Bake Turner: Larger than life

Former New York Jet Super Bowl Champion Bake Turner will share his second career of singing country music at the Johnny Rodriguez concert this Saturday. Photo by Phil Houseal

Mar 13, 2019–Robert Hardy “Bake” Turner has spent his life around larger-than-life characters in the worlds of professional football and country music. He is larger than life himself.

Turner, as true football fans know, was a wide receiver out of Alpine, Texas, who first starred at Texas Tech, then went to the New York Jets in 1963, where he was an NFL All-Pro receiver and member of the Joe Namath-led AFL and World Championship teams.

As much success as he achieved in sports, and later in Dallas real estate development, Turner harbored another passion. He enjoyed playing and singing country music. And he was good at it. Good enough that after his Super Bowl victory, Capitol Records signed Turner to a record deal. The song they gave him to record was a little ditty called “Is Anybody Going To San Antone.”

You might have heard it.

He put the song out to respectable reviews, radio play, and royalties. One young lady really liked it. She encouraged her husband to record it. Her husband happened to be a guy named Charlie Pride.

“He kind of cost me money on that song,” Turner said in deadpan delivery. “I made seven or eight thousand dollars out of that record, but Charlie Pride made well over a hundred thousand. He had a good cut on it.”

Turner will be opening up for another music legend–Johnny Rodriguez–this weekend at the Cailloux Theater. Turner grew up harmonizing with his sisters, and used to keep a small band, but these days he prefers to perform solo.

“I’m not cut out to be a band leader,” he said. But after singing solo for a year, he was missing something–those sibling harmonies. “So I found this device online that gives me three-part harmony. I try not to abuse it. I’ll do a verse, them put in a little harmony when I feel like it, and I’m totally happy.”

So for this show, Turner will sit alone, with his guitar and his harmonizer, sing his classic country favorites, and maybe throw in an anecdote or two.

“I’m a kind of a humorist,” he said. “But I don’t think it’s a time for humor. It’s a time to sing some really good songs.”

Still, he likes to josh with the audience, and will tell stories from his heady days in pro football and country music, although there are some he can’t do on stage.

“I will probably recite my favorite poem, but I can’t tell most of my jokes, like the ones from Joe Namath.”

Although quick with a quip, Turner is “very serious” about his music.

“It is the most serious thing I’ve done, and I feel I’ve got to do it just right,” he said. “Sometimes it does, and sometimes it doesn’t, but I don’t want to do anything halfway, especially music.”

Close-up of Bake’s Super Bowl ring he won while playing with the Joe Namath’s NY Jets. Photo by Phil Houseal

I asked him who boasts the higher “BS” factor–musicians or athletes?

“Musicians, by far,” he replied instantly. “They have things they need to live up to, like they’ve got to be wild and staying out late every night. Football is a game of chance. Sometimes you make a touchdown, and sometimes you break a bone. It seems I’d catch a ball and often the defender would fall down. I wasn’t too concerned.”

Musically, Turner describes his voice as “mediocre rich.”

“I used to try to sound like Roger Miller or Willie Nelson, with that nasal tone. But I found I do better when I just do myself.”

He once asked his nemesis Charlie Pride, how do you get that deep voice?

“Easy, he told me. Stay out all night every night for years, and drink a whole bunch of beer and whiskey. I didn’t think it was worth it.”

Turner wants you to come out and hear him. He’ll be going through songs by Hank Williams, Ray Price, Waylon and Willie, and a few others. But there is one artist’s songs you won’t hear.

“I don’t do any Charlie Pride.”

Postscript: Despite the jokes, Turner and Charlie Pride are pals.
“He apologizes every time I see him,” Turner said. “Charlie Pride is a good son-of-a-gun.”

Details:

Bake Turner and Johnny Rodriguez will perform at The Cailloux Theater on Saturday, March 16 at 7:30 pm. Information and tickets at www.caillouxtheater.com.