Ivory Joe Hunter met with success as a singer, a prolific songwriter, and a piano player in a long and varied career in the music business.
He was born in Kirbyville, Texas in 1914. His mother was a gospel singer and his father, Dave Hunter, played a guitar. He took an interest in music and in 1933 made his first recording, a cylinder recording for the Library of Congress. Joe 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's Three Blazers. Joe started his own label, Ivory, and recorded a song that he had written titled Blues At Sunrise; it became a regional hit.
In 1942 Joe moved to the West Coast, where he started Pacific Records. In 1947 he recorded for 4 Star and signed with King. In 1949 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.
Then Joe 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 that packed a lot of appeal, and he began to be noticed in the country & western music community. By 1954 he had recorded more than a hundred songs and moved to the big label, Atlantic. His first song to cross over to the pop charts and meet with a great deal of success was Since I Met You Baby in 1956. It was to be his only top forty pop song, reaching as high as number 12. He had others that reached the pop charts with Empty Arms and Yes, I Want You in the late 50's. He had a minor hit with City Lights in 1959 just before his popularity began to decline. The Fifties was an era when white artists would frequently make covers of good R&B records; Pat Boone covered Joe's smash R&B hit from 1950, I Almost Lost My Mind, and had a number one hit of his own with it in 1956.
Ivory Joe Hunter laid low for a while, but 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 Joe's appearance at the Monterey Jazz Festival.
Joe was a prolific songwriter. Some estimates say that he has written more than 7,000 songs. Among them are two that Elvis Presley put in the top twenty: My Wish Came True and Ain't That Loving You Baby. Ivory Joe Hunter developed lung cancer and died in Memphis in 1974.
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