The World of Joe Tex

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

1970-71:  The same old soup

















Blues and Soul, 1970 


Joe began the year at home and performed yet another local benefit, this time to support the Operation Upgrade adult literacy program.  Joe told the Baton Rouge Advocate he wanted to support other local talent but warned of the pitfalls of the showbiz lifestyle. “You don’t belong to yourself in the entertainment business. You’re away from home a lot; it’s not stable.”  He stated performers faced dangers from night club violence, constant highway travel and drugs. He declared “I don’t drink or smoke or take dope.”  At the Operation Upgrade concert Joe received an Honorary Mayor’s certificate and the keys to the city.


Later in January Joe headed out for Europe on the Atlantic sponsored Soul Together tour covering the UK, France, Germany, Spain and Holland. The tour also featured Atlantic stars Clarence Carter, Sam and Dave and Arthur Conley. Joe finally made it to England but the tour was ill-fated from the start.  Within days Clarence had flown home, dissatisfied with the English backing band he was provided with. Sam was not talking to Dave and Joe himself pulled out before the final shows including London's prestigious Royal Albert Hall. Motown’s Jimmy Ruffin was brought in as a last minute replacement. Joe did take the time to perform You’re right Ray Charles on British TV’s premiere music show Top of the Pops.


Joe received good reviews for his performances on the tour. He took a seven piece band (plus two go-go dancers) although this was dwarfed by Sam and Dave’s sixteen piece 'orchestra'. Much attention was paid to the short skirted go-go girls; their movements described by French magazine Soul Bag as “swingantes et suggestives”.


Joe later said to writer John Abbey, "I have always used dancers because I always like to give the public a good show… No, I don't feel that I need them for my show but I do feel they add something to what I'm doing. After all, we all depend on the public to eat and I like to bring something for them to get satisfaction from.”


In many ways the tour marked the demise of the 60’s soul revue with gospel charged ‘let me hear you say yeah’ singers performing in front of giant brass sections. The 1960’s had come to an end and so had the golden era of classic Atlantic/Stax soul. Joe would have to adjust before he found his way – but unlike many 60’s soul stars he would be back.



 Joe’s late 1969 Memphis recordings came out in early 1970 as Joe Tex sings with strings and things – an odd title as only three tracks featured string orchestrations. Instead the album was as diverse as anything that came before it; stomping old time R&B shuffles, steel guitar adorned country, a gorgeous Time I get to Phoenix style ballad, sing-along comedy and modern day funk.  The collection had everything except a hit. The two singles pulled from the album failed to chart and Strings quickly sank without trace.





Nevertheless the lyrically curious You’re right Ray Charles (Ray told Joe to get funky? Ray was hardly laying down Cold Sweat at this point) lived on as the basis for the Buddy Miles instrumental which he appropriately titled Joe Tex. A few years later the opening horn riff reappeared in Funkadelic’s Standing on the verge of getting it on.








Following the failure of Strings there was a decision to a) quickly record new material and b) change the formula. Out went Buddy Killen, Memphis and even Joe’s songs and instead Joe traveled to Muscle Shoals, Alabama to work with up and coming hot production team Brad Shapiro and Dave Crawford. Even hotter was Isaac Hayes who had extended Joe’s pre-song raps into 10 minute soap operas. Hayes had a fondness for transforming Bacharach David songs into funeral paced epics. Not to be out done, Joe turned the usually jaunty I’ll never fall in love again into an 11 minute rapping festival. Joe only contributed one song, other songs were by writers sympathetic to Joe’s style; Don Covay, Eugene McDaniels, Swamp Dogg. However the magic was not happening and apart from an edited single of Fall in love again (which flopped) Atlantic chose not to release the rest.


The writing was on the wall, “The romance had died with Atlantic," Buddy Killen noted.  "It got to the point where they weren’t doing anything with the records." While Joe took a break from recording he spent more time with the Nation of Islam – on stage he was increasingly liable to break into Muslim preaching.




















The Raelettes with Mable John



Joe’s biggest chart success in 1970 was as the writer of I want to (do everything for you) which the Raelettes took to No.30 R&B in a new stop start arrangement. At this point Ray Charles’ back up singers featured Mable John who recorded Joe’s challenging Don’t hit me no more in 1967.


In the same year that Joe was awarded the keys to Baton Rouge his name increasingly appeared in the city press in regard to court actions and legal claims. Obviously in financial difficulties, several judgements were upheld against him for non-payment of bills. In one case Joe’s 1969 Fleetwood Cadillac was seized. Joe’s lawyer paid the amount imposed by the court by cheque and the Cadillac was released. The following day the cheque bounced.


In 1971 Joe was offered the chance to open for the Rolling Stones who always showed excellent taste in their choice of supporting acts. Sadly it did not come about. The shows could have helped expose Joe to rock audiences as happened to BB King and Ike & Tina Turner on other Stones’ tours.



The deal with Atlantic ended and Buddy negotiated a new distribution deal with Mercury. The launch record for the new arrangement (Dial 1001) a pop-gospel song I knew him, hit the market in March 1971. The song caught the wave of gospel inspired hits such as Put your hand in the hand but it was no Hold what you’ve got and failed to kickstart the Mercury deal. However, at least Joe was back to recording his own songs with Buddy in Nashville and he had plenty of new material to bring to the table.





Trying all angles the next single was the country fable Papa’s dream, possibly inspired by the success of Clarence Carter’s Patches the year before. Still no hit but undeniably a great song, it was picked up by Johnny Cash who named an album after its revised title Look at them beans.












King Floyd 




The dry spell was finally broken in November 1971 when Joe’s always keen ear for the market paid dividends. Joe picked up on King Floyd’s hot New Orleans funk and vocal tics (Heeyy!! Sukie Sukie now!!)  which had given Floyd the monster hit Groove Me and several successful follow ups. The result Give the baby anything the baby wants propelled Joe back into the R&B Top 20. The lyric was disappointing by Joe’s standards but the track was funky enough to make other thoughts unnecessary. Joe was back but it was nothing compared to what followed.

Back to 1969                                                              On to 1972-74