The World of Joe Tex

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

1969:  We can't sit down now

From 1965 to 1968 Joe Tex was rarely absent from the R&B charts as one hit single followed another in quick succession.  The failure of That's your baby meant for the first time there was a four month absence between hits. Also, when the Happy soul album was released in early 1969 it did not chart R&B or Pop. Thankfully Joe would come back strong with his next record.

 

There were no last minute changes in January as Joe took his entire revue on a Caribbean and European concert tour including the French Midem Festival in Cannes.

 

 

Back in Memphis he recorded enough new material at American Sound for his next album. The title track Buying a book was first out of the box and provided the smash that was so needed. A brilliant encapsulation of Joe’s slow ballad preaching style Book had comedy, pathos and soul in abundance. The performance is so imbued with Joe’s personality it’s hard to imagine anyone else performing it although Sleepy Labeef had an interesting try.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Billboard advert, April 1969 

 

 

 

 

  

 

The song took Joe back into the R&B Top 10 and he appeared on several national TV shows in the wake of its success. In an interview to promote his appearance on the Johnny Cash Show, Joe expounded his views on soul and not surprisingly got in another dig at his arch enemy. He declared “You don’t have to be a singer or a musician to have soul. Soul…is performing with pride in your performance. A housewife who keeps a neat home and cooks a delectable meal has soul…Why, even some politicians have soul. Ray Charles has soul. James Brown – and you can quote me on this – doesn’t. James Brown is called the King of Soul but he is all visual. Another thing – soul isn’t confined to one race, color or creed.”

 

The article declared that Joe has been a friend and admirer of Johnny Cash for 15 years but the TV show marked their first appearance on the same stage. Joe affirmed “It was a big, fat, soulful ball performing with John R. Cash. Now there IS a singer with soul!

 

 

 

The success of Book encouraged Parrot to reissue his pre-breakthrough Say thank you. Somewhat in the same vein but hardly in the same league, it failed to sell. 

 

 

Joe was back in Europe in April – thankfully, as on this visit the world gained the best ever surviving footage of Joe and his band. Joe’s TV appearances in Sweden, Spain and France demonstrate how sharp the act was – for more details see Live and (very) Lively.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Buying a book album was no less strong than the single.  The collection was filled, like Happy Soul, with entertaining cameos such as his childhood memories of Grandma Mary, the sly revenge tale It ain't sanitary and the multilingual Sure is good inspired by his European trips. Anything you wanna know revealed his songwriting technique of checking out the local barber shop to hear the juiciest neighbourhood gossip. Still the hits were harder to come by.  The poignant That’s the way was a minor Top 40 R&B hit, but the civil rights anthem We can’t sit down now failed to chart. Worse, Sit down started a seven single, two year run of non-charting flops.

 

In July Joe visited the Southern University in Baton Rouge. Joe committed himself to perform benefit shows to aid the University where his wife Johnnie Mae had trained to be a teacher. Joe told the Baton Rouge Advocate that all his shows in the city would be benefits; “I make my money in other towns and cities…in my hometown I like to do as much good as I can.”

He talked about his childhood saying “Never let fame dim your memory of where you came from…there are so many black boys and girls who can be saved by…those of us who have managed to make it.” He stated no-one can ignore their colour or their roots; “Wash all you want the black is still there, and you can’t wash away your beginning and where you came from.”

 

 

 

Having performed two successful shows in St. Thomas and St. Croix earlier in the year, in August Joe returned to the Virgin Islands for a holiday. He was accompanied by Johnny Mae and the 4 year old Joseph Arrington III  (who would later grow up to be Joe Tex II, sorry if its confusing!)   Joe clearly thought much of the Islands relaxed way of life. The Virgin Islands Daily News grabbed the opportunity for a star exclusive and reported that Joe owned seven saddle horses at his Baton Rouge home.  Joe had much success showing horses. With his partner David Lovely, Joe raised mares that won statewide trophies. Particularly successful was Miss Dandy Dial (named after the record label that finally brought him fame?) judged grand champion mare at the 1970 State Livestock and Poultry Show.

 

Further Memphis recording sessions in American Studios in late 1969 would produce material for Joe’s next album. Meanwhile Joe prepared for another European tour, this time it would include his long awaited English debut.

 

 

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