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MGM 10963; APRIL 1951



Oh boy… are we sure we want to go down this particular path?

Ivory Joe Hunter is one of the most prolific artists in rock and was – statistically speaking anyway – the most successful rock act of the 1940’s based on chart hits.

Now granted some of those records drew in people from outside the hardcore rock fan base which explains his strong chart showing to a degree, but he was a gifted craftsman and even when he veers a little too far into pop realms, or infuses too many touches from country music or jazz into his records, it’s always tastefully done, even if it detracts from the elements the rock listener craves most.

But THIS?!?!

I don’t know about any of you, but Ivory Joe Hunter is the last artist you’d think was going to have a record with a sense of humor*

* = a sense of humor does not necessarily mean it’s funny, only that it tries to be, so please don’t take that phrase at face value and proceed accordingly.


He Always Seems To Go Astray
What should we call this one…

Is it a novelty record? A song where you’re supposed to admire the unusual nature of it more than the content itself?

Is it an experimental track? Something where the notoriously restless Hunter is scratching a creative itch more to see if it has potential to explore in depth later on?

Is it a radical change of pace? Well, yes, it is, but what I mean is it intended specifically to catch you off guard to ensure that you don’t stop paying close attention to him after so many similarly themed ballads these last few years.

Is it a good-natured practical joke? Something that Hunter decided to cut simply for the amusement of the guys in the studio and then found that the brass at MGM were receptive to it, whether or not they even knew he was just kidding around, and decided to issue it on the back of a much more serious – and seriously boring – pop offering called Time Has Passed.

Well no… to all of those questions actually. It wasn’t a Hunter original, so he didn’t come up with it as a way to get a smile out of anyone who viewed him as a serious artiste. Yeah, it was a change of pace, but not in the way we suggested where it was designed to keep listeners on their toes simply because MGM put this out as the A-side of the single.

Experimental? Not unless you consider it experimenting to regress musically, lyrically and vocally. As for it being a novelty record? I suppose this comes closest to describing it of the choices already laid out, but the record company had not been positioning Hunter as a potential crossover balladeer for over a year to now suddenly try and overhaul his reputation and make him Spike Jones all of a sudden.

So what IS this then? What should we call Is My Pop In There? if none of those descriptions fit very well?

How about… a mistake?


The Cat Has Gone On Strike
Okay, okay… let me amend that to say it’s a “harmless” mistake. Not exactly harmless in the sense of not hurting his career, for any record that had no chance to be a hit, and a respected hit at that, is going to hurt a little, but rather it’s harmless in that it’s not offensive… just really, really dumb.

Even though it’s juvenile by nature though, doesn’t mean that it’s not structurally sound, at least if you are using different standards to judge these things.

But those standards are pretty low because to appreciate Is My Pop In There? it requires you to be sort of dense… gullible… an easy mark… a simpleton. Take your pick.

But if you have the tolerance for indulging in something silly, sit back because this fits the bill.

The primary vocals on this do not belong to Ivory Joe Hunter, but rather the musicians who perform the title line repeatedly in sing-along fashion ending with the tagline, “Won’t you tell him to come home”.

At least that sets up a storyline more or less, as Hunter’s old man is a wandering vagrant basically, forsaking his home life for whatever bar, pool hall or poker game he can find. The guy actually works for a living it seems and this is how he spends his time when he gets his paycheck and of course little Ivory Joe (who was in his mid-thirties by this point, ICYWW) is sent by his mother to find his ass and bring him back because their creditors are banging on the door wanting the money he owes them for food, rent and furniture.

In spite of these dire circumstances though it’s an amiable sounding song. Nobody is mad at him, the grumbling over his activities is confined to eye-rolling mostly, and of course there are no consequences to his actions, other than maybe being forced to sleep on the couch when he stumbles in the door.

When Hunter sings the descriptive verses he’s a lot more melodic than than band members who are sort of chanting their parts by comparison. Of course the musicians have nothing else to do, since there’s very little music aside from a horn on the spoken bridge where Ivory Joe tries to pass for about a nine year old and then switches his vocal tone to portray a bartender who throws the kid out.

The rest of the time it’s drums and Hunter’s piano picking up the slack and as such it’s an easy song to follow along to with a bob-your-head melodic quality that is catchier than expected and makes this at least easy to digest.


Get Away From Those Swinging Doors
Let’s not forget that MGM was a budding major, not in the sense they had a huge chunk of the overall market yet, but rather they were using the same approach when it came to content.

The company had been started mainly to issue soundtracks from MGM’s movies and then expanded to include original studio material that focused on the same light cheerful pop that the established majors specialized in.

They’d lucked out with Hank Williams, giving them the hottest and most acclaimed country act and they targeted Hunter to give them a foot in rock with somebody who could conceivably cross into more respectable neighborhoods.

Is My Pop In There? is indicative of that thinking. A catchy lighthearted song that sticks in your head and bothers nobody… not even the rock fan who is otherwise growing tired of having to compete with these interlopers for Hunter’s attention.

This won’t get the attention of either constituency that’s for damn sure, but as pointless as it all is there’s at least a warmth and friendliness to his performance that lessens your objections.

Still not enough to recommend maybe, but at least it’s enough not to join his old man at the neighborhood bar and bad mouth his son to everyone within earshot.


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