Tina Turner and Ike Turner weren’t the only heat in the Ike and Tina Turner Revue. The Ikettes, their three back-up singers, also lent some fire. Robbie Montgomery, today better known for her family’s reality show, “Welcome to Sweetie Pie’s”, on OWN, was one of them. On “Oprah’s Next Chapter,” Tina Turner, whose physical abuse at the hands of Ike Turner is well-known, recounted how especially close she was to the soul food restauranteur in those days.
“Robbie was like a sister when she was an Ikette,” she told Oprah. She also shared that “Robbie was a support for me in those dark days” and expressed how much she missed her when she left the Ikettes.
During a private dinner at the Four Seasons in Atlanta during the week of the new season premiere for “Welcome to Sweetie Pie’s”, Miss Robbie, as she is affectionately known, answered questions comparing her life then as an Ikette and now as a restauranteur. “It’s totally different but basically the same because it’s all a job. People don’t realize that and say ‘where’s the party?’ It ain’t no party. This is work,” she told Atlanta Black Star.
“So it’s basically the same but I’m in a better financial position than I was when I was singing because back then, in them days, we didn’t make a lot of money like the singers today,” she continued. “Now the singers today, they [have] their own companies. We didn’t do that. All we had was a job.”
One man dominated them all. “Ike was the head of the company and we were just employees,” she explained. “So this is totally different. I’m the head of this and so it’s a different perspective. But I enjoy both of them because, if it wasn’t for the first one, I wouldn’t be able to do the second one.”
Running her own business, she admitted, has made her appreciate Ike Turner as a businessman. “Now that I got a company and I’m a boss, I understand where he was coming from because he’s got 20 people that’s on the road traveling depending on him to eat, to sleep and to get a payday. See that’s a lot of pressure because I got 40 and I haven’t missed a payday. But I learned that from him,” she said.
“I mean he never missed a payday. He had his ways. He wanted you on time,” she continued. “It’s the same thing [for me because] I want my doors open on time. So I can relate now but, when we were out there young, we were like ‘we don’t get a chance to do nothing, we got to rehearse, we got to do this, we got to learn songs’. But I understand now. He was depending on people to make him a success because it wasn’t him by himself. . . And the bus rolls at a certain time and, if you ain’t ready, you’re going to get left because he’s got to be at that job. So now I understand that he was a great businessman.”
Miss Robbie admitted that “taking time for myself” has been her biggest challenge. “I give my whole life to the people around me and my business,” she explained. “I don’t sleep at night because I’m thinking [about business]. If I have a slow day at the restaurant it’s like panic: ‘Oh Lord is it over?’; ‘Oh Jesus, they didn’t come today?’; Oh, are they coming back?; ‘What can I do to get more people in?’
“It’s constant work,” she continued. “Even when I’m at home, I’m trying to improve my business, seeing what I can do to make it better.”
Showing no signs of slowing down, Miss Robbie, now 77, recently opened the burger joint, Sweetie Pie’s Hamburger Heaven, in St. Louis and released the Christmas single, “It’s Christmas Time Again”.
“So I’m just giving up on the retirement,” she laughed. “I’m in a good place in my life and I’m happy.”
Sweetie Pies airs Saturday nights on OWN at 9pm EST.