Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Champion Jack Dupree: Babs Gonzales and the Mother in Law Blues

Before we move to Europe with Champion Jack Dupree, I want to do a quick clean-up on a few stray tracks lying around that I haven't had a chance to note yet.  Specifically I want to talk about Babs Gonzales.

Babs Gonzales was a jazz and jive singer who lived in New York City and did the bulk of his recordings in the 40s and 50s.  His style of jive was less knocked out and random than, say, Slim Gaillard (he even wrote his own dictionary of jive much like Gaillard's published-on-Ichiban-somewhere Dictionary of Vout), and he eventually ended up in the weird world of vocalese, managing James Moody and no doubt sharing ideas with Eddie Jefferson and King Pleasure, occasionally subbing for Mel Tormé at gigs. Champion Jack seemed impressed enough with his rap to incoprorate some of his nonsensery into his own introductions.

The two collaborated on the first side of the only Gonzales KING 45, "House Rent Party". Apparently Babs crashed a Dupree session to lay down this tale of crashing/mooching his way through a house party. Which, believe it or not, gets busted. Dupree lays down the piano on this cut.

In an interesting bit of expoobident coincident, the flip of this 45, "She's Just Right for Me", was apparently cut at a session led by last February's Ichiban front-figure, Joe Tex!

Since it's not on youtube, here's "She's Just Right for Me".

Back in Dupree land, here's him laying down his own rap, on one of his favorite topics.  From the Atlantic 45 and/or the "Natural and Soulful Blues" LP, here's "Mother-In-Law Blues".  She calls him son.  Too bad he can't say the rest of it on the record.

Friday, May 25, 2012

James Brown Month: RJ Smith Part II

Continuing our interview with JB biographer RJ Smith.

ICHIBAN: JB's stints in prison serve as symbolic bookends to his career . . . you hypothesize the first was what gave him a great deal of his discipline and drive. How do you think that his second sentence changed him?

RJ SMITH: The second prison trip made him more of a bluesman than he had ever been in his life. It seemed to make him sadder, older. It was a thoroughly humiliating experience, and one he could never conquer, because he could never engage with the root reason he was in there: his addiction to PCP. He could never admit he had a problem, and in his mind his incarceration was some sort of punishment by God, or crucifixion, ultimately he processed it as a sign of his martyrdom. It’s sad, too, that in his time of need, few seemed to want to visit him. Lee Atwater did, and Strom Thurmond probably kept him out of harm’s way; I think Brown came out of the South Carolina prison with a feeling of gratitude to some extremely conservative SC pols.

ICHI: A couple of months ago I wrote about the James Brown/Joe Tex feud. http://wfmuichiban.blogspot.com/2012/02/amazing-story-of-joe-texjames-brown.html.  Do you have any interesting tidbits about the Joe Tex/James Brown relationship?

RJ: That feud with Joe Tex continued, though possibly without firepower. Brown had a public beef with Joe over “Skinny Legs and All,” which Brown felt was disrespectful to women. And in 1969 Brown wrote an elliptical column in Soul magazine in which he pretty much says that Joe Tex should just shut up and be content with being Number Two, there’s no dishonor in being second best. If only Joe could admit it, Brown says, he could help him! I think Joe’s likeability and his clowning really got under Brown’s skin.

apparently he had no such issues w/
"Ain't Gonna Bump No More w/no Big Fat Woman"

Let's talk about Bobby Byrd.  He was there from before the beginning to after the end, and I don't feel his importance to the entire James Brown story can be overstated.  How do you see Byrd in terms of being one of the major cogs in the wheels of the James Brown machine?

No Bobby Byrd, no James Brown. It’s approximately that simple. I mean, Bobby’s family gave JB a way to get out of prison, by letting him live with them. Then Byrd sort of gave Brown his band, or JB took over Byrd’s crew and Byrd was cool enough with it to stick around afterwards. Byrd knew the show, and knew how James liked things, and was constantly there to help bring James' vision and wishes into reality. I think Bobby Byrd was a very good guy, the kind of nice guy that Brown pushed around until they finally pushed back. For Byrd that would mean leaving, or taking JB to court as he did in later years to get money he felt he was due. But Bobby was always grounded enough to see the big picture; he kept his ego in check, and was there, on and off, for much of the ride. 

I Need Help! (I Can't Do It Alone)*
You spend several pages discussing the long version of "There Was a Time" on Live at the Apollo Volume 2  - it's almost the most wordage spent on any particular performance in the book. What was it about that song/particular version that made you want to delve so deeply into its guts? 

That performance of “There Was a Time” is amazing. The way he name checks dances from the African American tradition, and then introduces the ultimate dance, the one at the end of the line: The James Brown. He makes you see how a whole music, and a variety of traditions, telescope into him. He never sounds as in control of an audience and in charge of the moment as he does there. And there’s something bottomless about the way Clyde and Jabo play off the beat – one a hair in front, the other just behind – and pull time apart. 

"Well I'll be ----!"

As a follow-up to that question, how did you decide which songs and performances to write about, aside from their historical importance? And how big a challenge was it to convey what is actually going on in those songs? 

With music there is so much to talk about, so many ways into a discussion, it’s hard to stop. Sometimes you talk about how a song was written or recorded, sometimes you talk about what it means, or what it meant to the one who made it. And sometimes folks wonder how you could possibly miss “Pass the Peas” or “Funky Drummer” or “Santa Claus go Straight to the Ghetto” – there’s so much to cover. And I have to save some room to talk about “I’ve Got Money”: ALWAYS gotta save room for that. I tried to pick songs and performances that would keep the momentum moving forward – rather than end a thought or line of discussion with a song or show, I hope I used them as often to keep moving us forward in time.

keep moving forward in time!

In the late 60s, JB's opening act was a white instrumental band called the Dapps [they also back James up on "I Can't Stand Myself" and released several singles JB produced]. If there were some issues with certain audience members on there being a white player or two in Brown's band in the late 60s, as you mention in The One, what was the reaction to an all-white opening act? 

It was a core of nationalists and some Islamic groups that had a beef with the whites in Brown’s band, not so much the average ticketholder. They were also incredibly incensed that Brown was still processing his hair and would not go with the Fro.  Of course, any pressure Brown got for having Caucasians onstage just made him double down. Maybe that’s the real reason why he recorded with the Dee Felice Trio: how you like me NOW, Eldridge Cleaver?

JB with the Dapps
Be back on Monday with the thrilling conclusion of this interview, wherein Mr. Smith talks Lynn Collins,  JB's production techniques, "the Grunt", and . . . Future Shock.

*all credit and praise to the original gif animator for that bit of internet wonderment. I found it here.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Joe Tex Month, Day 29: Cast the first stone

Here it is, the final day of Joe Tex Month, and we have arrived at Joe Tex's final LP - He Who Is Without Funk Cast the First Stone. After this record, he had a few 12" singles before his untimely death at 49, from a heart attack.

Despite being relatively clean for his entire life, apparently Joe was partying too hard in the late 70s and early 80s. According to Buddy Killen, "During his last four years he staged a marathon of self-abuse. It was as if he was trying to make up for lost time."

Some of the 70s tendency to overindulgence perhaps could explain the inconsistent nature of He Who Is Without Funk.

For the most part the songs are just a generic ode to the power of funk and there's more relentless vamping than camping it up. There's a disco remake of "Hold What You're Got". But there is one true, crazed bit of Texian genius, THE TITLE TRACK. It ties in many of the strands of JT's career and serves as a fitting closer to the month.

There is a woman at a disco. She has been dancing. She's started to sweat. And she's started to stink. The rest of the dancers, repulsed by her body odor, decide to stone her to death to get rid of her foulness. Suddenly Joe appears as some kind of Disco Jesus, and teaches them all a lesson in dancefloor etiquette. He argues that all who enter the disco sweat, and all who sweat get "funky", and so he who is without funk should cast the first stone. "Hit her with the rock!" He challenges. "Bust upside her head if you can!" Remember - this is a man who has been busting people upside their head since his first single. You can't say Joe didn't learn a thing or two in his life in soul. 

Unable to argue with this logic, the dancers agree to dance together in stinky peace, and JT leaves them with the 10 commandments of the dancefloor.

And now, because I have been to the mountain this last month, I've come back with those 10 commandments, slightly retranslated to be more Ichiban appropriate. Hey, retranslating scripture to the advantage of the translating agency is common practice, so I figure I'm golden.


"1. If thou did not want to get funky, thou never should have got on the dancefloor.
2. Surely thou kneweth thou wouldeth get funky, if ever thy got on the dancefloor.
3. We all sweateth and doeth get stanky whenever we get on a dancefloor.
4. We should not hate, love thee one another, get on down on the dancefloor.
5. Do not stone, love thee one another, get on down on the dancefloor.
6. Now the time cometh, and so I must goeth - to check on the other dancefloors.
7. When I returneth, I want you all to be getting down on the dancefloor.
8. Behold I cometh when thou not knoweth, so get on down on the dancefloor.
9. The music is funky, and it sure is goodeth, get on down on the dancefloor.
10. Peace be unto thee my people, get on down on the dancefloor.


What can be said in response to that but AMEN?

Thanks to all the great Ichiban bloggers and commentators for teaching me so much about my favorite soul artist this month. It's been great to witness the power of an aggregate group of bloggers first-hand.  

We now return you to your regularly scheduled jungle 45 of the week, already in progress.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Joe Tex Month Day 28: The Disco Years

After coming out of retirement in 1975, Joe had a string of singles on Dial, but it wasn't until 1978, when  he jumped labels one final time, to make his final comeback, the always suprising Bumps and Bruises. The sound is pure late 70s soul, but the songs and themes are vintage JT. While it may not look it, this is probably the best record JT recorded post-Happy Soul. The album was a hit, largely because of its lead track, "Ain't Gonna Bump No More with No Big Fat Woman", the other side of the coin of "Skinny Legs and All". Could Joe find no middle ground in his choice of dance partners?

The rest of the album is filled with similar songs sending up the 70s - Tex style. The songs are back to being wonderfully specific instead of the more generic moments on parts of I Gotcha & Spills the Beans. Several songs are credited to songwriter Benny Lee McGinty, who gets several co-writing credits with Tex on his next two albums. 

"Jump Bad" in particular is a classic piece of 70s jive storytelling - it's the tale of Run Down the hustler getting royally whooped upside the head by a grandma who doesn't take kindly to him accosting her in front of the check cashing place. Tex is a comedic virtuoso here, playing Run Down, the Grandma, and the narrator. 

"We Held On" is a classic Tex soul country number, with a similar melody to "Games People Play", and it should have been a hit. There's also songs where Joe decides to have an operation to remove his hands and one where one of his buddies dances with a "sissy" while preaches tolerance. Side one never stops giving it up. One major problem - there's only one rap on the whole record, a spoken intro on "There's Something Wrong", but it's not by Joe! Who the heck dares to "rap" on a Joe Tex record but JT?

His second Epic record was Rub Down. Early collaborator James Booker was on the session, and the title track has Joe admitting that he can't dance as good as his old rival James Brown. So the roots are in place, and there are a couple of fine raps, particularly on the freaky slow jam version of "I Gotcha".  The songs, however, aren't quite up to snuff overall, and this one fulls into the category of FOR COMPLETISTS ONLY.

JT fittingly returned to Dial for his final LP. More on that tomorrow - the FINAL DAY of Joe Tex Month. Tune in for one more mind boggling piece of wisdom.

28 Rounds and Still Swinging!

Ed. note: "I Mess Up Everything I Get My Hands On", "Leaving You Dinner" (mp3s)  Also from Bumps & Bruises.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Joe Tex month, day 27: The Funk Years

Well, Ray Charles must have been right, because in 1972 Joe had his biggest hit yet, "I Gotcha"! This song fully launched Joe into the funk era, topping the R&B chart and hitting #2 on the pop.  

The album had a number of "I Gotcha" soundalikes and a few ballads. It's not peak Tex, but it's not a bad record either. I think, however, I prefer Spills the Beans.

Spills the Beans was the last JT album before his temporary retirement. It's more of a return to traditional Tex sound, with a couple of funk numbers thrown in to remind you that this is the "I Gotcha" guy. The more contemporary numbers reflect the "Papa Was a Rolling Stone" style of social consciousness, like "A Mother's Prayer" and the apocalyptic "Living the Last Days". 

But more in keeping with Joe's strengths are the hilarious "King Thaddeus", one of the all time great songs about a rooster, right up there with Sam the Sham's "The Cockfight", and, best of all, "Papa's Dream", the song that inspired the album's title and weird cover. It's right up there with "Grandma Mary" in terms of being a great reminiscence of his time growing up, and is tragic and uplifting at the same time. 

And it was covered by Johnny Cash, ca. 1975, as "Look at them Beans".

In 1972, on the heels of his biggest hit, Joe retired from the recording industry, changed his name to Jusef Hazziez, and devoted his life to the Muslim faith, spending his time preaching in the service of Elijah Muhammad. However, upon Muhammad's death in 1975, Tex secured permission from the church to get back into the game.

An initial 1975 session yielded some singles and several unreleased tracks, comped together on the rather fine 2 LP collection of rarities Charly issued in the mid 80s, different strokes. This record is well worth tracking down, as it has material dating back from '65 that can only be found here. 

Taken together, the 1975 tracks make for an OK album on the level of Spills the Beans. But it wasn't the full bore comeback material he was looking for. That would have to wait until '78, where Joe would prove he still had a virtually inexhaustable supply of crazed novelty songs about women with unusual proportions.

Bonus cut: here's Austin rock and rollers The Hard Feelings, featuring Joe Tex afficianado John Schooley, whomping the stuffing out of "You Said a Bad Word" from I Gotcha.

Bonus click: Domino9, who's been contributing a number of great observations and corrections to Joe Tex month in the comments sections, has been assembling a website devoted to the life and music of the Dapper Rapper.  Check it out.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Joe Tex Month Day 26: Don Covay's Temptation Was Too Strong

Fellow Soul Clansman Don Covay pays tribute to the big JT.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Joe Tex Month Day 25

We interrupt this blog to bring you a special announcement.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Joe Tex month day 24: The Soul Clan

In 1968 Joe Tex found himself in yet another one of those situtations where he was ahead of his time and involved in something that has interesting echoes in modern day soul, r&b and rap: the Soul Clan.

Originally conceived by Don Covay and Solomon Burke, the original Soul Clan was supposed to be the following individuals: Covay, Burke, JT, Wilson Pickett, and Otis Redding. 

The idea was that these huge soul stars would record together, pool their resources, and become a positive force for the black community. They would take the proceeds from their recordings and set up trust funds for their children and for the community. The concept was sort of like an early version of, say, Roc-a-Fella records, and was in part inspired by Sam Cooke's forming of SAR records - the notion that the best way for black entertainers to achieve financial independence by setting up their own collective.

Unfortunately, Otis died in the plane crash, and Pickett backed out, claiming he didn't need to be a part of the Soul Clan, that he had plenty of hits on his own. Redding was replaced by Arthur Conley, Pickett by Ben E. King. The group released their first 45, which was supposed to set them on a pathway to world domination.

But the only thing that ever came of the Soul Clan concept beyond that 45 was a single, dodgy, compilation LP. 

The recording itself also has something of the vibe of later hip-hop singles, where rappers guest on each other's records - all the vocals were done around a pre-recorded backing track in separate studios at separate times, with the performers each taking a verse, doing their own schtick and call outs, based around their own hits and personas. The Soul Clan never really met in the studio.

Solomon Burke claimed the Soul Clan 45 was stopped on its run up the charts by mysterious corporate forces, who shut the record down.

"The Soul Clan was deliberately destroyed because we were becoming a power structure. Our interest as a Soul Clan was to build a financial empire, and once that was found out, we were destroyed."

Whether this is true, or if it's more likely that the Soul Clan single didn't top the charts because it depends more on star caché than truly good songs or artistic chemistry, is at this point a matter of speculation. It's still a heck of a thing to get to listen to.

King, Tex, Covay, Pickett and Burke - from an apparently disastrous 
attempt at a reunion gig in the early 80s

Peter Guralnick's Sweet Soul Music is the source for this post. The book remains a great read 26 years later.  

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Joe Tex month day 22: The "uptown" albums

After recording his two greasiest records in '68 and '69, the ever attuned-to-the-times Tex switched up his sound for his next two records, going for the slightly more sophisticated soul sounds of the early 70s. Not that JT was going to in any way go all Isaac Hayes on us, but these records do represent an attempt to sophisticate the hard southern soul of JT, with mixed results.

It mostly works on the With Strings and Things album. For one thing, it's only about half transitional - much of it is business as usual. It's like there were some standard Textracks in the can and a slightly more uptown session was recorded to justify the name. Tex even talks about the fact that he's in transition on the album's hit, "You're Right, Ray Charles", which we discussed in the Dapper Dropper post. 

There are many other snazzy songs on this LP. The lead track, "Everything Happens on Time" has one of the oddest arrangements of any JT song, and Joe responds with a lyric that is another wild metaphor typical to the man who spent a lot of his time buying books, digging gardens, and picking plums (in the same old soup).  

"Take My Baby a Little Love" is a killer mover with many classic lines, like: "I've got to stop being the town clown before I tear myself down!"

And "A Little Friendly Advice" is one of those weird "addressed to a specific individual male with a single syllable first name" songs we've heard throughout Joe Tex Month. It is probably also his best pure country song.

Joe's next album, From the Roots Came the Rapper, is one I have never been able to crack the code on.  There is just so much wrong with it. From the outset - look at that weird mod cover - what does that have to do with our down-home, nitty-gritty philosopher?

The album was recorded in Muscle Shoals studios with Eddie Hinton and some of his fellow Shoalers, so the playing is fine, but this really does sound like Joe trying to make an Isaac Hayes album.  There's only one original on the record, and one of the two "raps",  on the tediously eternal version of Burt Bacharach's "I'll Never Fall in Love Again", is one of the few times I can't connect with a Tex sermon.  Sure there's some ringer songwriters - future Ichiban month candidate Jerry Williams Jr. (aka Swamp Dogg), Don Covay, and the Left Rev. Eugene McDaniels, but overall things just feel off.

I suspect that the main reason the record doesn't really launch is because it's produced by Dave Crawford and Brad Shapiro, rather than Joe's main man, Buddy Killen. It's the only record that Killen didn't produce after Joe joined Dial, and it shows. JT sounds more uptight and serious than usual, and the whole thing is just kind of a drag. Anyone who has any insight into why this album is worthwhile is encouraged to open my ears to it.

A new direction was coming, though, as was Joe's biggest hit yet.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Joe Tex month day 21: JT and the sons of a gun from next door

Howdy, neighbor, howdy!
ca. the early 50s

If there was one thing that Joe Tex didn't much care for, it was somebody dippin' in his business. From as early as his King-era cover of "Ain't Nobody's Business What I Do", Joe made it loud and clear, again and again, that your business was yours and his business was his, so take your nose and put it somewhere else, thanks.

And who knows your business better than anyone? Those nosey nosey neighbors! 

Joe's adversarial relationship with his neighbors began in earnest when he was confronted on an early Dial side by that "Hand Shakin, Love Makin, Girl Talkin, Son-of-a-Gun from Next Door". Admittedly, the HSLMGTSOG from next door seemed to be dippin' in more than Joe's business, so Joe had every right to be perturbed.

Further evidence that JT had a less than kindly disposition towards his fellow tenants comes in the hilarious Drifters parody "You Can Stay". One glance at the title and you'd think it was a welcoming song, but the implied parenthetical title is "(But that noise has got to go)". Maybe Joe's lived next door to Mouse and the Traps.

As much as the neighbors drove him crazy, their antics also amused him - he always got a kick out of  petty jealousies and social climbing antics, like in this oddball fuzz 'n' harmonica waltz, "Funny Bone".

How, exactly, do you sit on your elbows?

But the last thing in the world you want to do to Joe if you're a neighbor is to try and borry something. This time-honored complaint has been the subject of many a classic tune since even before Jerry McCain had to loan his neighbor a suit to bury grandpa in. Here's Joe's take, from the Different Strokes, the 1975 winner "My Neighbor's Got the Gimmes".  And this is no funny business: "If Jesus would've have lived around neighbors like y'all, y'all would make the man hate you himself!"

But is it me, or does he borrow from (of all people!) Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons for the slowed down middle section of that song?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Joe Tex: The Dapper Dropper

"If I were a disease - Dr. Feelgood would cure me!"
King Curtis, Aretha Franklin, JT

Joe was a master of the shout out. Whether shouting out to Rufus Thomas at the end of his "Walking the Dog" rip, "Looking for My Pig", or telling Elvis to "get it!" in his "Heartbreak Hotel" cover, JT always gave credit where it was due. 

The Ichiband of merry posters are huge fans of "I'm a Man", where Joe name checks B.B. King, Rufus Thomas, the Rolling Stones, James Brown, Willie Mays and Roger Miller. I think it's been posted four/ five times this month, but what the heck, here it is again.

But that's far from the end of the story - there are numerous examples of Tex giving his fellow soul singers some love in song. There was the 1970 single "You're Right, Ray Charles", wherein RC tells JT that he needs to stop singing slow songs and rock it out. Considering Ray's tendencies to cover "Eleanor Rigby" around this time I'm not entirely sure that this song makes any sense, but since Joe wrote from life, I wonder what the conversation described in this song was really like.

On "Woman Stealer", Joe, B.B. King, Bobby Blue Bland and Little Johnny Taylor have gotten together to stop woman stealers from stealing women.  Joe goes upside somebody's head yet again, but at least this time he's doing it to dudes. 

But the ultimate Joe Tex name drop song didn't get released until a 1985 UK double LP called Different Strokes, even though it's a 1970 recording. More on this comp in a few days. The song is a cover of a 1955 Ruth Brown hit, "I Can See Everybody's Baby". 

Joe's version is radically different. He turns it into a travelogue - Ruth sticks close to home looking for her baby, but Joe travels all over the US looking for his. And he just can't find her. But while he's looking, he "sees" the following women: Ray Charles', Johnny Taylor's, James Brown's (waitaminute! that's Joe Tex's woman!), Wilson Pickett's, Tom Jones', Clarence Carter's, Marvin Gaye's, Elvis Presley's, Joe Simon's, the Chambers Brothers', Sam and Dave's, Isaac Hayes', Lee Dorsey's, Bobby Bland's, Junior Walker's, Little Richard's, and Bobby Womack's.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Joe Tex month day 20: the deep soul albums - Happy Soul & Buying a Book

By 1968, JT was at the peak of his popularity. He was one of the most popular live soul entertainers going (witness the numerous pictures from Greg G's trolling of the Jet archives of Joe getting mauled by fans) and he had a long string of winning R&B singles. 

And while the two albums he released these years continue to follow the Tex/Killen formula, they also have a deeper soul sound. Having the same sort of crossover appeal that typifies the earlier Dial releases does not seem to be a priority. Part of me wonders if this is because around the time Happy Soul was released in 1968, Tex secretly converted to the Muslim religion. He'd eventually change his name to Yusuf Hazziez and quit show biz completely for a few years, but more on that when we talk about I Gotcha.  

Regardless, they're both really good records with lots of great tracks.

Side one of Happy Soul in particular stands up with any LP side of soul music you'd care to name. A bunch of the tracks from this record have been posted elsewhere on Ichiban through the course of the month, but a couple haven't been covered yet. I'm a big fan of the home-town hi-jinx of "You Need Me", which has an almost Tom T. Hall vibe to it in terms of its telling little details. "Some were crying, and some bought lunch!"

And my DJ box is always packing the freight train of laffs that is "Go Home and Do It", because of one glorious occasion when I played it, much to the crowd's delight, right after some jerky couple finally got kicked out of one of my gigs for being obnoxious.

Buying a Book has another great autobiographical song about Joe's early Texas childhood, "Grandma Mary" and the civil rights anthem "We Can't Sit Down Now".  And of course there's the title track.

Now, can someone actually explain to me what the phrase "buying a book" actually means? I haven't been to figure that out for 20 years.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Joe Tex month: The Joe Tex Band

Let's hear it for the band!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Joe Tex Month: The Coasters/Sleepy LaBeef Connection

 Joe Tex covers show up in the oddest places. Buddy Killen was one busy song-selling-son-of-a-gun from next door.

Both bands cover Joe's Buying a Book-era snotty little ode to germophobia, "It Ain't Sanitary". It's tailor made for the Coasters, and they really ham it up. It makes me wonder if he wrote it for them. A Coasters Sing Joe Tex album would have been great.  

But it's kind of weird when Sleepy Labeef covers the same song on his Sun LP, the bull's night out.

Sleepy must have liked Buying a Book, because this album's also got a cover of the title track. Since the song is mostly one of JT's sermons, it's pretty weird to hear him cover it in his Sleepy baritone, word for word.

Joe Tex's Green Green Grass Of Home

Yesterday, Dr. Filth put up a fine post examining the intersection of the worlds Joe Tex and Roger Miller, which reminded me of another Joe Tex effort that came out of the country field.

The Green, Green Grass Of Home begins with a man happily recounting his eagerness to return to the familiar comforts of home after a long absence. There is, however, a catch. As the song unfolds, we learn the man is actually a Death Row prisoner and he's only been dreaming of going home. In reality, he is to be executed the following morning.

It's become something of a standard in the years since 1965 when singer Johnny Darrell released the original version of the song, followed almost immediately by Porter Wagoner's definitive interpretation, in which he added an extra layer of intensity by doing the final verse as a recitation. Tom Jones took the song to #1 in the UK in '67 and Merle Haggard, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Hank Snow, among many others, also recorded memorable versions.

So, all that said, check out Joe Tex's moving version of The Green Green Grass Of Home, performed live on Spanish television in 1968.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Joe Tex month day 17: Dang Me/Show Me! The Joe Tex/Roger Miller connection

"If I were a silly grin, I'd like to be worn on Roger Miller's face."
-Joe Tex-

Buddy Killen was the Joe Tex/Roger Miller connection. He was lifelong buddies with Miller, brokered several of his record deals, managed his publishing and sat the crazy laughing ADD genius down to complete his songs.

According to "I Love You Drops" singer Bill Anderson, "Roger would come in with seven or six lines of a song. It'd be something fabulous, and Buddy would just have to almost take him and chain him to the table to make him finish."

Killen was also one of the snappers on the giant Miller hit "King of the Road".

Joe Tex covered three different Roger Miller songs throughout his Dial career, and it wasn't just the fact that  Killen helped make them the successful artists they were that made them simpatico. Both singers managed to say deeply profound things in often ridiculous contexts, and conveyed both happiness and humor in their performing style in a way that is absolutely captivating and infectious. And they were both funny as do-wacka-do.

JT covered "King of the Road" on The New Boss, "Half a Mind" on I've Got to Do a Little Bit Better, and "Engine Engine #9" on Soul Country.

And on Hold What You've Got, he wrote his own Roger Miller homage/parody, "Are We Ready?", the last verse of which goes out to Newt Gingrich.

Joe Tex with Buddy (right) and journalist Charles Lamb (center)

And just because it's too long to wait until Roger Miller Month, here's Roger and Johnny Cash.

I just told myself a dirty joke!

For more information on Roger Miller and Buddy Killen, check out the informative bio on the official Roger Miller website.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Joe Tex month day 16: Soul Country

“You wanna know my secret for getting a cross-over hit? I used the same formula every time – half soul musicians, half country.” - Joe Tex

Once Joe Tex and Buddy Killen started collaborating, country music became an essential part of JT's sound. Killen was an ex-bass player at the Grand Ole Opry, and was also a Nashville song publisher with vested interest in Tree Publishing.  Under Killen's influence, some of the country elements present in Tex's early music were brought front and center. Most of his LPs included a straight(ish) country number or two, and countrified arranging techniques added surprising elements to hits like "I've Got to Do a Little Bit Better Than I've Been Doing".  

The 1968 Country Soul LP is all country songs, and with the exception of "If I Ever Do You Wrong" they're all covers. I suspect that part of the reason for the song selection on this LP, and part of the reason for some of the cover choices on other LPs ("Heartbreak Hotel", for instance) is because Tree Publishing owned the rights to the songs, so Killen got some bread coming and going.  

But the results are a pretty good LP - maybe some of the cover choices could have been better suited to Joe's natural abilities, but it was still one of the first full-length country LPs by a soul artist. And while folks like Ray Charles, Arthur Alexander and Solomon Burke were working similar veins, Joe's approach as always made the best of the songs uniquely Tex.  Many of the notable numbers got posted in the "Joe Tex Show" post of February 15, so you should just go watch them there. 

But there are a couple of other real winners on the record that deserve extra attention. His version of "Time Slips Away" is pretty hilarious - underneath the ordinary lyric of the Nelson standard, a second JT mumbles unspoken words of resentment. It's like Joe's dueting with his own subconscious.

But the track I love most is his chitlin' circuit version of "Ode to Billy Joe". I don't know whose idea recording the Bobbie Gentry megahit was, but the results are inspired. The funky soul arrangement drives the song from a lazy lope to a solid mid-tempo dance number, and Joe makes a number of lyrical modifications to personalize it. These make the song even weirder than it already was. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Joe Tex month day 15: The Joe Tex Show - complete! - THIS IS GENIUS

We've mainly been talking about Joe's recordings here on Inchiban, but today what we have for you is the best video and audio evidence available for his legendary status as a live performer.  This video was recorded for a TV Special in Scandanavia in 1969, post Happy Soul, and it is 20 minutes of excellence. Great picture and sound quality, with spectacular dancing, singing, and an incredibly cooking band. Even the camera work is passable. Seriously - there are not many better live videos on YouTube than this. 

Almost everything that makes JT my favorite soul guy is right here - the only thing missing is a slow "Hold What You've Got" style sermon. Check out that 1000 mph version of "Show Me"! And do not miss the workout on "Papa Was Too", where Joe defies gravity with the microphone stand. 

"Man That's Your Baby", an extremely funny satire about delinquent baby daddies, is from Happy Soul.  A whopping three songs from Country Soul (tune in tomorrow!) make up the bulk of the set, including the classic original, "I'll Never Do You Wrong".  I love the sweat glistening on his forehead while he earnestly deadpans "I hope a sore come on my elbow/I hope a rock fall on my big toe./I love my toe/and my elbow/so you know I'll never do you wrong." Unassailable logic, that.

It all caps with a jive talkin' "Skinny Legs and All". Stick around past the credits for the best mic trick yet.

Unfortunately, the only "live" recording of Tex that's been officially released, Live and Lively, is a studio + overdub job. It's not a bad record, parts of it are, in fact, great - but it certainly isn't close to that video footage above. I can't help but think a real live album would put JT's rep up there in the highest tier, like he deserves.  But, oh well.  That's Life!

And what the heck - here's a crummy rip I made a couple of years ago, for my own devices, of that version of "Show Me" that leads the Joe Tex Show. Use it for your own devices.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Joe Tex month day 14: The Original Tex-Ter

(you can spin this any old time)

We all know that Joe Tex was rapping before anyone called it rapping, but that's not the only "modern innovation" that JT foresaw and performed with both style and wit above and beyond the level it's normally practiced today.

I'm talking about Tex-ting.

Sure, we all occasionally, perhaps to our embarassment, LOL or TTYL in our random wordphone/ chatpane conversations. And if you don't, IMHO you've had to make the conscious decision to hate on the practice, probably for sound or perhaps just reactionary reasons.

But in "The Letter Song", Joe took the art of the abbreviation/acronym to such a high level that I propose we adopt some of them for Joe Tex month.

Particularly on today, Valentine's Day, how much better would it be to send one of Joe's messages to your sweetheart, rather than a silly less than sign with a three stuck on the end of it?

Check out Joe's personal Texicon:

YCCMAOT = You can call me any old time.
SYSLJFM = Save your sweet love just for me.
DKWIMTM = Don't know what it means to me.
DETYSLA = Don't ever take your sweet love away.
ICLMLTW = I can't live my life that way.
TCAHYTU = To come and help you to unwind.

So on Valentine's Day - don't just send your loved one a text. Send 'em a Joe Text.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Joe Tex Month, Day 13: I've Got to Do a Little Bit Better

It's a hit!

Joe's fourth Atlantic/Dial LP is, for me, his best - and one of the best soul LPs I've heard, period. Joe's performances are infectiously joyous, the arrangements on the tunes are exciting (and loaded with guitar!) and it's his best collection of original material ever. The two covers only add to the good natured, hilarious vibe of the entire record.

 It starts with one of Joe's patented responses to a current hit, this time the "Tramp" rewrite "Papa Was, Too" (more on this one on Wednesday) and never lets up. "Watch the One (That Brings the Bad News)" is a great blues vamp about shoe shops, eating chicken, and rattling bags. "Lying's Just a Habit John" is a funny and instructional riff on the "Twistin' the Night Away" melody - it seems there are good lies and bad ones and John's are no good.

And the three that start side two are total jaw droppers. The countryish bowed bass fiddle hook that breaks up the title track is Buddy Killen arranging at its best. "The Truest Woman in the World" is one of JT's greatest sermons ("98% of us are jealous and suspicious and the other 2% are sneaking around!").  And what can be said about the soldier so in love with his girlfriend that he uses her letters to inspire him to get him some more enemies in "I Believe I'm Going to Make It" except maybe . . . "Batman and Robin!"

And then there's "S.Y.S.L.J.F.M" a song so good it gets its own post tomorrow.

Tip top! Get it at the record shop.