In September 1991 I had an article published in Goldmine magazine. It was about a small independent record label called Downey, which operated from the late 1950s through the late 1960s and produced one huge hit, "Pipeline" by the Chantays. The label was run by Bill Wenzel and his son, Jack, whose younger brother, Tom, later ran a collector's record store called Wenzel's from the site of the old Downey studio, with his wife, Maxine, in Downey, Southern California.

My next project presented itself during my research for the Downey article. The label had produced and released a motley mixture of different artistes, from SoCal surf/guitar bands to cabaret acts to black vocal groups and R&B singers. One of the obscure artistes tucked away on two Downey releases was a female singer named Pat Powdrill. She started as a name in a discography as far as I was concerned, and then I got more interested when I discovered that one of the records she made for Downey was written by a yet-to-make-it-big Barry White. I then discovered that Pat Powdrill had been a member of the Ikettes, Ike Turner's girl group, and that there were pictures of her in Tina Turner's autobiography, 'I, Tina'. At this point I was getting more intrigued by Pat Powdrill than most of the other artistes on the Downey label, and my first move toward finding out more was to buy a copy of Tina's book. I decided to do an article on the Ikettes and their convoluted history as soon as I had finished the Downey piece.

While my research on the Ikettes story is still ongoing, some background on the group might be useful here. Their story begins in 1960 - at the time of the first record credited to Ike & Tina Turner - in St. Louis, Missouri, where there was already a group called the Artettes, a trio comprising Robbie Montgomery, Sandra Harding and Frances Hodges, who worked as backing vocalists for Art Lassiter. Ike Turner wanted to produce "A Fool In Love" with Lassiter and his girls, but when the singer did not make the session, Ike instead used his young hanger-on, Anna Mae Bullock, for the lead vocals. A deal was struck with Sue, a label out of New York, and the record became a #2 R&B hit. The following year Ike took another bunch of girls into the studio to record "I'm Blue", the Ikettes' own debut 45, and a big hit for Atco Records early in 1962. The lead singer on the record was Delores "Dee Dee" Johnson, with Eloise Hester, Josephine "Joshie Jo" Armstead and Tina/Anna Mae on backups.

Soon after this, the first firm Ikettes line-up was established, with Jessie Smith and Venetta Fields joining Robbie Montgomery, now returned from maternity leave. In 1964 Ike signed the group to Modern Records of L.A., following his relocation of the entire Ike & Tina Turner Revue out to the Coast. The Ikettes continued their success on the new label, charting with "Peaches 'n' Cream" and "I'm So Thankful". But while Ike had Jessie, Robbie and Venetta on the road with the Revue, he sent a group of substitute girls out on Dick Clark tours, and the like, which rankled the real Ikettes, who upped and quit. But Ike had a major comeback - he claimed their name. Hence, upon signing to Mirwood, the three girls renamed themselves the Mirettes, after the label.

Now, with the three-girls-behind-Tina image set, Ike needed a new trio of girls who could sing, dance and look great. The next set of Ikettes were Gloria Scott, Maxine Smith and Pat Arnold, all from Los Angeles. This was the line-up that appeared in the movie "The Big TNT Show", filmed in November 1965, while the trio that came with Ike & Tina to tour the U.K. with the Rolling Stones a year later comprised Pat Arnold, Rose Smith and Ann Thomas, Ike's beautiful new paramour. At the end of that tour Pat stayed on in the U.K. and started her career as P.P. Arnold. When the Revue got back to the States, her place in the group was filled by Pat Powdrill.

Other ladies to have trodden the boards or recorded as Ikettes over the years include Flora Carlena Williams, Brenda Holloway, Patrice Holloway, Shellie Clark, Paulette Parker, Jean Brown, Esther Jones, Jean Burks, Vera Hamilton, Vermettya Royster, Adrienne Williams, Martha Graham, Edna Lejeune Richardson, Claudia Lennear, Bonnie Bramlett, Esther Burton Jones, Debbie Wilson, Linda Sims, Charlotte Lewis and sundry others.

In December 1991 I spoke to P.P. Arnold, who told me quite a lot about Pat Powdrill. The latter not only replaced the former in the Ikettes in 1966, but also took over P.P.'s ex-boyfriend, Gabe Fleming, the trumpeter. I also discussed with P.P. the Ikettes LP pictured above and she filled me in on who the four girls in the cover photo were. For the record, the shot features, from left to right: Paulette Parker, Pat Powdrill, Ann Thomas (the famously non-singing Ikette) and Jean Brown. [1]

In March 1992 I met and interviewed Jimmy Thomas, erstwhile singer with the Ike & Tina Turner Revue. He also remembered Pat Powdrill fondly. He remembered a few Ikettes very fondly! In June 1993 I was in Los Angeles and spoke on the phone to Billie Barnum, H.B.'s sister. I told her of my quest to find ex-Ikettes, particularly Pat Powdrill. Billie said she'd try to help find Pat, and meanwhile put me on to a few contacts. Up in Silverlake, I met and interviewed Soko Richardson, who had been Ike Turner's drummer for ten years. His ex-wife, Edna Lejeune, had been an Ikette and had worked alongside Pat Powdrill on and off. He remembered Pat, but was unforthcoming, hinting about trouble with drugs. I let it slide.

On the same trip I hooked up with Vermettya Royster and Maxanne Lewis. Vermettya was great fun and had many stories to tell, including of her long career with the Clara Ward Singers. She was interested in taking over from the late Bertice Reading, and nurturing a West End theatre career. I couldn't really help her there. Maxanne had started out as Paulette Parker, and recorded for Duke Records under that name after her Ikettes days. She and I also discussed the above-mentioned photo. Through another contact I found Carlena Williams, who I met doing her baby sitting job. The first thing I found out was that she was also Flora Williams, who had made records for Ike Turner under that name, including "Blue With A Broken Heart". [2]

My next visit to Los Angeles was not until August 1995. I had travelled there by way of an extensive tour that took in St. Louis, Missouri, where I met Robbie Montgomery. Unfortunately I had just missed Jesse Smith, who had a church engagement, and I had to leave the next day. In L.A., I finally got to meet Billie Barnum in person, and went to a fantastic gospel sing at the First AME Church, and even got invited to a picnic about a week later that can best be described as a not-so-stoned soul picnic. It was during this trip that Billie told me she was closing in on the trail of Pat Powdrill. I got the feeling it had been tough.

Back in Blighty I kept in touch with Billie, mostly by fax. Suddenly, Billie found Pat Powdrill. She contacted me excitedly sometime early in October 1995, and followed that up a couple of weeks later with a fax that said she had spoken to Pat, who was anxious to talk with me. Billie had told her that finding her had become a quest, which intrigued Pat no end. Billie ended that fax with, "I'm glad that's over, now onward!" I rang and introduced myself to Pat on 16th October 1995. The following phone interview took place the next day.

BRIAN NEVILL: I've been talking to Jimmy Thomas. He says Hi.

PAT POWDRILL: Tell him I said Hello also. It's been years. Years.

What you know from Billie Barnum is I'm working on a piece about the Ikettes, so a lot of what I want to ask you is orientated around that. Are you from Los Angeles originally?

No, I'm from Birmingham, Alabama. I came to Los Angeles at the age of eight. That's 40 years ago, so I guess I'm from here.

You made three records for Reprise. Were these the first things that you did?

Yes. The first thing I did was called "Happy Anniversary". That was with Jimmy Bowen … married to Keely Smith, I think. [3]

That was 1963, with Jack Nitzsche arranging?

Yes. I remember Jack Nitzsche. He was the arranger, yes.

Did you have anything to do with the material that was recorded?

Did I have … as far as writing?

No, as far as choosing it.

No no no. I chose nothing. No.

Were you doing live shows during the Reprise years?

I did some San Francisco things with, um, what's his name? "Hand Jive"?

Johnny Otis.

Johnny Otis. I did some openings for him. And I did some openings for … Esther Phillips, she was with him, and Dinah Washington. I was like an opening act there. Only about two songs and I was under age with a mother chaperone. That was in San Francisco. I can't remember what club, but it was a big auditorium. [4]

You then did a couple of records for Downey, which was a smaller label, based in Downey. How did that come about?

OK, I remember that. A guy was looking for my mother. My mother worked in a factory. And he had lost his finger (in an accident), and he took his finger (compensation) money and invested it in me. I can't remember what his name was, I should remember. But God, I was only about, what, about 16 then … Nick Risi. He was the one with the finger. He was the one who financially backed me. Oh it's coming back. I think he was the one who took me there. He did the demos. Nick Risi, he took his finger money, invested it into some demos, then took the demos to someone at Downey Records. I remember, and we cut a record. But then I had a thing with … I had a pick thing on Dick Clark. It made it all the way to the Dick Clark Show. I'm really going back in my head now.

Do you remember the records on Downey?

I don't. Do you have the names of them?

Yes I do. One was called "Do It".

Oh God, yes, that was with two other girls. It was three of us. Alexander Brown was on one of those. Alex Brown? [5] There was another called "Ain't My Stuff Good Enough". God, I can't remember the names. [6]

"Do It" is hugely collectible here in the U.K.

What? It's collectible?

Yeah, I couldn't afford it.

What's the record going for?

Something like 75 bucks.

For a 45?

For your "Do It" 45, yeah.

Good God almighty. Ha ha ha. My goodness, the things that you do not know.

There was another "Together Forever".

I remember that. God, it's been so long. I really wish I had copies of those. Get me a tape and send me a tape.

The other side's called "They Are The Lonely".

Ah, "They Are The Lonely" …

One of the producers of the Downey things was Jim Thomas, and I don't think that's the Jimmy Thomas of the Ike & Tina Revue.

No no no. Not your Jimmy Thomas.

The Downey stuff had a Barry White connection, right?

I don't remember. I did some writing for Barry White. I took some writing of mine to Barry White, a representative of his. Never heard anything else about it. Like you go and you give your material to someone, they say they're not interested, next thing you know you hear your lines coming off the radio.

Yeah, I've heard of that too.

Shalamar, the group Shalamar?


OK. I worked for, what's his name, Simon Soussan. He told us this was a demo, for his home use. Simon Soussan took the track to Soul Train Records and made a bank. Patty Powdrill got nothing. Ha ha, isn't that horrible? [7]

It's the age-old story, isn't it?

Oh God, yes.


Pat's debut single, 1963, Danish picture cover.
[click to enlarge]


Jean Brown, Ann Thomas, Tina Turner and Pat Powdrill,
celebrating Tina's birthday, 1968. [(click to enlarge]

After Downey, you went straight to the Ikettes, right?

Yes. The Ikettes was when I was about 17, 18. I auditioned at 17, and I left with them at 18.

I make it '66 that you joined, so that sounds right. They had just come back from their first U.K. tour.

Yes, They had. That's when Pat Arnold met Mick Jagger, and started going with him.

When the Ikettes came back to the States there was also a girl called Rose Smith.

Rose, she was a little … kind of round-faced girl, I remember Rose. Rose, P.P. Arnold and, ah …

Ann Thomas.

… and Ann Thomas. Those were the three girls.

When you joined Ann Thomas was still there, right?

Ann Thomas was there for a lifetime. [laughter]

When you joined who was the third one?

When I joined there was Ann Thomas, me, and … oh God, I can't remember who the third girl was. Oh, Shellie Clarke.

The one who was later in the Honey Cone?

Shellie Clarke. Yes, she was a Honey Cone.

I read somewhere that she had some trouble with Ike, or something, when she …

… We had a bus crash. The bus crashed. We had a bus accident, and Shellie got hurt very badly and sued them. I don't think she got any money for it though.

She left after that?

She's now with, married to one of the Earth Wind And Fire guys.

Did you ever visit the U.K. when you were with the group?

Yes, I came over. I came over to London, England with Ann Thomas and Paulette Parker.



Maxanne (Paulette) says she joined in about late '67.

Picked her up in Muskogee, Oklahoma.

She's from Oklahoma.

Yes, she came to a show, and that night she went home and got her bags and left. That's right, that's how fast that was.

So do you remember the first year you came to the U.K.?

No, I don't. Uh-huh, no. [8]

You must have recorded some of the things that came out under the name of the Ikettes. There was a record called "So Blue Over You". Remember that one?


There was a version of "So Fine", the Fiestas song. Do you remember doing that? Were you on that one?

No. See, a lot of things we did in the studio we were tricked and [they] said these are just demos … Next thing we knew, these were tapes, these were records that were sent out of state and we had no interest and no money and no involvement. We used to do many countless hours in that studio, in Bolic.

Do you remember a song called "Make 'Em Wait"?


How about "Beauty Is Just Skin Deep"?


Ike was probably taking different session people in the studio, just using whoever was around. So the Ikettes on the records weren't always the same people as on the stage.


Ann Thomas, Vermettya Royster, Tina Turner and Pat Powdrill,
live on stage, c. 1966. [click to enlarge]


Ann Thomas, Al McKay and Pat Powdrill,
c. 1966. (click to enlarge)

There is a CD out now with my picture on the outside of it.

I was going to ask you about that. I know the one you mean. There's four of you, right?

Yes, with our hands outstretched. Black stripey dresses.

Right. That's Paulette Parker, you, Ann Thomas and Jean Brown.

That's right. Jean Brown.

Did she join after Maxanne?

Jean Brown came after Maxanne, yes.

The Ikettes expanded into a quartet mainly because of Ann Thomas's …

… Pantomime! [laughter].

Inability to sing is what I was going to say. She's known as the non-singing Ikette.

That's right.

I guess Jean Brown would have been the fourth one joining?

Jean Brown would have been the fourth one.

After Maxanne, and then Jean Brown.


How about Vermettya?

Vermettya Royster came in … oh God, I can't remember what year it was. Vermettya, me, Ann Thomas and Adrienne Williams.

Right. Do you remember someone called Martha Graham?

Martha Graham. I remember Martha Graham, yes, little short girl. Kind of freckles on her face. I remember Martha Graham, she was there for a short time.

How about Edna Lejuene Richardson? Did she join while you were still with the group?

Edna joined … I can't remember when Edna joined. I was there with Edna. She and I also worked together. Then it was Clydie … oh God … Claudia Lennier.

She joined when you were there too?

Yes, yes. Claudia, Edna, me, Ann Thomas.

Right. Together at one time?

All four of us performed at one time, yes. And Claudia started going with, um, David Bowie. Claudia started going with David Bowie. That's right.

There's a picture in Tina's book with you and Claudia on "Playboy After Dark". Do you remember a TV show called "Playboy After Dark"?

Yes, I worked that show.

Do you remember any other TV shows?

No. Uh-uh. I think "Hollywood A Go-Go". We did that one. Remember that? "Hollywood A Go-Go"? We did a lot of "Playboy After Dark" though.

So how long did you stay? Do you remember what year it was that you left the Ikettes?

It had to be, like, in '72, '71?

When you left?

When I left. That's when I sold Tina my wig. Ha ha ha. For $250!

Sold it back to her, huh?

Oh yes, I sold it back to her. I didn't need it anymore. I turned in my uniform. Ha ha h ha ha.


Ann Thomas, Paulette Parker, Ike Turner, Tina Turner,
Pat Powdrill and Jean Brown, 1968. [click to enlarge]


Pat Powdrill, Tina Turner and Claudia Lennear,
live on Playboy After Dark. [click to enlarge]

What did you do immediately after the Ikettes? Robbie Montgomery told me you worked as a Mirette.

The Mirettes, I left there and went to the Mirettes … the Mirettes, we kind of broke up … poor management, you know.

Robbie also told me you recorded with them.

I worked as a Mirette with Robbie, and we went to France. To Nice. Robbie, me and, uh, God, I can't remember.

Jessie probably?

Jessie. Yeah, Jessie Smith.

Jessie Smith. That would have been when Venetta had left?

Venetta had left. Venetta was the first one to leave. I took Venetta's place. I was a Mirette for maybe about two years. We travelled and worked. I think we had a little old record out with the Mirettes. [6]

Robbie and Jesse went off with Dr. John, right?

Yeah, I worked with Dr. John for a while. Not long, but I did some demos with him … "Right Place, Wrong Time".

They were great, those albums.

Oh God, they were good. I did a thing with Diana Ross, "Fountain Blue", and that was with Clydie. And then I worked with Sherlie Matthews.

She used to do a lot of work with Merry Clayton and Clydie King.

Yes she did, a lot of Motown stuff.

You worked on sessions in the mid-'70s. Michael Murphy?

I did a lot of sessions after I left Ike. I became a session singer with Clydie King and Merry Clayton. Oh yes, I got a lot of work with them.

There's a thing you did with Wilton Felder?

Ah yes, that's "Hold Your Head To The Sky", Wilton Felder's album. That was with Merry Clayton and myself.

It seems that Bobby Womack was on that one.

Yes, he was. He sang a lead.

There was also an album you did in the '70s for Tracy Nelson.

Ah, that was a long-haired girl, with a dog on the cover. I think I went to Memphis, Tennessee to do that.

Can you remember any other girls that you worked with for any length of time in the Ikettes that I didn't mention?

Aah, let me see. I think I worked with Billie Barnum and H.B., but that was a group thing, a choir thing. That's about all. Most of my work came with Alex Brown … Clydie King … who else, I did a few things with Maxanne, a few demos. Also did some things with, uh, the Brothers Johnson.

Oh, 'Stomp'.

Goddam! Ha ha ha ha ha.

Didn't they do that record, "Stomp"?

I remember that, that was George Johnson and Lewis Johnson.

Yeh, I used to like them.


Did you do some recording with them?

Yes, I did.

So are you writing or performing now?

I am writing. I have some great tunes now - called "Can't Say We Didn't Make It", I have one called "Wrong Side" and one called "You Never Can Say Goodbye". Great tunes. I went into the studio and did those, my own little bread money.

Did you write a song called "If It Wasn't For My Baby"?

Yes, I did, for Martha Reeves.

The album that was on, "Gotta Keep Moving", got re-issued on CD.

It got re-issued? My tune got re-issued on a CD? I wrote that tune with Cheryl Atwood. Patty Powdrill, Cheryl Atwood and … his name is Wright, but I can't think of his first name. He was a musical director for Gladys Knight. He was the contact. I took it to him, and he was the one who got it placed. But we had to give him writer's, you know, part of writing the song. I can't think of his first name, but his last name was Wright. He never did any work for that song. He just placed it and put his name down. Being a starving songwriter, I went for it. The tune has been re-released? With who? Please get me a copy.

Yeah. I'll get you a copy of that.

Please do.

On November 1st I sent Pat a package containing the Martha Reeves CD, a tape of her own singles, a copy of Tina's book and some photocopied stuff. On April 11th 1996 I sent another package, this time with a 45 and more photocopied magazine articles. The very next morning, a Friday, I got a message on my machine from her partner/boyfriend, Clea Whiteside, to tell me she had died on the day I sent the second package, which she would never see.


[click images to enlarge]



Reprise 20,166, 1963
I Only Came To Dance With You
(James Marcus Smith, aka P.J. Proby)
Fell By The Wayside
(Joe South)
Arranged and Conducted by Jack Nitzsche
Produced by Jimmy Bowen

Reprise 20,204, 1963
Happy Anniversary
(Ellie Greenwich/Tony Powers)
I Forgot More Than You'll Ever Know
(Cecil Allen Null)
Arranged and Conducted by Jack Nitzsche
Produced by Jimmy Bowen

Reprise 0286, 1964
Breaking Point
(Connie St. John)
Luckiest Girl In Town
(David Gates)
Arranged by David Gates
Produced by Jimmy Bowen

Downey 139, 1966
Do It
(Helen Miller/Roger Atkins)
I Can't Hear You
(Carole King/Gerry Goffin)
Produced by Nick Risi and Jim Thomas

Downey 141*, 1966
Together Forever
(Barry White/Jack Stern)
They Are The Lonely
(Nick Risi)
Produced by Nick Risi and Jim Thomas
* Pat Powdrill & the Powerdrills


[click images to enlarge]

Editor's Notes:
1. The Ikettes: "Fine, Fine, Fine" LP (Kent 063, 1986, and in expanded CD format on CDKEN 063, 1992.). The cover photo of this compilation shows a late 1960s line-up of Ikettes who do not perform on the actual LP/CD, which comprises material of an earlier vintage.
2. Flora Williams: "Blue With A Broken Heart"/"Mind In A Whirl" (Sonja 2003, 1964). "Blue With A Broken Heart" is included on the above LP/CD, but as "Blue On Blue" and erroneously accredited to the Ikettes.
3. "Happy Anniversary" was Pat's second release. See Discography.
4. The person whose name Pat can't remember is probably Jack Hooke, manager of Dinah Washington and Esther Phillips.
5. Pat Powdrill and Alex Brown were two of the many studio singers that made up El Coco, the chartmaking disco act masterminded by producers Laurin Rinder and Michael Lewis.
6. The Mirettes: "Ain't My Stuff Good Enough"/"Time And The Season" (Zea 50002, 1971).
7. Shalamar: "Uptown Festival"/"Part 2" (Soul Train 10885, 1977). The brainchild of producer Simon Soussan, this Motown medley was recorded by anonymous session singers prior to the formation of the actual group.
8. The Ikettes who toured England in April 1968 were Mary "Jean" Brown, Paulette Parker, Pat Powdrill and Ann Thomas, as in the photo mentioned in Note 1.



Illustrations courtesy Malcolm Baumgart, Al McKay, Brian Nevill and Mick Patrick.