Tuesday, February 14, 2006


Arthur Gunter, Baby Let's Play House.
Pat Hare, I'm Gonna Murder My Baby.

"That's all wife-beaters need: an anthem," Roseanne Barr once said, talking about one of the descendants of Arthur Gunter's "Baby Let's Play House," the Beatles' "Run for Your Life." Of course, all John Lennon took from Gunter is the line "I'd rather see you dead little girl than to be with another man", and he took it from Elvis Presley's 1955 version of the song at that.

Where "Run for Your Life", one of the more rancid tracks the Beatles ever recorded, is built around the singer's monotonous threats towards his woman, Gunter's "Play House" is a mix of braggadocio, tenderness and, of course, veiled threats. Gunter's singing, however, is so lackadaisical that you don't get a sense of real menace.

But then there is Pat Hare, who recorded "I'm Gonna Murder My Baby" for Sam Phillips in 1954, and ten years later actually did kill his girlfriend, as well as a police officer.

Auburn Hare was born in Cherry Valley, Arkansas, in 1930, a son to sharecroppers. He began playing with an uncle's band (allegedly, his first gig was at a Memphis whorehouse), and in 1952, he first appeared at Sun Records, playing guitar for a Walter Bradford session. He left Memphis soon after he recorded "I'm Gonna Murder My Baby", a cold-blooded bit of premeditation (the singer seems almost elated by the fact his woman's cheated on him--he's itching for violence) anchored by Hare's vicious guitar, whose jagged sound is a result of Hare turning up his Sears Roebuck amplifier as high as it could go. Hare played with Muddy Waters for most of the late 1950s, until being sacked for drunkenness around 1960. What followed was a vile epilogue of murder, prison and death by cancer in 1980.

"Baby Let's Play House" was recorded in autumn 1954 and issued as Excello 2047, the biggest seller in the label's history, and one which Chess Records distributed nationally. Find on King's Record Collection. "Murder My Baby" was recorded in Memphis on May 14, 1954, (with Billy Love on piano and Israel Franklin on bass).

Happy Valentines Day!

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