1966 was scarcely less frantic or successful than 1965. Joe placed a further five songs in the Billboard R&B Top 20, three of them hitting the Top 10, and released two more albums. As per the previous year, Joe’s 1966 hits showed his versatility from sermonizing ballads to the joyful romp SYSLJFM and the super funky Papa was too.
After holding back the new material on The New Boss Joe returned to full flow, writing ten songs on The Love You Save, released in May 1966. The remarkable title song contained some of Joe’s most powerful lyrics and took Joe back to No.2 on the R&B charts. As always absorbing the music around him, You better believe it baby reflected the influence of British guitar groups while I’m a man complimented the Rolling Stones and Roger Miller among others (even James Brown!) Who else in 60's R&B would produce a waltz time sermon on envy (Funny bone) as well as a Walk right in style jug band stomper (Don't let your left hand know)?
Wilson Pickett was another new soul man on the block, first scoring big with In the midnight hour in late 1965. In March Pickett hit No.1 R&B for seven weeks chanting his seven digit phone number 634-5789. While the Wicked Pickett was still topping the charts Joe recorded a seven letter response SYSLJFM (The letter song). Joe’s acronym filled song (the title stood for Save your sweet love just for me) was on the airwaves just a month later and quickly became his 6th R&B top 10 hit.
Joe performed the song at the Brooklyn Fox Theatre in April along with four other hits, two of which were issued on the album
At the same session as SYSLJFM Joe recorded I’ve got to do a little bit better which became the title track of his next Atlantic album (Joe’s singles were issued on Dial and his albums on
SYSLJFM had barely left the charts when I believe I’m gonna make it was issued in August 1966. The song, which made No. 8 R&B, was notable in being one of the first to mention the Vietnam war. Joe’s soldier stuck in a Vietnam foxhole was so inspired by his baby’s letter that he shot two mo’ enemy! However the soulful ballad raised the question of whether the soldier himself would come home alive.
Joe’s singles came thick and fast and I've got to do a little bit better was issued in October (making No.20, R&B). Barely pausing for breath, Joe’s next was his take on the Lowell Fulson song Tramp, which he rewrote as Papa was too. Papa hit the charts in December eventually rising to No.15 R&B. Lowell’s own single of Tramp climbed the charts alongside Joe in early 1967 although the biggest hit of all belonged to Otis Redding & Carla Thomas who made No.2 R&B with their snappy, back talking version later in the year. The backbeat of Papa was too has become one of the most sampled sounds in hip hop.
In 1966 Joe had the fame and material success he dreamed of in abundance. He said “I had a pocketful of money, a telephone and a television in the car.” However he was questioning what he saw around him on his constant tours. In 1966 Joe was persuaded by his manager Norman Thrasher, a former member of Hank Ballard’s Midnighters, to visit a