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MGM 11325; SEPTEMBER 1952



This is a story about obligation… not always the most enjoyable duty human beings have, but one that necessary to ensure that we have some degree of concern for our fellow man, being as we’re a species which is inherently selfish by nature and subsequently need the push.

The obligation of this entire project of course is to accurately and thoroughly tell rock ‘n’ roll’s entire history, not just focusing on big artists, popular subgenres or key records along the way as has largely been the case in years past. Our feeling being that with music making up such a key part of our shared culture, we in effect “owe” it to those who brought us that music to faithfully chronicle it the best we can.

In that spirit, there’s a further obligation to not omit anything that falls squarely under the rock ‘n’ roll banner, because doing so means that we’re subjectively removing from consideration things that attempted to add to that culture. Even if they failed in their attempts, that failure still needs to be acknowledged.

Which means our old friend Ivory Joe Hunter is not getting off the hook for this one, no matter how much he might wish we cast our obligations aside just this once.


Won’t You Please…
The reason this review is focused on the obligation aspect of this endeavor is not to elicit your sympathy for my thankless task, but rather to explain why THIS side of Ivory Joe Hunter’s latest MGM single is being reviewed when it is another in his many exasperating deviations from the main avenue of rock ‘n’ roll and consequently might be better off being excluded for stylistic reasons.

I know, that SEEMS to go against the spirit of being obligated to tell rock’s whole story one record at a time, but since this record hardly qualifies for rock other than by the name on the label it’s one we normally would skip over… provided the flip side of the single allowed us to keep tabs on Hunter’s progress.

We’ve done that very thing quite a few times with Ivory Joe, giving just passing mention of his more pop-oriented tunes when digging into the sides which are more our speed. But in this case we can’t do that because The Big Bounce, a title which certainly sounds more applicable in rock ‘n’ roll if nothing else, is currently unavailable to hear unless I want to buy a vintage used 78 RPM record and the appropriate equipment with which to hear it and I’m afraid that kind of commitment goes a little beyond the obligation clause in my contract.

I’m sure at some point the song might get posted to YouTube or find its way to the Internet Archive, but because streaming services have no incentive to add obscure tunes such as that since they’re hardly losing prospective customers by not having Hunter’s unexpurgated catalog available, we’re forced to write about Tell Her For Me instead, because at least that once was available on an archaic outlet known as compact discs.

Truthfully, if you’re feeling generous in handing out sympathy, then save it for all those who are forced to listen to this colossal waste of time which shows precisely why Hunter’s commercial fortunes have taken a precipitous decline over the past two years.

I’m Left Here Alone To Cry
We keep insisting that Ivory Joe Hunter is a talented singer, fine pianist and great songwriter, even as we frequently must point out has exceptionally poor ideas about what makes for the most promising music for his commercial prospects.

But this is where we need to remind you that Hunter, for all his songwriting royalties, still earned his living playing live dates and the classier nightclubs with white patrons who were expected to gravitate towards treacly ballads simply paid better for his services. Hence we get songs like Tell Her For Me (which thankfully he didn’t write himself) which would get him laughed out of any respectable juke joint… if not run out of town on a rail for thinking this might go over well there.

With those aims in mind everything about this is designed to soothe people who are passive observers of life rather than active participants, which is strange considering the topic is that of somebody who lost the one he loves, which you’d expect might lead to some sort of visceral reaction.

But from the sighs of a timid horn to the dainty piano and Hunter’s own yearning vocal, this is the sound of somebody without the all-consuming passion to put up a fight for his own happiness, nor even the emotional fire to rage against his fate in tormented frustration.

Instead he’s resigned to his misery, hoping only to meekly pass along his best wishes to the one who broke his heart… as she undoubtedly scoffs at his weak constitutional make-up while she lives it up on the Riviera with her new beau.

Is it any wonder that so many of Ivory Joe’s compositions found him getting over another break-up? What girl would stick it out with such a pitiful figure as him? He and Sonny Til of The Orioles should start a therapy group… Rock Singers Who Can’t Get Laid.

While we can find plenty of fault in his outlook, as well as the musical choices he’s using to support that submissive mentality, this at least shows that Hunter remains a capable technician. His performance may lack urgency on the whole but he does manage to modulate his vocals enough to express slightly different forms of wimpiness and the unexpected falsetto “woo-oo” he tosses in is a nice touch.

The melody is hardly making up for the failure to assert himself in the plot, but it too has a pleasant quality to it that at least enables you to let the record go in one ear and out the other without causing any brain damage as it passes through your disinterested cranium.

Ahh… just the kind of praise he was looking for out of this half-hearted effort, I’m sure!


I Won’t Be Too Hard To Find
Not for nothing, by this point MGM Records was treating Ivory Joe Hunter’s records like they were tax write-offs rather than prospective hits, failing to promote them and probably only pressing up enough copies for Hunter himself to hand out to relatives for the holidays.

Most of them probably would’ve preferred coal in their stockings this Christmas from him, for at least you can burn coal to keep yourself warm as the snow falls outside.

Maybe had MGM handed out lighter fluid with each copy of Tell Her For Me they’d have been better off, because that way they could justifiably say that they were only aiding Hunter in his own apparent goal of watching his formerly promising bid for superstardom go up in flames.

But just as we’re obligated to tell you about his dwindling prospects to keep you abreast on his career, his record label was obligated to keep pretending that they weren’t regretting that two year extension they signed him to after he got off to such a hot start with them after his glory days at King Records.

This isn’t his career nadir, for even as unappetizing as it is at least it’s still edible, but you’d be hard pressed to find something redeeming about it, which in the end only goes to show the lengths we go to fulfill our obligations by reviewing records like this in the first place.


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