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MGM 10733; JUNE 1950



Q: When do the sounds of yesterday truly belong to the past?

A: When they no longer have any effect on the sounds of the present.

Ivory Joe Hunter, a rock artist who has already scored two #1 hits during the first five months of 1950 and another that’s landed in the Top Ten, shows here that when it comes to music you don’t get any credit for your recent stylistic alignment if your current efforts fall completely out of step with the sounds of today.


Don’t You Try And Sell Me…
We’ve spilled a lot of ink – or fonts – on the constantly fluctuating directions of Ivory Joe Hunter over rock’s first three years. At times he’s been woefully out of touch with rock’s core attributes, leaning heavily in a pop direction, sometimes a jazz direction and a cocktail blues direction and occasionally even a country direction. When he heads along a different route than the one we focus on here we’ve called him out on it, frequently not bothering to even review those records because what this site is focused on is rock ‘n’ roll.

It’s nothing personal, a lot of those other songs were well-done for their own idiom and commercially successful to boot, but they aren’t rock and thus they don’t matter much to the evolution of this genre, other than keeping a talented artist away from it for stretches.

But Hunter’s presence in rock is what helped it to succeed as a whole, his slightly milder offerings acting as a bridge for those who might be scared off by the harsher sounds of Wynonie Harris, Roy Brown and Goree Carter, or various honking sax maniacs that have defined the music’s image to date. As such Hunter’s frequent deviations pose problems for rock as a whole, possibly convincing others that there were safer paths to stardom… ones that moved the entire genre away from the more vibrant sounds that were already giving rock a bad name in certain circles.

In case you were wondering, Hunter steadfastly avoids those more exciting avenues on Gimme A Pound O’ Ground Round, an insipid song from top to bottom even though with its tongue-twisting lyrics it might very well be Dr. Seuss’s favorite record.

I Gotta Do Something About It
Musically we could easily – and justifiably – exclude this altogether, and maybe we should especially since Hunter himself didn’t even write it. After all, doing someone else’s material – as a favor or because he lost a bet – hardly factors into his own creative direction. But because this release was coming off three huge smash hits – on his first three MGM releases no less – it bears at least a cursory examination if just to see whether the pop-rooted aspiring major label was hoping to steer Hunter into a realm they were more comfortable pursuing.

So as you can probably tell by the convoluted title, Gimme A Pound O’ Ground Round is meant to be a comical song in the vein of some of Louis Jordan’s biggest hits from the mid 1940’s. But with its emphasis on dainty strings and crying trumpets it’s more like Hunter took a musical track from 1941 and affixed lyrics from 1947 onto it and is trying to sell it at cut rate prices for 1950.

As for those lyrics, well… let’s be generous and say that they’re mildly amusing at times, for Ivory Joe is playing a character – and to be sure he’s making no bones about it, this IS a character, not a reflection of himself – who fears he’s losing his woman because he’s a scrawny weakling and she’s got her eye on guys with broad shoulders and bulging muscles. Now considering that Hunter was 6’4” and a solid 200+ pounds may even mean that he was counting on the audience laughing at someone so big complaining about being physically ineffectual, but while that may go over in live venues it sure doesn’t hold up on record.

But even though it starts out earning a few grins as he exaggerates his delivery to show how hapless he is – the best line being “They tell me the reason why my muscles ain’t got the stuff, is due to the fact my red corpuscles aren’t red enough!” – it quickly wears out its welcome as he tosses in a different name each time through to play the butcher so that it’ll rhyme with the last word delivered.

It’s something that may work if it were an elaborate ad-lib on the stage but this is carefully crafted and that takes away most of the whimsy it needs to actually be humorous. We aren’t knocking him for being lighthearted for a change, it may even help to make Hunter more of three dimensional figure in retrospect now that we know he didn’t always take himself so seriously in life, but we ARE criticizing him for using a song that has no understanding of how to do so in a more suitable fashion.


Ain’t Got The Stuff
Ivory Joe Hunter, we keep saying, was like a musical scientist locked away in a lab somewhere, seemingly oblivious to the swirling winds of change going on outside his door. He tinkered with formulas, conducted experiments, mixed different ingredients in his test tubes and the results varied greatly, swinging from potent creative successes to fizzling stylistic failures, yet he at times seemed unconcerned with the response to any of it.

To him I’m sure Gimme A Pound O’ Ground Round was just a meaningless misfire, nothing he took seriously to begin with and therefore nothing for us to take seriously either.

It’s woefully out of date musically, out of step with commercial realities and you could even say it was out of touch with the audience’s dominant worldview when it came to finding appropriate subject matter for them to identify with, but it’s doubtful if MGM or Hunter viewed it as a serious career misstep… more like a throwaway novelty B-side.

That’s what makes this release, both sides really, so notable. Here’s Hunter coming off the best stretch of his career commercially, scoring more hits in the past two years than anyone in rock, and in the blink of an eye his peak was now over, almost as if this one dismal record blew up the laboratory and everything in it in one fell swoop.

It probably was just coincidence I’m sure you’re saying, but it’s also hard not to wonder if eating this kind of rancid meat didn’t give him the musical equivalent of Salmonella poisoning.

Either way it serves as a reminder to anyone in rock ‘n’ roll to not to take your standing for granted and more than anything not to look back for even a minute if you want to stay relevant because what matters isn’t paying lighthearted tribute to yesterday, it’s setting the standards for tomorrow by always trying to keep ahead of the curve.


(Visit the Artist page of Ivory Joe Hunter for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)