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KING 4443; MARCH 1951



How often in life do you get to go back in time four years and check in with your former self?

I’m guessing not very much at that.

In music though occasionally artists and their fans get that chance thanks to the release of older material that had yet to be issued to the public.

Whether these leftover tracks have any value in the current market is always pretty dubious, but if nothing else it can be interesting to see just what an artist’s mindset was so long ago and in this case, how close to predicting the future an artist was in those early days of rock when this was laid down.


The Train Pulled Out
King Records had been engaging in these excavation projects with Ivory Joe Hunter ever since he left their employ at the end of 1949 following two years in their stable when he was their most successful artist when it came to notching hits.

After departing for MGM and becoming even more popular there King did what any enterprising company in their position would do – try and capitalize on it by releasing older recordings from their vaults. Despite there being nothing wrong with some of them none found many takers and now, more than two years later, they were scraping the bottom of the barrel with the oldest unreleased sides they had left.

A look at the titles of these latest cuts to see the light of day you might think it’d be Stop Rockin’ That Train which would be the more appropriate choice for a modern audience, not so much for the “rockin” in the title, but rather than “train” part, for those songs of that subject naturally tended to use a churning rhythm which remained a frequent selling point in more modern arrangements.

But no, though recorded at the same session it sounds even more out of date, not all of which is due to the long trumpet solo either. In truth it comes across like a glorified demo with its thin piano tone and rushed vocals, which considering the circumstances as he scrambled to lay down as many sides as possible before the 1948 recording ban was set to start that probably was truer than many people would realize.

By contrast She’s Gone Blues is a slightly fuller sounding production. For starters it’s got a much more durable arrangement at its core. But it’s still a record made in November 1947, when rock ‘n’ roll was all of two months old, and so the question of whether it could possibly appeal to the 1951 rock fan is pretty much moot…

It can’t.

The better question though is will it put Ivory Joe Hunter in a good light as far as late 1947 rock is concerned, maybe even giving some indication that he was poised to be a star in the coming months after this was cut, or would the record merely be something best left buried?

The Whole Wide World Had Turned Their Back On Me
Well… the good news is this doesn’t do Hunter’s reputation too much harm. It’s a decent melody and a few interesting moments of inspiration, but like a lot of his late 1947 songs that were hastily assembled to beat the ban the lyrics to it don’t seem to have been meticulously crafted, sticking instead to broad generalities and rote sentiments.

The opening contains the strongest rhythmic elements, a walking bassline on the piano to kick it off followed by a stop-time vocal in which Hunter gets to set up the story in as dramatic a fashion as something this lightweight can manage.

As the title of She’s Gone Blues suggests Hunter has been left alone, but not for the reasons you might think. Normally he’s reeling from having yet another girl dumping him for someone else, but here he’s actually in a stable relationship, it’s just that his significant other has to head out of town – by train of course – and after seeing her off Hunter has got a case of the weepies.

Why, I have no idea. The reasons are never spelled out for us so let’s try and come up with a few intriguing possibilities since it’ll be far better than what skimpy details he gives us.

The obvious reason is he’s facing days or weeks of not getting laid and considering Hunter’s well-known problems in finding willing girls (at least within the context of his songs) he certainly can’t afford to lose one that he actually managed to get to see naked.

Another reason is he’s utterly helpless around the house. He tells us at one point “I sit down to eat my dinner but I could not eat a bite” and then makes up an excuse about how lonely it felt to eat alone, but we know that he just opened a can of beans and couldn’t even figure out how to heat it without burning the house down and it’s not a wife or girlfriend he’s missing as much as it is a cook and maid.

The most likely reason though is that Hunter is a hardcore competitive bridge player who has a big game coming up and having lost his partner he’s forced to try and teach his dog or cat how to hold cards in their paws. Apparently they didn’t learn so well and quickly headed outside in shame after misinterpreting him going on and on about “tricks” and “dummy”.

Listen to the song and tell me that’s not a possibility as he actually does drag his pets into the narrative! Truthfully that’d make as much sense as him being so dejected over his girl spending a weekend at her mother’s or something. Jeez, Ivory Joe, get a grip… go see a movie or something.


Went Back To My House
To be fair, though the story is flimsy as can be, he does drop a few good lines in the song, particularly in his phrasing about how he wrote the song and the way in which he starts a dialogue with those disinterested pets. Of course it’s easy to know why they left him too, the record’s just not good enough to stick around even though Hunter’s affability through all of this remains fairly solid.

The difference is that usually we care more about what happens to him than we do here where his only big decision he has looming seems to be which side of the bed to sleep on now that he’s got it to himself.

The musical side of She’s Gone Blues sounds at times like a less muscular version of the kinds of tracks he’d cut during his ensuing heyday, but with the wrong horns at the forefront it doesn’t have much chance to captivate us in 1951, let alone ’47 or ’48.

The best part is the piano solo with its quirky stutter-step progression that further accentuates the idiosyncrasies of it as he tosses in a few hesitation moves to keep you off balance. Beyond that stretch though everything else is too tame, too unimaginative and too out of date by now to have any impact on us.

We’d come much too far by 1951 to be lured in by Hunter’s name alone and after all we’ve seen and heard over the past four years we were not the inexperienced novice listeners we might’ve been back when this was fresh and may have had a little more appeal.

Four years in rock ‘n’ roll is a lifetime and if you want to reminisce about the past, that’s one thing, but you can’t try and bring the past into the present and expect to compete with what’s burning up the charts today and what’s still on the horizon for tomorrow.


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