It comes as no surprise to anyone that the response to our “King Acetate” series has been overwhelmingly positive. Said response was not really that hard to predict - let’s face it, what dyed-in-the-wool R&B or hillbily collector wouldn’t want to hear and own CDs of 1940s Roy Brown or Delmore Brothers recordings in the kind of audio quality that they’ve never been heard in, outside of a recording studio? But even so, it’s always nice to be complimented on our efforts to bring you these vintage masters in the best possible sound quality, if only to generate the impetus to carry on with such endeavours.
With that in mind, there’ll be a new entry in the “Acetate Series” pretty much every month in 2006, all of which – as series supervisor – I’ll be striving to make as great as the two that kicked off the series just a month or two ago. Our first release of the year is ceratinly all that and more. There have certainly been no shortage of reissues of Ivory Joe Hunter’s King sides down the years – mostly OOC, many bordering on unlistenable from an audio standpoint – but “WOO WEE!” is the first to a) concentrate almost exclusively on the great boogies and jumps Ivory Joe made for King, instead of the sweet pop ballads that he had R&B chart hits with and b) bring you them with audio that’s totally representative of the way they sounded on the day that they were cut.
As well as being a great songwriter and vocalist, Ivory Joe was also able to attract only the best accompanists for his 1940s sessions. He hired Johnny Moore’s Three Blazers to play on his first record Blues At Sunrise – reproduced here from the original Ivory Records acetates, which were sold to King in 1948. The tracks he subsequently cut for another Hunter-owned label, Pacific, featured such stellar names as Pee Wee Crayton, Ernie Royal and Wardell Gray. Ben Webster blew tenor on Ivory Joe’s first King session. And the bulk of the tracks featured on “Woo Wee!” utilise the talents of a band that was comprised entirely of Duke Ellington alumni, including Johnny Hodges, Oscar Pettiford, Ray Nance, Tyree Glenn, Russell Procope and Sonny Greer! When he wasn’t cutting hot R&B with the Ellington band members, he was down in Nashville working with a multi-racial band that included future production legend Owen Bradley, or up in Cincinnati playing it pretty with Cleanhead Vinson’s band, including Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis on tenor. If these men are not “All Stars” then I really don’t know who would fit that description.
Most of Ivory Joe’s King hits were soft, romantic ballads – but we’ve featured one here, the lovely (and classic) Guess Who? Most of the time we hear him in ‘blues ‘n’ boogie’ mode, laying down some of the coolest grooves of the day and proving that he could cut it with any of the more boisterous R&B names of his time. As well as presenting the best of the uptempo masters in blistering sound, I’m happy that the acetates yielded a handful of ‘alternate takes’ that really are ‘alternate’ – none of which has been heard in public since the day that they were recorded!
This is great stuff that will appeal to anyone who’s been digging our “Central Avenue”-themes releases. Although most of these sessions were recorded away from L.A., they certainly capture all the spirit of the city’s R&B scene of the late 40s. If you only know Ivory Joe through his great 1950s hits like Since I Met You Baby, Empty Arms and A Tear Fell you will enjoy the rockin’ surprises that await you here.
By Tony Rounce