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KING 4347; APRIL 1950



Twenty eight months ago King Records signed the first of two crucial artists as 1947 drew to a close that would go on to make them the most successful rock oriented record label in America over the next few years.

Though Wynonie Harris, the other of their big hauls that month, is more celebrated for his tenure with the label it was actually Ivory Joe Hunter who was their biggest hitmaker during his time with the company.

But once that contract was up as the 1940’s drew to a close he parlayed his success into a deal with a bigger, more mainstream label and promptly notched two #1 hits in his first three releases for MGM, making him the biggest rock star on the scene as of this moment.

Though King Records were hardly struggling to make ends meet without him the loss of such a consistent and prolific artist had to be galling to Syd Nathan who was more used to absconding with the biggest stars of other labels rather than losing his own headliners.

So in an effort to draw a little more water from the well to salve his wounded pride, Nathan pulled out the remaining unissued tracks from Hunter’s tenure with King and put them out in between his MGM releases in the hopes that fans would be far less concerned about the record label these songs were on and far more interested in hearing whatever had Ivory Joe Hunter’s name attached.


Won’t Be The Same Ol’ You
The sounds pouring out of the speaker are all over the place – loud and unruly, yet not really exciting despite commotion they’re causing.

“Noise” is the key word to this one as it starts with the piano hitting a strong chord but is immediately drowned out by blaring horns taking off in all directions like a flock of birds rousted by a stampeding pack of wildebeests on the Serengeti. On top of all this comes Ivory Joe who starts… I guess “scatting” is the word, though “babbling” would probably be a more accurate description.

Whatever you call it the end result is chaotic and unappealing even if the melodic riff at the heart of it shows some promise had it only been whittled down to one instrument, say a tenor sax, taking it alone with no additional “help” from Hunter’s vocal chords.

Instead sounds collide with one another, crashing cymbals now adding to the sonic wave that threatens to overwhelm your senses before you can ever get your bearings.

Once Ivory Joe stops spouting the nonsense syllables and starts singing actual lyrics you expect things to improve, but the problem is while the vocal pattern itself isn’t bad the words don’t make any sense at all.

I Got Your Water On truthfully sounds like someone using placeholder lyrics they never got around to replacing, unless he’s referring to boiling water for tea or something, but even that doesn’t hold up once he expounds on the so-called plot which finds him complaining about his woman’s actions as he is attempting to put her in her place. Yet he’s got nothing specific that he’s being critical of so we don’t take his side in the dispute nor do we find any entertaining surprises waiting for us when he details her offenses.

There’s NOTHING here to latch onto. No plot, no three dimensional characters, no real action… even his attitude is more mild annoyance than raging anger and so we’re left with uninteresting people having an insignificant row over an unspecified complaint with an incomprehensible resolution that somehow involves… water?!?

No wonder this record drowned in a sea of indifference.


Ain’t No Use In Kickin’
As subpar as the entire concept and execution may be this is still Ivory Joe Hunter we’re talking about and so buried in the rubble is bound to be something of interest that will at least give us reason for not washing this down the drain altogether.

That “something” is found in his vocal delivery which is eminently catchy even as we could care less about what he’s singing other than to be thankful it’s actual words now and not the gibberish he led the track off with.

Because Hunter’s repertoire was stocked with ballads it makes uptempo songs like I Got Your Water On all the more intriguing to hear and there’s no question he got the pipes and rhythmic dexterity to pull it off admirably. His drawing out of the word “water” gives the title line more of a flexible quality making it enjoyable to sing along to, not that you’d ever want to be heard voicing such meaningless tripe and then trying to explain it to whomever happened to overhear you.

Hunter sounds like he’s having a ball though, scatting again during the instrumental break which starts off with some focus before descending into anarchy once more with trumpet and drums engaging in some fisticuffs under the bleachers. Apparently those who took the long odds and wagered on the trumpet cleaned up on that bet as the horn rather surprisingly emerges as the winner. Hunter’s piano is even forced to pick up the beat and take it on home as the drummer heads off to get some first aid for his cuts and bruises.

It still can’t be called even a modestly good song, but maybe, just maybe, in the midst of a really raucous party that needed absolutely no help from the music to keep spirits up if this was heard somewhere in the background and you were already too buzzed to pay close attention it might just suffice in keeping things barreling along. Otherwise the decision to purposefully select this record to play for anything other than research purposes is as incomprehensible as the story found within.

You Better Do What’s Right
I guess we should at least mention that this unfocused mess wasn’t intended to carry the load of this single, not that the other side had a better chance to draw in listeners either.

The flip, Please Don’t Cry Anymore, is one of Hunter’s most maudlin ballads, stark sounding and emotionally despondent he ratchets up the pathos as only he can, but devoid of a strong melodic hook and cursed with a plot that only describes the sorrow rather than explain where it originated, it too falls flat, albeit for far different reasons than the more boisterous I Got Your Water On.

Since he didn’t write either side, and in fact wrote only half of the final six songs he cut for King, and two of those he did were collaborations, it tells you that Ivory Joe knew full well he was headed elsewhere and didn’t want to give his old label his best ideas before he departed.

As a result by this time King Records were scraping the bottom of the barrel with Hunter’s leftovers, hoping beyond hope that his name recognition alone would be worth a few sales for these underwhelming sides.

They still had a number of singles left to pull out of mothballs after this but their days of scoring hits with him were over. Ivory Joe Hunter had moved on to greener pastures and while his tenure with King Records unquestionably had marked his most condensed period of artistic and commercial success, like most breakups the last memories are the ones you’d just as soon rather forget.


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