BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) – The world knows Tina Turner as a consummate entertainer who brought remarkable energy and passion to the stage every time the spotlight shone down on her.
But Bakersfield native Billy Haynes, who performed hundreds of shows as the rock legend’s bass player during one of the most challenging times of her life, admired her for more than that.
Tina Turner, who died May 24 at age 83, was a survivor in the truest sense. In 1977, when Haynes joined her band, Turner had just made a harrowing break from her legendarily abusive husband, Ike Turner.
“That was right after the breakup,” Haynes said. “So I saw a lot of the ugliness that he brought to her. He had this mentality that he owned her … He’s just using all this foul language, saying, ‘You’re nothing, you’ll never be anything without me.’ It was a little nerve-wracking because, you know, I’m from Bakersfield and I wasn’t used to this high level of gangsterism.”
But Tina Turner was determined to make it on her own, despite Ike Turner’s efforts to bring her down. She worked incredibly hard and she valued band members who would work hard with her.
“We were gone a minimum of 40 weeks a year in mostly Europe, Australia, New Zealand, South America,” Haynes said. “What I saw was a hard-working person.”
Haynes said he was blown away by Turner’s generosity of spirit and by her ironclad professionalism, epitomized by one East Coast show in particular. Right in the middle of a song Turner experienced a wardrobe malfunction – her top fell down, exposing her breasts and when she tried to dart off stage to fix it, she tripped and fell.
“And there she was,” on all fours, Haynes said. “And we were just devastated and embarrassed for her. And she came back on stage as if nothing happened, and it just lifted all of us up, our spirits, and we just go [full bore]. I would say the standing ovation lasted 10 minutes. I think everybody felt her determination. She was an amazing lady.”
Haynes, a 1967 graduate of Bakersfield High School, was saddened, of course, by Turner’s passing, but he was also overtaken by a sense of gratitude.
“She took a little country boy from Bakersfield and turned him into a world-class musician,” he said. “She taught me what it was like to really dig in and learn your craft.”
Tina Turner touched fans and musicians all over the world, and, as it turns out, that included right here in Bakersfield.