Hardrock Gunter Biography
Though he doesn’t get the same attention as other rock & roll pioneers, Hardrock Gunter was one of the earliest country boogie artists to start shifting the music into full-fledged rockabilly. A native of Birmingham, AL, he was born Sidney Louis Gunter Jr. in 1925, and earned his nickname when a car hood fell on his head with no noticeable effect, leading to the observation that it was as hard as a rock. An admirer of Hank Penny, Gunter formed his first band, the Hoot Owl Ramblers, at age 13, and also played talent shows under the name Goofy Sid. In 1939, he joined Happy Wilson’s Golden River Boys, with whom he remained for several years; after Gunter and the other members served in World War II, they reorganized the band in 1946. Gunter began appearing on a local children’s television show in 1949, and the following year he got a chance to record for the Bama label. His first release, 1950’s “Birmingham Bounce,” was tabbed by a small minority of critics as the first (or one of the first) rock & roll records, even prior to Jackie Brenston’s “Rocket 88.” It was covered by Red Foley for a hit, and recorded by the likes of Amos Milburn and Lionel Hampton as well.
Gunter signed with Foley’s label, Decca, and his 1951 duet with Roberta Lee, “Sixty Minute Man,” was one of the first country records to cross over to R&B audiences. He released several more singles on Decca through 1953, also working a couple of years as a DJ in Wheeling, WV. He went on to cut some material for MGM and Sun, the latter of which included some of his best-known singles — “Gonna Dance All Night” b/w “Fallen Angel” (1954) and “Juke Box Help Me Find My Baby” (1956). The latter song originally appeared on a smaller label, but was leased and re-edited by Sam Phillips without success. Gunter recorded for several other labels during the late ’50s and early ’60s, including King, Emperor, Island, Starday, and Seeco, without much commercial success. He quit the music business in 1964 to run an insurance agency. ~ Steve Huey, Rovi