PAT HARE (By Dominic Turner)
Born Auburn Hare, 20 December 1930, Cherry Valley, Arkansas
"Yes, I'm gonna murder my baby (yeah, I'm tellin' the truth now) 'Cause she don't do nothin' but cheat and lie".
Usual run-of-the-mill blues lyrics, you might be forgiven for thinking. And you'd be quite right... were it not for the fact that guitarist Pat Hare, who wrote and recorded "I'm Gonna Murder My Baby" in May 1954, then took the song's message a step further and killed his girlfriend in mysterious circumstances eight years later. But it would be a real pity to concentrate on the sordid aspects of his private life, especially given Hare's immense performance on a host of notable blues records during what was a relatively short career. Indeed, it would be fair to say that Hare's contribution to the Sun blues catalogue was almost as important as that of guitarists like Roland Janes to the legendary label's rock & roll and rockabilly releases.
Born Auburn Hare (and it's hard to believe that such a name wouldn't have raised eyebrows even in rural Arkansas!) in the Cross County town of Cherry Valley, Pat immediately took to the guitar in a big way. Memphis was just a short distance away across the Mississippi river, and even as a teenager Hare realised that he wanted to be a part of the city's flourishing blues scene. The earliest records of his participation indicate that he was a member of Howlin' Wolf's first electric group in the late forties, together with such luminaries as Junior Parker, James Cotton, Matt Murphy and Willie Johnson. In addition to working the Memphis circuit, this group played regular sessions on the local Arkansas radio station KWEM.
In the meantime, Sam Phillips had set up his Memphis Recording Service with the motto "We Record Anything, Anywhere, Anytime", and from early 1950 began recording local blues artists, initially for the Phillips label, then for RPM/Modern, and from 1952, for Sun Records. Besides the great Howlin' Wolf, the artists included Joe Hill Louis, Willie Nix, Rufus Thomas, Walter Horton, and a young B.B. King. Always on the lookout for talented sidemen, Phillips soon picked up on "the new guitarist with the angry, spine-tingling tone", and recruited Hare to play on James Cotton's debut session for the Sun label. Blues anthologists generally rate "My Baby"/"Straighten Out Baby" (Sun 199) and "Cotton Crop Blues"/"Hold Me In Your Arms"(Sun 206) as being as good as anything that Cotton ever recorded, and Hare's jagged lead guitar solos (which must have sounded even more menacing back in 1954!) definitely deserve some of the credit. Far be it for me to question Paul Burlison's tale of a loose valve in his guitar amp, let alone the claims of Dave Davies or Jimmy Page to slashing speaker covers... the history of guitar distortion goes back a mite further than that! Hare's sound on those early James Cotton records is as overdriven as overdriven can be. And needless to say, fuzz pedals and stomp boxes were still a long way down the line; Hare did it all by turning up the volume knob on his tiny Sears & Roebuck amp as high as it would go, driving the speaker practically to destruction!
Other Sun artists to benefit from Hare's grating guitar included "Hot Shot" Love and Big Memphis Marainey. Some sources also indicate him as being the guitarist on legendary recordings such as "Love My Baby" by Little Junior's Blue Flames, and Roscoe Gordon cites Hare as the guitarist on several of his records. But Hare also found time in May 1954 to record a couple of sides under his own name, both of which remained unissued in the Sun vaults till many years later: "Bonus Pay" (Sun 997), a fast-paced R&B romp, and the infamous "I'm Gonna Murder My Baby", which proved to be chillingly prophetic.
Those who knew Pat Hare described him as a quiet, unassuming man. However, he had one enemy that haunted him for much of his life: the bottle. Indeed, Hubert Sumlin, another legend of the blue guitar, claimed to have got his first break as guitarist for James Cotton when the increasingly unreliable Hare failed to turn up for a gig.
When Sam Phillips began turning his attention to white rockabilly artists, Hare threw in his lot with Junior Parker and played on the latter's recordings for Don Robey's Houston-based Duke Records. Hare also toured extensively with Parker during 1954-55, and in 1956 he was a member of the Junior Parker band that toured the South in tandem with another Duke artist Bobby "Blue" Bland. The latter was hugely impressed with Hare's style, and they were soon in the studio together. Among the many fine sides they cut was Bland's classic "Farther On Up The Road" (Duke, May 1957).
Towards the end of the decade, Hare then decided to hit Chicago, and in no time became a key member of Muddy Waters' band. The results can be appreciated on Muddy's sensational "Live At Newport" album (1960), where a band featuring Waters, Hare, James Cotton and Otis Spann plays the living daylights out of "I've Got My Mojo Workin'", "Baby Please Don't Go", and the like. Hare remained with Waters until 1962, after which he moved to Minneapolis with harp-player (and fellow Waters bandmate) George "Mojo" Buford.
Sadly, this pretty much marks the end of Pat Hare's career as a musician. On a tragic night in 1962, a policeman rushed to a Minneapolis address following reports of a domestic dispute between Hare and his girlfriend. On entering the house, he discovered that Hare had shot the girl dead. Presumably in a state of panic, Hare rounded on the policeman and shot him dead too. He received a life sentence in 1964 for this double murder and spent the last sixteen years of his life in a Minneapolis jail, dying of cancer in 1980.
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