Cecil GantCecil Gant did a lifetime's worth of recording in six scant years between the release of his first single, the lovely "I Wonder," in 1944 and his death by heart attack in Nashville in 1951 at the age of only 38. In between he assembled a ragged legacy of ballads, piano boogies and urban blues numbers (most of them with Gilt-Edge Records) that exhibits a distinctly modern awareness of how much personality contributes to record sales. Gant wasn't a particularly gifted singer, but he exuded fun and confidence (and sincerity, as well, on the ballads), and his piano skills often sacrificed technique for energy and power, attitude traits that make him, in many ways, a prototype figure for rock & roll. His best singles, 1944’s "I Wonder," which started it all, the back-to-back 1945 singles "Grass Is Getting Greener Every Day" and "I'm Tired," and the song that may well be his finest, 1949’s "I'm a Good Man But a Poor Man," eventually released in 1952 on Bullet Records, are all obscure classics that deserve a wider audience. But most of what made Gant so charming was how much fun he seemed to be having, and he made joyous music—even if it got sloppy at times. His personality could pull off musical miracles, as is the case with the hipster anthem “Hit That Jive Jack," which sounds a bit like Nat King Cole trying to do a Louis Armstrong impression and-wonder of wonders-pulling it off in style. Gant exuded winning charm, and he sang well enough, and was adept enough at the piano, to put it all over, and it is a true pity his career was cut so tragically short. His work so deserves another listen.

"I Wonder"

"Hit That Jive Jack"