A Louisville Ikettes singer’s legacy ties her to international musical legends

A Louisville Ikettes singer’s legacy ties her to international musical legends

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - The musical history of a Louisville woman stretches across the world.

Mary Jean Brown Standard shared the stage with musical icons still admired to this day.

Standard, now 74, started living the musical dream at just 18 years old.

The sounds of tap shoes and the smoothness of blues flowed out of Standard as a child, living in Louisville’s Cotter Homes Projects. She didn’t know her spot in front of her radio would put her on the other side of the dial.

Ike Turner spotted 18-year-old Standard at Louisville’s Golden Barrel Lounge. She said she remembers her outfit -- hot pants, fishnet tights and black patent leather shoes.

“(Ike) was standing there talking to a DJ and he asked him did he know me,” Standard recalled. “He said, ‘Yeah, I know her; that’s Jean Brown.’ He said, ‘Can she sing?’ The DJ responded, ‘I don’t know; ask her.’ He said, ‘Do you sing?’ I said, ‘Some say I can, some say I can’t.’ He said, ‘Tina’s just got to see you.’”

Standard hit the stage that night and didn’t stop for nearly seven years. She joined the Ikettes, the vocals and moves behind legends Ike and Tina Turner. She took her eight counts rolling to stages across the world from the Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson to Ghana, Africa. She formed friendships with Earth Wind and Fire, Mick Jagger and her heartthrob Johnny Matthews.

Two of her favorite memories, she said, were teaching President John F. Kennedy’s family how to dance, and sharing the stage with Elvis Presley.

”He would give you anything if you ask him,” Standard said of Presley.

The singer, with a Louisville heart and Hollywood talent couldn’t stay guarded from the racism of the 1960s and early 1970s.

”The truth is the truth,” Standard said. “We were actually treated better in Europe then we were here at home.”

While on the other side of the country she couldn’t disconnect from the 1968 Louisville riots.

”It just bothered me that they were tearing up the area we grew up in,” Standard said. “But nobody would come back and fix it.”

She said she also was exposed to the complicated relationship of the Turner power couple.

”The first time I saw him (hit her), I went and got one of the band members,” Standard said. “He pulled him off of her. That’s the first time I’ve ever seen a man hit a woman like that with his bare fists. It made me sad and it made me cry.”

Standard said she knows she’s lived a life some dream of. She’s no longer performing on stage; now it’s down the halls of her assisted living home.

”I can drop it like it’s hot,” Standard said. “But I can’t promise you I can get up.”

Despite recent medical issues, including twice going into cardiopulmonary arrest, she said she’s still got it.

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