2010-06-24 / Community

Bob Bowman’s East Texas

Hitmaker earns historical marker

Bob Bowman Bob Bowman When historians in Southeast Texas unveiled a Texas State Historical Marker for Ivory Joe Hunter at a cemeter y near Kirbyville, they stirred memories of one of America’s greatest musicians.

Born in Kirbyville in 1915, Hunter developed an early interest in music from his father, Dave Hunter, who played guitar, and his gospel-singing mother. When he was 13, Hunter’s parents died and the already accomplished pianist went to live with relatives at Port Arthur.

In the early 1940s, Hunter had his own radio show on Beaumont’s KFDM, where he eventually became program manager. In 1942, he moved to Los Angeles and joined Johnny Moore’s group, The Three Blazers. While with the Blazers, Hunter wrote and recorded his first song, “Blues at Sunset” for his own label, Ivory Records. The song soon became a regional hit.

Hunter later founded Pacific Records, but it failed and he went on to record for Four Star Records and King Records.

Hunter had his first rhythm and blues hits with Duke Ellington’s band. He later signed with MGM Records and wrote the hit, “Since I Met You Baby,” which was recorded by Pat Boone. By 1954 he had recorded more than 100 songs, including “Since I Lost You Baby,” his first crossover from the R&B charts to the pop charts, where the song reached number 13.

When Hunter’s popularity began to decline, he made a comeback as a country music artist in the 1960s and made regular appearances on the Grand Ole Opr y.

Elvis Presley put two of Hunter’s songs in the top 20, ”My Wish Came True” and “Ain’t That Loving You, Baby.” Presley later recorded three other Hunter compositions.

But Hunter will remain best known for “I Almost Lost My Mind,” which has been recorded by nearly 50 musicians, including Pat Boone, Nat King Cole, Fats Domino, Connie Francis, Bill Haley, Lionel Hampton, Woody Herman, Barbara Mandrell, Willie Nelson, Louis Prima, Charlie Rich and Conway Twitty.

Hunter died from lung cancer in 1974 at Memphis and was buried in Magnolia Springs Cemetery near Kirbyville.

(Bob Bowman of Lufkin is the author of 44 books about East Texas. He can be reached at bob-bowman.com.)

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