Today marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Ivory Joe Hunter, a man who defied categorization in an industry that has been determined to draw racial lines around genres. Though he is generally considered an R&B artist, many of his recordings could easily nestle perfectly within a country set list. He was a master musician and songwriter, performing in a variety of styles throughout his life: jump blues, R&B, country, soul, rock 'n' roll, and beyond. If you look up his best known songs, "Since I Met You Baby," "Empty Arms", and "I Almost Lost My Mind" you'll find they are standards in genres across the board. You might even find more country versions of those songs than R&B (although there are plenty of both).
Near the end of his life, Ivory Joe spent a lot of time in the country world, performing regularly at the Grand Ole Opry. At the same time, he was still busting out modern funky grooves at soul labels like Stax and Sound Stage 7.
The Record of the Day represents the country side of Ivory Joe Hunter. It was a minor hit in 1959. I suppose some might consider it kind of schmaltzy in arrangement and background singers, but I urge you to ignore that and listen to the song. This time the tables are turned as it is Ivory Joe who is covering a song written by a country artist, Bill Anderson. He gives it the full "Ivory Joe Hunter" treatment, so much so that one would believe it was his own composition.
The lyrics incredibly well-crafted. I can't help but appreciate the duel meaning of "The Great White Way" when delivered by a Black man singing country. Though generally "The Great White Way" refers to Broadway, it seems in this song to be all about Nashville:
A bright array of city lights as far as I can see
The Great White Way shines through the night for lonely guys like me
The cabarets and honky tonks, their flashing signs invite
A broken heart to lose itself in the glow of city lights.
Lights that say "Forget her name in a glass of sherry wine"
Lights that offer other girls for empty hearts like mine
They paint a pretty picture of a world that's gay and bright
But it's just a mask for loneliness behind those city lights.
DJ Action Slacks
I'm excited to highlight some of my favorite records in a variety of genres (soul, R&B, classic country, rockabilly, oldies, garage rock, etc). These won't all necessarily be "dance" records per se. They will all be records that I believe deserve a special listen. I simply love good music, rare or not. Hopefully you will spend some time here and love music right along with me! Lets give this a shot!