musician

Jackie Robinson Clark, an Evansville musician, played with Ike and Tina Turner in the 1970s and went on to join the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. He died in 1990.

Turner had another connection to Evansville through a local musician who joined the Ike and Tina Turner Revue.

Jackie Robinson Clark was described in the Courier & Press as a "musical wunderkind" who left his hometown of Evansville at 20 years old to become the guitarist and bandleader for the Revue.

Clark was discovered by Ike and Tina in 1970 when he elbowed his way into a jam session during their visit to the Executive Inn, according to Courier & Press archives.

He kept contact with them for about a year, at which point they asked Clark to join the group. He'd only spend five years touring with the Revue, but during that time Clark and Ike and Tina would play once to his hometown crowd.

In 1972, during a wet, muddy festival at Bosse Field, Clark joined Ike and Tina on stage at the "Bosse Field Freedom Festival" to perform as rain returned after a short reprieve for the 30,000 people gathered.

"Sunburned, dazed fans headed for the bleachers to escape the torrent," the Evansville Press reported, "while others continued to romp in the mud and slime which moment by moment got messier."