NPR News, Classical and Music of the Delta
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Blues Legend Ivory Joe Hunter Called Monroe Home

Blues legend and pianist Ivory Joe Hunter was a Monroe, Louisiana resident for several decades. With over 7,000 songs written, Hunter’s “Since I Met You Baby” and “Blues at Sunrise” gave him instant success in the 1950's. Born in Kirbyville, Texas, Hunter began his journey to stardom by recording his first song with Alan Lomax for the Library of Congress in 1933.

Shortly after that, Hunter began his own radio show in Beaumont, Texas, on KFDM, where he became the program manager. “Blues at Sunrise” was the first song Hunter both wrote and recorded. He added it to his label, Ivory Records.

Following several hits, Hunter also founded Pacific Records and later signed with MGM Records where he recorded “I Almost Lost My Mind,” which topped the R&B charts in 1950.

Bringing his talents to the northeast corner of Louisiana, Hunter and his wife, Sophie Lee Roy, eventually became longtime residents of Monroe. Hunter settled into an office on the second floor of the Miller-Roy Building on Desiard Street. When he wasn’t producing a hit, Hunter spent time enjoying music with his family.

Ivory Joe Hunter’s niece, Brenda Roy, remembers how he influenced her childhood and how she now wishes she had appreciated his musical talents during her teenage years. “We saw the piano, we heard the singing, but it did not interest us in that way because it was Blues. It was old people music.”

However, during her high school years, Brenda Roy developed the fondest memory of her talented uncle. “My senior year in high school at Ouachita, I was on the homecoming court. And he came out to the school and sang for everybody. So that was really, really sweet and nice of him.”

Hunter’s big pink house on Millhaven Road sat on a site now occupied by Target. Often regarded as “The Baron of Boogie” and “The Happiest Man Alive,” Ivory Joe Hunter was a phenomenal singer and song-writer who captured the essence of Blues within his music. His great hits have turned into lifetime classics.