This is my contribution to Song Lyric Sunday for Jim Adams’s blog. This week’s prompt…Home Town or City where you were born, or where lived
The song was released in 1948. Cecil Gant was a big influence on Jerry Lee Lewis. Some people consider the song “Rocket 88′ by Ike Turner and Jackie Brenston as the first Rock “n” Roll song but Cecil Gant released the song “We’re Gonna Rock” in 1950 a year earlier than “Rocket 88”.
Gant was born in Columbia, Tennessee, but was raised in Cleveland, Ohio. He returned to Nashville, Tennessee and worked there as a musician, as well as touring with his own band, from the mid-1930s until he joined the army during World War II. In 1944, after performing at a War Bond rally in Los Angeles, California, he recorded his composition “I Wonder” for the tiny black-owned Bronze record label. When it started to become locally popular, he re-recorded it for the newly established white-owned independent Gilt-Edge record label. His recording of “I Wonder” was released under the name “Pvt. Cecil Gant”, as were later releases on the label.
The Gilt-Edge release of “I Wonder” sold well. It reached number one on the Billboard Harlem Hit Parade (the former name of the R&B chart), and number 20 on the national pop chart (as synthesized by Joel Whitburn); and its B-side, the instrumental “Cecil Boogie”, reached number 5 on the R&B chart. Gant wrote most of his own songs. Billed as “The GI Sing-sation”, his two follow-up records on Gilt-Edge, “The Grass Is Getting Greener” and “I’m Tired”, also made the R&B chart. Arnold Shaw identified “I Wonder” as the song that “ignited the postwar blues explosion”, and the success of Gant’s records helped stimulate the establishment of other independent labels immediately after the war.
He also released material through King Records (1947), and recorded for Bullet Records in Nashville until 1949. His 1948 recording of “Nashville Jumps” opens the 2004 compilation Night Train to Nashville. The co-founder of Bullet, Jim Bulleit, said of Gant:
He drank too much… He would say, “I want to do a session” when he ran out of money. We would get a bass player and a guitarist and get him a piano, and I’d go sit in the control room, and he’d tinkle around on it, and then he’d say “I’m ready,” and tap that bottle; and if we didn’t get it the first time, we didn’t get it, ’cause he couldn’t remember what he did. He’d dream up and write a song while he sat there, and he’d give me the title of it. And the uniqueness of the thing is that all of them sold.
Unfortunately, the lyrics were not available.