Cecil Gant (b. Nashville, April 4,1913; d. 1951) was a Nashville blues, ballad, and boogie pianist who appeared on local radio there in the mid 1930's. He toured the South with his own band, from the late 30's until W.W.II, when he served in the army on the west coast. There, he played in bond rallies and was billed as "The GI Sing-Sation." In 1944, he recorded the crooning ballad "I Wonder," under the name "Private Cecil Gant," and the record went to the top of Billboard's charts. Though the tune was not rock and roll, his 1945 "Cecil's Boogie" was pretty close. So were his late 40's "Screwy Boogie," "Rock the Boogie," "Syncopated Boogie," "Hogan's Alley," and "Boogie Woogie Baby." However, six of his seven records that made the R & B charts were slow ballads. Some of his records featured local Nashville "country" musicians as back-up, giving them an early rockabilly sound.
Gant's last Billboard hit was in 1949, but he recorded some red-hot rock and roll in New Orleans in 1950, where he covered but greatly personalized Wild Bill Moore's "We're Gonna Rock," (see below) and some more in NYC in January of 1951, where he cut "Rock Little Baby" (see below again).
That NYC session, however, turned out to be his last. He died 16 days later...all the books say of pneumonia or alcohol poisoning, in a Nashville hospital on Feb. 4, but singer Billy Wright said, "I was with him when he passed. He was with us on Saturday, laughing and talking and we had a good time. He was supposed to meet us that Sunday night, but before my show went on that Sunday night, a call came in that he had had a heart attack and fell dead." Feb. 4, 1951 was indeed a Sunday. While this account does not rule out an alcohol overdose, it certainly rules out pneumonia. Gant was only 38, probably the first rock and roll casualty.
Cecil Gant, as well as others like Amos Milburn, were important in the change in piano style, from the boogie woogie of WWII and earlier, to the rocking and rolling piano style that came later.
Cecil Gant cut "We're Gonna Rock" under the name of Gunter Lee Carr.