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MODERN 870; JUNE 1952



They say that couples who are together a long time begin to act alike and certainly we know they tend to share similar philosophies, almost as if they share a single brain.

Well, in this case they even start to sound alike.

We’ve had our share of male-female duet partners but while some have suggested romance in their singing, none had taken the stroll down the aisle as far as we know.

That doesn’t mean that a few might not have consummated their recording partnership in their off hours, but in this case the pair we’re meeting today have a ring, a marriage license and share a bank account… one which likely didn’t get any deposits in it when the check from Modern Records bounced.

Oh well, for once the Bihari brothers weren’t the only ones guilty of some legal hijinks with a release.


To Just Love You
At risk for repeating our very skimpy Artist Biography on this couple, Artis Brewster, trumpeter with the band here, and Jimmie Lee (or Jimmy Lee… Modern never could decide how to spell people’s name right) Cheatum, were a husband and wife team from Texarkana, Texas who cut a couple of halfway decent records for Los Angeles’ Modern Records before vanishing.

Maybe they got divorced.

In any event, this marks the first of a somewhat skimpier list of married partners who also become singing partners in rock ‘n’ roll.

Actually when ranking the biggest names it may be somewhat ominous for a list to start with the likes of Ike & Tina Turner, even if we could theoretically disqualify them because Ike (who is playing piano on today’s record) didn’t really sing with Tina, though the intro on Proud Mary is cool enough on its own to qualify however. Beyond that you have Sonny & Cher, Captain & Tennille, Richard & Linda Thompson, Ashford & Simpson, Womack & Womack, Tarheel Slim and Little Ann, Hall & Oates… sorry, just making sure you were paying attention. In other words, some recognizable names, but not world beaters for the most part.

Other pairs had been romantically involved before becoming a duo – Eurythmics, or in the case of The White Stripes actually married before they started recording together once they broke up, while others (unofficially) were doing more than just sharing a microphone, such as Gene & Eunice and Etta James and Harvey Fuqua.

However, most of the big male/female team ups were platonic – Shirley & Lee, Paul Gayten and Annie Laurie, Mickey & Sylvia, Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell, Otis Redding and Carla Thomas and thankfully Rufus and Carla Thomas… and while we’re at it we better throw The Carpenters in there as a guy and girl who absolutely were not sharing a bed.

Obviously though in the early 1950’s the prototype for male-female tandems on record WAS a husband and wife, Les Paul & Mary Ford, even though Les didn’t sing. Still, the idea of a married couple releasing a record together certainly had the kind of curiosity-based appeal that a record company would go for, suggesting some wholesome family activity that grew into something more… like copyright violations and songwriting threats as is the case with My Heart’s Desire, their one and only hit.

Maybe their desire is getting out of prison for their crimes before the Christmas so they’ll be able to spend the holidays together.

Can’t Resist Your Charms
It’s been awhile since we’ve lavished praise on one of rock’s founding fathers who is by no means washed up, retired or deceased. In fact, Ivory Joe Hunter not only is still actively recording, he’s also got a very bright future ahead of him well after his first run of mega-success in the late 1940’s and into 1950.

But right now… and really for the last two years and another three to follow… Hunter’s career was in the doldrums. He wasn’t scoring hits anymore and, at least to close out his run at MGM Records, he wasn’t releasing anything particularly interesting or exciting either.

That would change upon signing with Atlantic Records where he had a creative renaissance which would eventually lead to a commercial revival there as well, but any thought that Hunter – rock’s most mild manner star – was simply forgotten was laughable in spite of audience indifference to his efforts these last few years.

Unfortunately it wasn’t THOSE recent turns where he was still drawing the interest of other artists, but rather on a record that closed out the 1940’s for him, I Almost Lost My Mind. That gentle ballad’s melody would be recycled endlessly, including by Hunter himself for his most remembered hit down the road, and here come Jimmie Lee & Artis to recraft it as My Heart’s Desire.

Though they disingenuously claimed it was a different song with the writing credits originally reading Turner-Cheatum, the former being the aforementioned Ike Turner, and the latter of which is the lead singer here, Jimmie Lee Cheatum herself, which if you want can even be read as an unintentional confession as to their cheating Ivory Joe out of credit. But they couldn’t even steal it quietly as Jules Bihari, Modern’s loathsome owner, stuck his own “Taub” alias onto it for subsequent pressings to grab a third of a song whose unexpected commercial success showed people were still craving Hunter’s music, even if it had different words and was being sung by different people.

But we shouldn’t dismiss the woosome twosome, as they made a few changes that are worth noting, the first of which was to speed it up slightly while still keeping it sounding as familiar as ever. You could probably sing the instructions for installing a dishwasher to this melody and get a decent song out of it but Jimmie Lee and Artis do a little more than that, delivering the simple but heartfelt new lyrics with a sincerity that is fairly tender all things considered.

The dominant voice of the two is Jimmie Lee who has a slightly shrill tone, but at least she’s confident about it, smartly holding her notes until she forces them into submission rather than letting them overpower her. Her husband is lurking behind her in the shadows vocally but remaining discreet about it, content to let the left hand of the piano carry the lower register melodic responsibility while he just sort of echoes her sentiments.

With a very straightforward arrangement it’s the sax solo by Jay Franks which has an odd shimmering quality to it that’s the one intriguing addition, if not altogether inviting a traditional sense. The same could be said for the record as a whole for that matter, one that combines the brazenness of the theft with a comforting familiarity and manages to be ever so slightly more pleasing to the senses than offending to your ethical sensibilities.


(Visit the Artist page of Jimmie Lee & Artis for the complete archive of their records reviewed to date)