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TURNER, BABE KYRO LEMON [BLACK ACE]

Black Ace Turner (1905-1972)

Before World War II, Turner recorded six songs and had a
rhythm-and-blues radio show on KFJZ in Fort Worth. He did not
record again until 1960, when Arhoolie Records recorded him.
Photo from B. K. “Black Ace” Turner, Courtesy Chris Strachwitz
& Arhoolie Records (www.arhoolie.com).

TURNER, BABE KYRO LEMON [BLACK ACE] (1905–1972). Black Ace Turner, also known as B. K. Turner, blues guitarist, was born Babe Kyro Lemon Turner on December 21, 1905, in Hughes Springs, Texas. He was the son of Thomas and Mattie Turner. B. K. was raised on the family farm. His early interest in music began at his church and soon led him to build his own guitar and teach himself how to play. In the late 1920s he played locally and grew in popularity.

During the early 1930s he toured East Texas dance halls and juke joints with teenager Andrew "Smokey" Hogg and Oscar "Buddy" Woods, a Hawaiian-style guitarist. (A Hawaiian-style guitarist plays with the instrument flat on his lap.) Influenced by Woods, Turner bought a National Style 2 squareneck tricone steel guitar. With the guitar on his lap and fretting with a glass medicine bottle, he played what one music critic called "Hawaii meets the Delta," smooth and simple blues.

Listen to this artist

In 1936 Turner recorded six songs, including his signature "Black Ace," with Smokey Hogg and pianist "Whistling" Alex Moore for Decca Records in Chicago. Also beginning in 1936, he had a radio show on KFJZ–Fort Worth playing blues and R&B. During his last year on the radio, Turner appeared in the 1941 film The Blood of Jesus, an African-American movie produced by Spencer Williams. In 1943 he was drafted into the United States Army. He did not return to music until 1960, when Arhoolie Records owner Chris Strachwitz approached him in Fort Worth and asked to him to record for his label. Turner found his guitar without strings in the attic, and, although he had not played since the early 1940s, he recorded seventeen new tracks for Strachwitz.

His performance in a 1962 documentary, The Blues, was his last public music appearance. He died of cancer in Fort Worth on November 7, 1972. He was buried in Steen Cemetery in Malakoff, Texas. During his lifetime Turner married a woman named Minnie, and they had one child. An Arhoolie Records CD titled I am the Boss Card in Your Hand features both Turner's original 1930s recordings and his 1960 session and represents the only anthology of his work.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Larry Benicewicz, "The Arhoolie Record Story," Blues Art Studio Journal 1999 (www.bluesartstudio.at), accessed May 8, 2002. Matthew Block, "Chris Strachwitz, Arhoolie Records and Traditional Blues Field Recordings" (www.delmark.com/rhythm.arhoolie.htm), accessed February 3, 2011. Sheldon Harris, Blues Who's Who: A Biographical Dictionary of Blues Singers (New Rochelle, New York: Arlington House, 1979).

Katherine Walters

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Katherine Walters, "TURNER, BABE KYRO LEMON [BLACK ACE]," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/ftuka), accessed October 24, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on October 29, 2013. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.