The World of Joe Tex

Singer, dancer, writer, preacher, rapper, comic and all around original...

1968:  The New Soul Brother No.1?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From Jet Magazine, 1968. 

 

 

 

Skinny legs and all was still on the charts in January 1968 when Joe went back into the studio to record the follow up Men are getting scarce. More comedy mixed with song, dubbed laughter and funky grooves with a shout out to Navasota Texas, the track took Joe back into the R&B Top 10 and Pop Top 40.

 

 

In February Joe’s mock in person album Live and Lively hit the market. Despite the consistency and diversity of his LP’s Joe had never really cracked the pop album charts. Live and Lively climbed higher than any previous entry reaching No.84 in Billboard.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  THE SOUL CLAN

 

The gathering of Joe, Solomon Burke, Ben E. King, Don Covay, and Arthur Conley as the Soul Clan was a fascinating, ahead of its time idea that never fulfilled its potential.

 

 

 

Originally planned to include Otis Redding and Wilson Pickett, plans were changed after Otis’ tragic death. Then Pickett announced he was too successful on his own to need to be part of the Clan. With Ben E. King and Otis’ protégé Arthur Conley drafted in, the Soul Clan sessions were held in Nashville and New York in early 1968. Don Covay and Bobby Womack provided two songs and the guys added vocals as their schedules permitted. A timeless and fascinating record for soul fans, however the songs did not have hit potential. Soul meeting stalled at No.34 R&B and No.91 Pop.  More on the Soul Clan here..

 

 

Sessions for Joe’s next album Soul Country began in April;  rhythm tracks cut in American Sound in Memphis and overdubs (including full orchestrations on some tracks) added back in Nashville. Deeply country rooted as he was, an album of country songs (most taken from Buddy’s Tree International catalogue) was a natural fit for Joe. Nevertheless the album sold less well than its predecessor  and only produced one hit single, the exercise in pure Tex-tian logic; I’ll never do you wrong.

 

 

 

 

 

As a direct counterpart to Joe’s collection of country material, Buddy Killen recorded a whole album of soulful Tex songs with Australian country singer Diana Trask. Released as Miss Country Soul, Joe contributed a sleeve note saying he was originally suspicious that a young, pretty and white female could fully understand or do justice to his material. On hearing the results he was won over by Diana’s performances. Diana scored a minor country hit with her take on Hold what you’ve got.

 

 

 

 

In March Joe brought his longstanding feud with James Brown to a head. At the Uptown Theatre in Philadelphia, and later on a radio show, he angrily claimed that Brown had paid disc jockeys not to play Skinny legs and all. Joe declared how hurt he was, strangely describing  JB as “My friend for all these years - a guy I really admire.”

 

 

In an interview with the Chicago Defender Joe took the matter further. He declared “The title of Soul Brother No.1 rightfully belongs to a guy named Little Willie John…I really don’t know where James Brown gets the idea he is the king! Some of us have very short memories." Joe sent telegrams to eleven top radio stations challenging Brown for the title of ‘Soul brother No.1’.  He stated “I’m not joking about this……this contest… should be recognised all over the United States. I want to win the crown so I can present it to Little Willie John when he comes home.”  John, best known for 50’s hits Fever and All around the world was serving time for involuntary manslaughter in Washington State Prison.

 

 

 

Later in March James Brown rejected the idea of a contest, telling the Afro-American newspaper,  “I will not fight a black man. You need too much help.”  Nevertheless, Joe had his supporters.  Back in his hometown the Baton Rouge Advocate announced that Joe had already won the title “King of soul music” after an onstage contest with James in Atlanta, Georgia.  Joe received more backing in Greenville, South Carolina. The Black Awareness Co-ordinating Committee honoured Joe for his outstanding contribution to black music and referred to him as the ‘new Soul Brother No.1’.


In May the Joe Tex Band showed they were more than a road outfit when they recorded a single of two pieces written by band arranger and trombone player Tony “Bone” Dorsey.  The tracks Betwixt and between and Chocolate cherry show the quality of the rhythm section (Clyde and Leroy with Leroy’s brother Clarence on bass) as well as Tony’s creative arrangements for the ten piece brass section.

 

Joe was unable to make any homecoming presentation to Little Willie John. On 26th May the thirty year old  John died in mysterious circumstances in prison, the cause of death officially recorded as a heart attack. Along with singers Sam & Dave, Johnnie Taylor and others Joe was a pallbearer at John's funeral  in Detroit. Joe had previously written a song for and recorded an unreleased duet with Willie’s sister Mable John. In the 1970's Joe would feature Willie's sons, the John Brothers, in his show.

 

In 1968 Joe was right at the top of his game as a stage performer. A Billboard review of a July show in Randall Island, New York in front of 10,000 people has Joe headlining over Jerry Butler, Percy Sledge, the Delfonics and others. The review states Joe more than lived up to his headlining status and entertained the crowds with impressions of Ray Charles, Jimmy Reed, Elvis Presley and Tiny Tim! The five hour show closed with Skinny legs and all.

 

By August Joe had ‘The New Soul Brother No.1’ painted on his tour bus and was actively promoting himself under this title.  Joe’s billing proved controversial to say the least; there are reports of the bus being booed. For all Joe’s charm, charisma and stage skills he did not have the political clout of JB (fresh from recording Say it loud, I’m black and I’m proud) whose title was never under serious threat.  At some later point Joe had the bus repainted. 

 

 

 

Joe’s recording sessions were now taking place almost exclusively at American Sound Studios in Memphis with his own road band sidelined for the crack Memphis team. Late 1968 sessions produced the material for his next collection, Happy Soul. Another themed album, following the ‘live’ and country collections, this focused on the comic side of Joe’s personality. The album is full of treasures that could only come from the mind of Tex – a restaurant owner telling disruptive customers to Go home and do it, negligent fathers instructed to look after their babies and a celebration of chickens! Much loved by Tex fans the album produced two R&B hits (Keep the one you’ve got and You need me baby). However there was no Skinny Legs. The third single, the highly entertaining That’s your baby, sadly became the first non-Xmas release since Hold what you’ve got  to fail to chart R&B (though it scraped to No.88 Pop).  

 

Although not announced at the time, impressed by the Muslim message of black pride and independence, Joe converted to the Islamic faith in 1968. Joe began to cut back on some of his entertainment commitments although he would not make a complete break until 1972. He cut many ties with white management companies but significantly he continued to work with Buddy Killen which was not popular with many in the Nation of Islam.

 

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