Raymond Hill – The Snuggle

13th January 2022 · 1950s, 1954, Jazz, Music

Raymond Hill was the sax man who got a shout-out from Ike Turner for his solo on Rocket 88 – and the man who fathered Tina Turner’s first child.

There are two things I know about Raymond Hill – and neither of them is this instrumental, which I’ve only just found deep in the archives of Sun Records.

The first is that when he was 17 he played the tenor sax solo on Rocket 88, the oft-cited first rock’n’roll song of all time (even though it wasn’t), stepping into the spotlight when Ike Turner calls out his name : “Blow your horn, Raymond, blow!”

The second is that he got their teenage singer Little Ann up the duff while she was still in high school. And after he left her she married Ike and became Tina Turner.

At least he brought Ann back to live at his house, which he shared with Ike – but buggered off back to his hometown of Clarksdale, Mississippi, after breaking his ankle during a wrestling match with a bandmate.

Tina said later: “I didn’t love him… But he was good-looking. I thought: ‘My baby’s going to be beautiful.'”

Most of Hill’s career was as a band member, playing with a host of blues and R&B artists after falling out with Ike, where his honking sax was part of the signature sound, following the success of Rocket 88.

He backed Howlin’ Wolf when he was on Sun Records, and played the sax on Little Junior Parker’s original version of Mystery Train, as well as Jessie Hill’s instrumental Oop Pooh Pah Doo.

Hill had grown up influenced by Delta blues musicians like Sonny Boy Williamson and Robert Nighthawk who played at his parents’ juke joint near Clarksdale,

He also released a handful of sides for Sun and Highwater Records under his own name, including I’m Back Pretty Baby – and this rather lovely instrumental, The Snuggle, featuring Ike on guitar and pianist Billy ‘The Kid’ Emerson from The Rhythm Kings.

After falling out with Ike after Rocket 88, when Hill and Jackie Brenston both fought to become bandleader, Hill rejoined the group in 1957.

It was then that he began a relationship with their new vocalist, 17-year-old Little Ann. After Hill limped away from her with his broken ankle, their child was adopted by Ike.