In 1966, the Evergreen Ballroom out on Old Highway 99 in Lacey was ripe for the visit it got from Ike and Tina Turner. Already a hot spot for bands headed to and from Seattle, it received high traffic from hundreds of weekend dancers. Of course the ballroom was ready to welcome yet another performer that would go on to a long, successful career. Tina Turner graced the stage at The Green, as it was familiarly known, at a significant rise in her growing fame. Her performance surely left many Thurston County residents saying, “I was there!”
Born Anna Mae Bullock, Turner was a small-town person playing a big gig in small-town Lacey. Still small today, her hometown of Nutbush, Tennessee, had a population of about 1,100 even in 2020. She later moved to St. Louis with her sister and mother and finished high school. The story goes, according to the International Tina Turner Fan Club biography, that one night her sister convinced her to go to the Club Manhattan, the city’s most famous night club. One of the bands that played there was Ike Turner’s The Kings of Rhythm. By chance, Anna filled in one evening as a singer in the band. She stepped in another time for a no-show singer when the band needed to record “A Fool in Love.” The single became a hit and proved to be a game changer. Ike Turner’s band changed its name and became The Ike and Tina Turner Revue with the Ikettes as back-up singers.
While Anna, now performing under the name Tina Turner, was just beginning to make an impression in 1960 St. Louis, the Evergreen Ballroom had already been rockin’ the rafters of its barn style dance hall for nearly 30 years. The first music playing there came from the in-house Sholund band in 1931, the same year Ike Turner was born. In the 1940s, orchestra and big band music was popular, some even battling before the crowd for popularity. Patrons came from all around the county, even from McCord Airforce Base and Tacoma. The dancehall was out on the edge of Lacey, but the Sholund family owners made arrangements for bus rides. When teenage dances gained momentum in the 1950s, young people crammed in to see the likes of Jerry Lee Lewis, James Brown and the Fabulous Wailers. While Ike and Tina Turner were crisscrossing the country and starting to travel the globe, Lacey and its surrounding residents were perfecting their dance moves right into the mid-1960s.
The Ike and Tina Turner Revue racked up hit after hit, and to keep making money, they worked 300 days a year. The two headliners Ike and Tina married in 1962 and continued touring the United States. Florida, Ohio, California, St. Louis and New York were just a few of the many stops. In 1965, they were on American Bandstand. In 1966, their newest song “River Deep Mountain High” was a top three hit in the United Kingdom. In the fall of the same year, just before arriving in the Pacific Northwest, they had spent September and October as the opening act for the Rolling Stones on a UK tour. One month later, for their very next show, on November 27, 1966, they took the stage at The Green. It was the day after Tina’s birthday.
Ike and Tina Turner were following in the footsteps of big names like those with whom they had worked and toured. Together, they recorded for seven different record labels in five years by 1969. Their name and notoriety had gone transcontinental. Locally though, advertisements ran regularly in The Daily Chronicle, inviting people to the ballroom. Seeing an ad for the band’s appearance would have drawn in the teenage dance crowd, soldiers from the nearby military base and even previous generations of patrons who had been to The Green in their own youth. The 1,670 square feet of dance floor was used to being stomped and tapped by feet until 2 a.m. Doors were open until after midnight, and a ticket was just a few dollars.
Ike and Tina Turner toured again with the Rolling Stones in 1969, and they continued to zig zag across the nation to perform. In the 1971, they won a Grammy Award for the Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Group, and they had three other nominations surround that win. Ultimately, they would go on to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991.
The Evergreen Ballroom hosted countless performers, orchestras, quintets of teen heartthrob bands and hosted battles between bands. Social media posts and reflections shared are evidence of the long, historical importance of the dancehall. Unfortunately, the building burned in 2000. It was never rebuilt, but the memories last. The Thurston County Historical Commission and the City of Lacey have discussed a monument to be erected near the Regional Athletic Complex, not far from the original location.