Updated January 17, 2022 - 8:42 am
Sonny Turner was a master showman who recited the Platters’ hits with classic eloquence.
“My father had the gift of singing songs as if he were singing directly to you,” Turner’s daughter Kyle Tolliver-Jordan said Friday morning. “The lyrics in those classic songs were like poetry.”
The last link to the legendary R&B vocal group the Platters to headline in Las Vegas, Sonny Turner died Thursday at his daughter’s home in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. He was 82.
Turner had long been battling throat cancer, which he had beaten for a time but returned and spread throughout his body. The great showman had lived in Las Vegas for years, but taken to Tolliver-Jordan’s home on Wednesday to be placed in hospice care.
Turner is survived by children Tammie Turner; Tolliver-Jordan; and Gina Bartie-Cook. Plans for a celebration of life in Las Vegas are pending.
Turner’s friend and stage partner Michelle Johnson referred to Turner as “my second dad, my boss, my mentor, my dear friend, our legend, our brilliantly talented, funny, gifted, incredible human.”
“I will never forget you and all you did for me,” Johnson posted on Facebook. “Our time together was precious.”
Turner replaced Tony Williams of lead singer of the Platters in late 1959. At the time, Turner was singer for The Metrotones, who were opening for star comic Redd Foxx in Cleveland when the Platters position was about to open up.
He was also good friends with the great Jackie Wilson, whom he considered his entertainment mentor.
Turner topped about 100 other singers to assume the role. Turner sang lead on such classics as the 1966 hit “I Love You 1000 Times,” “With This Ring,” a year later, and “Washed Ashore” in 1968.
Turner re-recorded several Platters hits that pre-dated his arrival with the band, including “Only You,” “The Great Pretender” and “The Magic Touch.” He left the band in 1970 to pursue a solo career.
Las Vegas showman Earl Turner had FaceTimed with the man he called “his namesake, mentor and friend’ on Wednesday.
“He epitomized professionalism in every aspect of his demeanor, both onstage and offstage,” Turner posted on Facebook. “He spoke with kindness and authority, and he represented pride and dignity in everything he did. Watching him work, I could only think to myself, ‘Now, THAT’S how it’s done!’”
The elder Turner once called the rising showman to the stage. Earl Turner said, “He didn’t know who I was, as we had never met. He had only heard about this kid with the last name Turner. For me, that moment was like being blessed by the Pope.”
Turner sang on the soundtracks of several feature films, among them “The Nutty Professor II” starring Eddie Murphy, “Hearts in Atlantis” starring Anthony Hopkins and “Prince of the City” starring Robert DeNiro.
In Las Vegas, Turner revived the Platters’ heyday in performances at Suncoast Showroom. Turner would also often join shows as an unbilled guest, including his late friend Gregg Austin’s M Town revue at South Point Showroom.
Turner and his fellow R&B icon and good friend Sonny Charles co-starred with Kelly Clinton-Holmes in ““On the Sonny Side of the Strip” with the Henderson Symphony at Henderson Pavilion in October 2016.
Turner also occasionally jumped into Kelly Cinton-Holmes’ open-mic nights at Bootlegger Bistro. His final appearance in a ticketed show was alongside Johnson in her show at Italian American Club Showroom last July. As Johnson said, “I loved him so much.”
Those who want to attend both ends of Beatles tribute band The Fab’s “Albumpalooza” on Wednesday night at Westgate Cabaret get a discount if they buy tickets for both shows. Tickets are $20 apiece, $52 for VIP, discounted by 25 percent if you buy for both performances. At 5 p.m. it’s “Ones Night Only,” the band’s No. 1 hits. At 8 p.m. it’s “Hello Goodbye,” covering “Meet The Beatles” and “Abbey Road.” Show is open for ages 5-up; 18-and-under with a guardian, at ticketmaster.com or Westgate’s ticket office.
Cool Hang Alert
The progressive jazz-rock band Marbin plays Notoriety Live at 6 p.m. (a clinic about how the band’s development) and 8 p.m. (performance). Marbin is out of Chicago, known for its organic creativity dating to 2009. The band has released eight albums, and has built a healthy following by playing festivals all over the world. Tickets for both presentations art $25; or $15 for separate entry. Go to NotorietyLive.com for details.
John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.