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Lush Life: 1941

Lush Life: 1941

April 1941. "Prosperous Chicagoan spends evening at home." View full size. Medium-format safety negative by Russell Lee. A few Shorpy readers have identified this as bluesman Big Joe Turner (it is not). The Internet has also identified him (erroneously) as the Rev. Clarence Cobbs.


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Fandom hope springs eternal

If one merely goes to Youtube and watches Big Joe Turner sing "Shake, Rattle and Roll" in 1954, shot in reasonably high rez black and white and with decent close-ups, you'd have to marvel at how he'd discovered the secret of youth since 1941 but didn't tell anyone. He looks considerably younger in 1954 than the subject in this photograph, who would have only been 30 in 1941 if it were indeed Big Joe.

What's the odds of Russell Lee finding a "prosperous Chicagoan" in 1941 who was secretly Big Joe and not all that famous at the time, and on the move from NYC to LA? Between zero and none, I'd say. But this probable myth has now spread over the internet as received wisdom.

Big Joe

Since I've seen this very photograph identified as Big Joe Turner on two other websites done by people with more knowledge about the man than I have and than vg claims to have, I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that this is may very well be Big Joe Turner.

Big Joe It Ain't

Well I'm probably no more of an expert than the folks who guess it is, but I'm skeptical that that's Big Joe Turner. There is a slight resemblance, but no singing bartender would be wearing the get-ups in his portraits, and what's more, there's no indication whatsoever that this guy is involved with music.

Big Joe

Maybe copping a room up there to cut a record or two with his partner in KC boogie crime, Pete Johnson - but I thought Big Joe was originally based in Kansas City. Either way, great find! Him & Jimmy Rushing are my favorite shouters and I have a stack of 78's to prove it.

Double take...

Big Joe Turner.. For some reason it was "odd" to see a photo of him on Shorpy in the midst of folks in Small Town America working and playing. Pretty neat at the same time.


Looks like Big Joe Turner to me.


I don't know who he is, though he clearly seems to be a performer/singer -- but my grandmother had the same lampshade idea, you keep the plastic it came in and don't take it off. Ditto for the doilies on the chair arms. Top hat, white tie, tails and a cane -- sharp-dressed man!

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