When did you first hear the “John Kennedy Ballad” by Arnie Carver? For most people, they can remember exactly what they were doing that day. For me, I recall the experience as if it occurred yesterday. There I was…digging through piles of junk in an outdoor flea market booth when I stumbled upon a small stack of moldy 45s. Flipping through the records, a green label caught my eye. Upon closer inspection, I noticed an unfamiliar label name – Carver – then a Shreveport address! After handing over $1, I tucked the record under my arm. On the drive home, I wondered what type of genre to expect – somber soul, plaintive pop, or maybe crestfallen country? After cleaning the dirty grooves, I placed the record on the turntable, dropped the needle, and out came…a primitive forlorn folk tribute.
November 22, 2013, marks the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas, Texas. Arnie Carver, living in Shreveport – 180 miles east of Dealey Plaza – recorded this song in memory of the 35th President of the United States. Carver’s biographical details remain sketchy to me, though I did stumble upon information about long-time post office clerk Arnett Jackson Carver (1926-2002) who resided at the record label’s address. It would appear he’s our balladeer in question, unless he happened to have a son named Arnie. Less ambiguous is the involvement of Harding Guyon Desmarais (aka Dee Marais). The “Heads Up Music” publishing credit distinctly points to Desmarais, who also operated a variety of record labels (Murco, Peermont, Hy Sign) and ran the Bayou Records store on W. 70th Street.
Carver 101 (circa 1965)
Heads Up Music BMI
ZTSP-92890 Steal Away (A. J. Carver)
ZTSP-92891 John Kennedy Ballad (A. J. Carver)