Born: October 10, 1914 | Died: 1974 Primary Instrument: Piano
Ivory Joe Hunter will forever be associated with his songs “I Almost Lost My Mind,” and “Since I Met You Baby,” which are essentials in the standard songbooks of popular music. His music was very polished and well thought out. Though starting out as a blues and then an R&B sensation, he comfortably crossed over into ballads, country, soul and pop.
Born in Kirbyville, Texas, in 1914, Hunters’ mother was a gospel singer and his father, Dave Hunter, played guitar. A young Ivory Joe ( yes his real name) took an early interest in music and in 1933 made his first recording for the Library of Congress. Hunter had his own radio show on KFDM in Beaumont, Texas in the early 40's and eventually became program manager. His first commercial recording was with Johnny Moore' Three Blazers. He started his own label, Ivory, and recorded his first song there which he had written “Blues At Sunrise;” it became a regional hit.
In 1942 Hunter moved to the West Coast, where he started Pacific Records. In 1947 he recorded for 4 Star and signed with the King label. Two years later he began to have some hits on the R&B charts, such as “I Quit My Pretty Mama,” and “Guess Who,” on both of these he was backed by some members of Duke Ellington's band. Hunter then signed with MGM and recorded “I Almost Lost My Mind,” which topped the R&B charts in 1950. His “I Need You So” reached number 2 R&B the same year, and Ivory Joe Hunter had become a hot commodity. He had a smooth delivery and he began to be noticed in the country and & western music community.
By 1954 he had recorded more than a hundred songs and moved to the Atlantic label. His first song to cross over to the pop charts was “Since I Met You Baby” (1956). It was to be his only top forty pop song, reaching as high as number 12, others that reached the pop charts were “Empty Arms” and “Yes, I Want You.” He had a minor hit with “City Lights” in 1959 just before his popularity began to decline. Hunter came back as a country singer in the late 60's and made regular appearances at the Grand Old Opry.
Sonny James issued a cover of Joe's “Since I Met You Baby,” and it topped the country charts in 1970. This paved the way for the issue of the album The Return Of Ivory Joe Hunter and Hunter’s appearance at the Monterey Jazz Festival.
Ivory Joe Hunter was a prolific songwriter. Some estimates say that he had written more than 7,000 songs. Bluesman Albert King covered “I Almost Lost My Mind,” and reintroduced the song to a new generation. It has since become a classic standard sung by many artists in a variety of styles, along with “Since I Met You Baby.”
Ivory Joe Hunter developed lung cancer and died in Memphis in 1974.
Source: James Nadal