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Ivory Joe Hunter
On this date in 1914, Ivory Joe Hunter was born. He was a Black singer, songwriter, and piano player.
He was born in Kirbyville, TX, to two musical parents: his mother was a gospel singer and his father, Dave Hunter, played guitar. A young Hunter took an early interest in music and in 1933, made his first recording for the Library of Congress. Hunter had his own radio show on KFDM in Beaumont, TX, in the early 1940s, and eventually became program manager. His first commercial recording was with Johnny Moore's Three Blazers. He started his own label, Ivory, and recorded his first song there, his own composition, "Blues At Sunrise," which became a regional hit.
In 1942, Hunter moved to the West Coast, where he started Pacific Records. In 1947, he recorded for 4 Star and signed with the King label. Two years later he began to have some hits on the R&B charts, such as "I Quit My Pretty Mama" and "Guess Who." On both of these, he was backed by some members of Duke Ellington's band. Hunter then signed with MGM and recorded "I Almost Lost My Mind," which topped the R&B charts in 1950. His "I Need You So" reached number 2 R&B the same year, and Ivory Joe Hunter had become a hot commodity. He had a smooth delivery and he began to be noticed in the country and & western music community.
By 1954, he had recorded more than a hundred songs and moved to the Atlantic label. His first song to cross over to the pop charts was "Since I Met You Baby" (1956). It was to be his only top forty pop song, reaching as high as number 12. Others that reached the pop charts were "Empty Arms" and "Yes, I Want You." He had a minor hit with "City Lights" in 1959 just before his popularity began to decline. The 1950s was an era when white artists would frequently make covers of good R&B records; Pat Boone covered Joe's smash R&B hit from 1950, "I Almost Lost My Mind," and had a number one hit of his own with it in 1956. Hunter came back as a country singer in the late 60s and made regular appearances at the Grand Old Opry.
Sonny James issued a cover of Joe's "Since I Met You Baby" and it topped the country charts in 1970. This paved the way for the issue of the album "The Return Of Ivory Joe Hunter" and Hunter’s appearance at the Monterrey Jazz Festival.
He was a prolific songwriter. Some estimated that he wrote more than 7,000 songs. Among them are two that Elvis Presley put in the top twenty: "My Wish Came True" and "Ain't That Loving You Baby."
Ivory Joe Hunter developed lung cancer and died in Memphis in 1974.
ACSAP Biographical Dictionary
R. R. Bowker Co., Copyright 1980
Heart & Soul:
A Celebration of Black Music Style in America, 1930-1975
by Merlis Davin Seay, Forward by Etta James
Copyright 2002, Billboard Books