Rocks Off's predecessor John Nova Lomax, who normally reports on much more sordid goings-on in East Texas, tipped us off to a story in today's Beaumont Enterprise that reports late Texas R&B legend Ivory Joe Hunter will have an official Texas State Historical Marker erected at his gravesite near Kirbyville this Friday. Via Rocks Off's employer from May-November 2002, The Jasper News-Boy -that's right, we worked there - the Enterprise says the marker will be unveiled at 3 p.m. at the Spring Hill Community Cemetery in the tiny Jasper County community of Magnolia Springs. Among the sponsors is longtime Gulf Coast record producer Huey P. Meaux ("She's About a Mover," "Wasted Days and Wasted Nights"), whose 1996 arrest on child pornography, cocaine possession and sexual assault of a child charges is recounted in the opening chapter of Andy Bradley and Roger Wood's new book House of Hits: The Story of Houston's Gold Star/SugarHill Recording Studio. Hunter recorded "Up on Heartbreak Hill/Most of All" and "Heart Don't Love Her Anymore/I've Asked You for the Last Time" for Teardrop Records at the Houston studio in 1964.
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Hunter, who died in 1974, was born in Kirbyville in 1915 and later moved to Port Arthur. He had his own radio show on Beaumont's KFDM-FM in the '40s and later became the station's music director. His own hits included "It May Sound Silly" (No. 14 R&B, 1955), "A Tear Fell" (No. 15 R&B, 1956), "Empty Arms" (No. 2 R&B, No. 43 pop, 1957) and "City Lights" (No. 92 pop, 1959). "Since I Met You Baby" hit No. 13 on the pop chart in 1956 and topped the R&B tally the next year. However, the prolific Hunter achieved his greatest success and most lasting fame through other people's versions of his songs, of which there are reputed to be thousands. Elvis Presley charted with "My Wish Came True" (No. 15 R&B, No. 12 pop, 1959) and "Ain't That Loving You Baby (No. 16 pop, 1964). Both "I Almost Lost My Mind" and "Since I Met You Baby" have been recorded dozens of times by country, pop and R&B artists including Willie Nelson, Nat King Cole, Pat Boone, Conway Twitty, Solomon Burke, Freddy Fender, Albert King and Sam Cooke. Among the other record labels Hunter recorded for were Atlantic, King, Four Star, MGM and his own Ivory Records, on which he issued his debut single with the Three Blazers, "Blues at Sunset."