Though his rock output was sporadic and only occasionally vital, Gant’s role in proving the commercial possibilities of black music for independent record companies in the mid-1940’s ensured that subsequent styles such as rock had an outlet to reach the public.

Cecil Gant was born in 1913 in Nashville, Tennessee and it was while in the Army during World War Two that he rose to sudden fame after asking to sing and play piano at a War Bond rally in Los Angeles. His performance caused quite a stir and as a result he began making appearances at rallies all over the city and was quickly was signed to a small record company called Gilt-Edge who issued his tender ballad “I Wonder” which expressed the sentiments of soldiers overseas perfectly. Despite being on such a weak label the record became a sensation, topping the Race charts and remaining in the Top Ten for a startling twenty-eight weeks.

The record’s profound success helped inspire countless others to see the potential in this field and dozens of labels sprang up in its aftermath focusing on the black styles of music otherwise neglected by the major companies at the time. It was thanks to this trend that when rock ‘n’ roll was born three years later in 1947 it had a small but thriving community of independent record companies and distributors to see to it that the music had the means to be sold.

As for Gant though his popularity had come from his mellow crooning he was also a fine boogie piano player who often coupled storming uptempo instrumental showcases alongside slower material. After rock’s arrival on the scene Gant naturally adapted this side of his musical persona to fit that genre’s needs without ever fully committing to it as his primary direction, choosing instead to cut songs in all conceivable styles, his versatility being both an asset in guaranteeing he’d be capable of handling any material required, yet also a detriment as he never established himself in any one field.

Additionally Gant’s personal problems made him rather difficult to deal with, not so much personally as professionally. He rarely could perform a song the same way twice, had little use for carefully working material out in advance and jumped from record label to record label, doing one-off sessions for cash with no eye on building a long-term career, including releasing songs under an alias which didn’t help keep his own name in the spotlight. On top of it all he was also an alcoholic inflicted with health problems that made his live appearances a risky bet for promoters. Yet even while he charted only occasionally in the years to come companies still were willing to take chances on him because of his lingering renown from his breakthrough that all but guaranteed his records would sell fairly consistently if not overwhelmingly.

His other role in helping rock get off the ground was indirect, but notable, as it was Gant who listened to Roy Brown sing “Good Rocking Tonight” after Wynonie Harris had rejected the youngster pitching the song to him in New Orleans hoping to get Harris to record it. Gant was so impressed he phoned the president of DeLuxe Records in the middle of the night to have Brown sing it to him and the result was Roy got signed, the record got cut and launched rock ‘n’ roll in the process.

Cecil Gant wouldn’t be around for very long to see the music evolve into the most dominant form of music of the 20th Century, as he died of pneumonia in 1951, not even forty years old.

CECIL GANT DISCOGRAPHY (Reviews To Date On Spontaneous Lunacy):
(King 4231; June, 1948)
Fairly effective rolling piano boogie instrumental… nothing special, merely a throwaway performance done as well as could be expected. (4)

(Bullet 289; October, 1948)
Aimless, if enjoyable piano workout given a bit of structure with a unique spoken intro leading into some high octane playing, but ultimately makes a fleeting impression. (4)

(Bullet 299; April, 1949)
A whimsical piano exercise passed off as a record, neither exciting enough, intricate enough or amusing enough to justify the 79 cent retail price at the time… screwy is the right word for Gant’s half-hearted efforts. (2)

(4 Star 1377; November, 1949)
A very creative and endearingly performed song that hardly was representative of the direction that rock was headed in at the time, but as a left field offering it proved that the enigmatic Gant still had some charm and originality in him. (6)

(Bullet 320; December, 1949)
A better and more well-thought out arrangement than we usually get from Gant, but while the concept is good the execution is fairly uneven though there are some solid moments, especially from the guitarist and bassist that make it interesting. (4)

(Swingtime 209; January, 1950)
Resurrected comedy skit/record from the legendary duo Butterbeans and Susie who actually used more of a musical bent than Gant does, though his portrayal of the lead role is okay the lack of any female retort makes this rather one-sided and unnecessary. (3)

(Imperial 5066; March, 1950)
A simple straightforward rocker carried out with determined intensity by Gant, giving us just enough of a story to tie the storming musical interludes together and finally show why this vagabond artist could never fully be counted out. (8)

(Decca 48170; August, 1950)
More historically important due to its message than a great record as an enthusiastic Gant doesn’t take the time to craft an actual story around an arrangement that is energetic but slightly unfocused… that this is now average shows how far rock has progressed however. (5)

(4 Star 1526; September, 1950)
Surprisingly this country song performed by a reformed blues balladeer turned rock act with a jazz trumpeter in tow manages to come together fairly well, allowing Gant to display some acting ability, though the arrangement doesn’t give them quite enough room to maneuver. (4)

(Dot 1016; November, 1950)
A three year old song recorded for another label (Bullet) that Dot Records bought to bolster their early output doesn’t suffer much from the passage of time, but rather from the typical lack of planning of Gant, though his piano work almost makes up for it. (4)

(Decca 48185; November, 1950)
With a backing guitar that is all over the stylistic map yet maintains a consistent thread throughout the song, it’s little wonder that Gant’s own part in the story is just as convoluted, yet there’s plenty of charm in his delivery and it’s nothing if not interesting. (5)

(Decca 48185; November, 1950)
An engaging performance by Gant who delivers a lullaby type song that features some unusual components that shouldn’t fit in a sonic sense but don’t upset the delicate feel of the arrangement allowing him to win you over with his sincerity. (6)

(Decca 48191; December, 1950)
As the construction of his songs becomes tighter now that he’s on Decca, the weak spots have been shored up and with this one he gets a chance for a good piano solo while the lyrics allow him to portray a believable character making it a solid all around effort. (5)

(Decca 48200; February, 1951)
A really solid cover of a rival rock song which succeeds because of what it brings to that the table that is different, from the gender change to Gant’s gravelly laid back vocal to the piano/guitar based arrangement making for a fitting farewell to the recently deceased singer. (7)

(Decca 48212; May, 1951)
A simplistic song on paper benefits from Gant’s utter conviction in the message and a sparse but tight arrangement to start with that becomes more diverse in unexpected ways as it goes on, making this a pleasant posthumous surprise. (6)

(Decca 48231; August, 1951)
Gant goes out with a winner, offering a tribute to a tasty dish that might not be all it appears on the surface, singing and playing with obvious delight while his creativity flourishes right to the end. (7)