Let Me Dream : Ivory Joe Hunter©2002JCMarion


Ivory Joe Hunter was born in Kirbryville, Texas, in 1914. Both his parents had a musical background - his mother was a singer of gospel music and his father was a guitarist. In the early nineteen forties, Hunter had his own local radio program on station KFDM in Beaumont, and soon became head programmer for the station. All along he had become a prolific writer of songs and his desire was to record his own music someday. He had been playing piano in the style of Fats Waller for most of his life, but Hunter was a bit restless and had the idea of somehow combining the influences of the blues and country music that he had heard so much of in his native Texas. But he looked to the West where he felt his future would lie and in 1942 moved to the Los Angeles area.

By 1945 he had become part of Johnny Moore and The Three Blazers and made his first record with the combo on his own label Ivory Records on one of his tunes "Blues At Sunrise". The record became a good regional seller and Hunter had his first flush of success. In the late forties he founded Pacific Records, and then recorded for Four Star and then King Records. He found success with tunes such as, "Guess Who" and "Landlord Blues" on #4306, and "Jealous Heart" and "All States Boogie" on #4314 and "I Quit My Pretty Mama" and "It's You Just You" on #4326 all for the King label in 1949. His piano stylings soon resulted in his nickname which was "Baron of the Boogie". In late 1949 Ivory Joe signs with MGM Records and records "I Almost Lost My Mind" on #10578 (the flip side is "If I Give You My Love"). He began the year of 1950 with his first gig in the Los Angeles area in almost a year, playing a date at the Elks Auditorium on Central Avenue. In February MGM Records releases "S.P. Blues" and "Why Fool Yourself?" on #10618. A favorite tune along Central Avenue by many singers is Hunter's "Radar Blues". In March of 1950, "I Almost Lost My Mind" continues to sell well across the country, while his new record of "S.P. Blues" is starting off strong especially in Texas and New Orleans.

In April of 1950, Ivory Joe Hunter wins a lawsuit over refusal of a cafe in Bakersfield, California, to serve him because of his race. He had just extended his recording contract with MGM Records in Hollywood and was returning to the bay area to continue his current tour. In late April MGM releases "I Need You So" and "Leave Her Alone" on #10663. MGM advertises all of Hunter's sides for the label are now available on unbreakable Metrolite 78s. Hunter continues his tour in the South and will end up in New York for a date at the Apollo Theater in mid May. The tour has a big stop in Memphis where he sells out two shows. His band includes Howard Davis and LeMon Thompson on alto sax, Vernon Slater on tenor sax, Jimmy Holland baritone sax, Eddie Walker on trumpet, Wyatt Ruther on bass, Chuck Thompson on drums, and of course Ivory Joe on piano and vocals. King Records gets into the act seeing Hunter's success by releasing songs from an old session on that label in late April with "Please Don't Cry Anymore" and "I Got Your Water On" on King #4347. Not to be outdone, Four Star Records re-releases Ivory Joe's "She's A Killer" and "Empty Room Blues" on #1481.

In July MGM releases the "official" new record by Hunter - "Let Me Dream" and "Gimme A Pound Of Ground Round" on #10733. In August King Records is at it again with the release of "Changing Blues" and "I Have No Reason To Complain" on #4382 from a previous session. In September Hunter does a two week stay at Philadelphia's Club 421. In mid September "Old Man's Boogie" and "Living A Lie" are released on MGM #10761. In November while Ivory Joe's "It's A Sin" (MGM 10818) starts to sell for MGM, Four Star re-releases "Jumpin' At The Dew Drop" and "We're Gonna Boogie" on #1535. In December in an affirmation of the big year that Hunter has enjoyed, the Juke Box Operators of America give the award for the top Jazz and Blues performer to Ivory Joe. His recording of "I Almost Lost My Mind" also gets an award for being the number one Jazz and Blues Record of the Year. His recording of "I Need You So" placed in the top ten for the year. At year's end King releases "Lying Woman" on #4405, while the new MGM side in December is "You Thrill Me" and "Sorta Need You" on #10861.
In January of 1951, King Records keeps the sessions on the shelf releases coming. "False Friend Blues" and "Send Me Pretty Mama" is out on #4424. In February MGM releases "I Found My Baby" and "I Ain't Got No Gal No More" on #10899 and is issued on 45 as well as 78. During the month Hunter is appearing at The Oasis in Los Angeles. In April Ivory Joe Hunter appears on the national television show "You Asked For It". In April King re-releases "Stop Rockin' That Train" and "She's Gone Blues" on #4443. In May an intersecting show is held at the Riviera Club in St. Louis. It is called "Blues vs. Bop" for one week. It pits Ivory Joe Hunter and Charlie Parker in a "battle of the bands" format. That month MGM issues "I Can't Get You Off My Mind" and "I Can't Resist You" on #10951, and "Is My Pop In There?" and Time Has Passed" on #10963. The next month MGM hits again with "When I Lost You" and "You Lied" on 10995. In September of 1951, Ivory Joe and his management have had it with MGM Records charging a lack of promotion for the artist. He claims that a lack of promotion and distribution of his records in the last year has had a negative affect on his in person bookings and record sales have dropped. Hunter intends to sign with Aladdin Records in L.A.. as soon as possible. Be that as it may, MGM releases #11052 in late September featuring the songs "I'm Yours Until Eternity" and "Young Woman Blues". The threat to leave MGM Records is averted as the label and Hunter have a meeting to iron out differences.

In January of 1952, MGM releases "Blue Moon" and "U Name It" on #11132. Ivory Joe and Al Hibbler share the stage at Detroit's Frolic Show Bar, then Hunter heads for the Cotton Club in Cincinnati for a week. The next month "Laugh (Though You Feel You Want To Cry)" and "Where Shall I Go?" on #11165 is released with a party at Harlem's Hotel Theresa. The record is a good seller in New Orleans and Memphis. Hunter then does a two week stay at New York's jazz emporium, Birdland. In April MGM keeps the records coming - "I Will Be True" and "I'm Sorry For You My Friend" on #11195 is issued. In June "I Get That Lonesome Feeling" and "I Thought I Had Loved" are out on MGM #11263. In July Hunter winds up a tour of one nighters in the Midwest and then is booked for a tour of one nighters in his home state of Texas. In September Hunter is booked for a week in Atlanta at the Royal Peacock. In October "The Bounce" and "Tell Her For Me" are paired on MGM #11325. That month Hunter stars for a week at the Earle Theater in Philadelphia with Larry Darnell, The Four Blazes, and Thelma Carpenter. At year's end "Rockin' Chair Boogie" and "Music Before Dawn" is released on #11378 for MGM as Hunter does a week at Pep's in Philadelphia.
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