Sunday, October 29, 2006

Johnnie Taylor (The Soul Philosopher) - Love In The Streets (Ain't Good As The Love At Home) (STAX 0096)


Love In The Streets (Ain't Good As The Love At Home)

Triple Play



Johnnie Taylor spent his early childhood in West Memphis, Arkansas, just across the river from the big town. He moved with his Grandmother to Kansas City in the late forties and was singing with local Gospel quartet The Melody Kings by the time he reached his teens. Relocating further north to Chicago in the early fifties, he began singing R&B with The Five Echoes, recording for the Sabre and Vee-Jay labels in 1954.

When Sam Cooke was recruited by The Soul Stirrers in 1951, The Highway QCs were left without a lead singer. Although they kind of fell apart after that, they had regrouped by early 1955 and persuaded Johnnie to leave R&B and come sing Gospel with them. Sam heard about the cocky new lead that 'sounded just like him', and decided to check it out. He was impressed with Johnnie's talent (and his whole 'dig me' attitude), and began showing up at their rehearsals. He encouraged them to work on Somewhere To Lay My Head, and they recorded it for Vee-Jay in May of 1955 with Johnnie Taylor on lead vocal. Despite the fact that The Sensational Nightingales had already released a version of the song earlier in the year, it became a bona-fide Gospel hit that summer for the QCs.

Cooke, of course, would leave The Soul Stirrers the following year, and launch his own pop career on the small west coast Keen label before being picked up by RCA. Consequently, The Soul Stirrers were once again in the market for a lead singer, and convinced Johnnie to leave the Highway QCs behind and join up with them in 1957. When they lost their contract with Specialty Records in 1958, the Stirrers signed with Sam's new SAR label, with Stand By Me Father being the company's first release in 1959 (for more on this whole period, please visit holy ghost).

Taylor would leave The Soul Stirrers in 1960, and return to singing R&B as a solo artist for SAR and its subsidiary Derby beginning in 1961 (please check out the Rome (Wasn't Built In A Day) post over on The A Side for more information about his time with SAR). After Cooke was killed in late 1964, his record labels ceased to exist, and Johnnie was left without a recording contract in 1965.

"I was living in Kansas City," he said, "...I got to St. Louis and I decided I'd toss up a dime. I said, 'Should I go towards Detroit for Motown or should I take the southern route to Stax?' Stax won out."

Al Bell had made a name for himself in Memphis as the new suave and sophisticated voice of R&B as a dee-jay on WLOK. He went on to greener pastures in Washington DC, and introduced the city to authentic Southern Soul on WUST in the early sixties. Jim Stewart brought him back to Memphis in 1965 as their first full-time promotion man. Bell immediately set about his plans for improving the label, and bringing it 'up to date'. Under his direction, the company began to produce quality LPs as well as singles and, due to his connections in radio, had more top ten hits in his first year at the company than they ever had before. He was eager to expand their roster of artists, and so was more than happy to sign Johnnie Taylor to a contract in January of 1966.

His first Stax release, I Had a Dream, was an excellent blues vehicle that was written and produced for him by Isaac Hayes and David Porter. It cracked the top 20 R&B, and set the tone for his Stax releases for the next couple of years. This period, with his records being produced by either Hayes and Porter or Al Jackson Jr. and Booker T, generated some of Johnnie's best sides ever. His first Stax LP, Wanted: One Soul Singer is simply a 'must-have'.

In December of 1967, Johnnie was a pallbearer at Otis Redding's funeral, and sang I'll Be Standing By accompanied by Booker T on the organ. Little did he know he was about to take Otis' place as Stax's best known artist.

Don Davis was a Detroit guitar player that had worked on some early Motown material before turning to production. He was involved with several Detroit labels (like Thelma and Revillot) before starting up his own Groovesville imprint. A song he produced for the label, Baby Please Come Back Home, was an R&B top ten hit for J.J. Barnes in May of 1967. Al Bell had this idea of combining the Memphis and Detroit sounds, and co-produced a record with Davis on Carla Thomas called Pick Up The Pieces. It would break into the top 20 in early 1968, and basically reinforce the idea that he was on the right track. Bell decided to bring Davis to Stax, and hired him as a producer in September of 1968, a decision that was none too popular with the rest of the gang down on McLemore Avenue.

When Homer Banks brought a song he had written (with his 'We Three' partners Raymond Jackson and Bettye Crutcher) to the 'Big 6' production pool (Booker T & the MGs, Isaac Hayes, and David Porter) at Stax it was summarily dismissed. He then brought it to Don Davis, essentially going behind the other's backs. Davis loved it, and prevailed upon Al Bell to let him cut it on Johnnie Taylor. The whole rest of the team hated it (including Taylor, who called it "that boogity-boogity song"), but Bell basically forced them to give it a shot. When Who's Making Love was released in October of 1968, it broke all of Stax's previous sales records and spent an unprecedented 3 weeks at #1 R&B, while climbing to #5 on the pop charts as well. The record actually features both Davis and Steve Cropper (shown here with the Gold Records they earned for the single) on guitar, and it really does crank. It was the first time that a Stax singer overdubbed his vocals to a pre-recorded backing track (a Davis innovation) and, in so many ways, it just changed everything.

On the basis of the success of Who's Making Love, Bell promoted Davis to 'Vice President in Charge of Production'. The Big 6 went ballistic, with Isaac Hayes actually closing down the studio, and clearing everyone out at gunpoint! Al Bell and Jim Stewart scrambled, and decided to make them ALL vice presidents, a title which now essentially meant nothing. Noses were out of joint, with Booker T (who many thought should have been given the position) refusing to ever play a note for Davis, and leaving the company in late 1969 (Steve Cropper would follow in 1971). Carla Thomas, I'm sure, summed up all of their feelings when she said "He should have stayed in Detroit!"

Johnnie Taylor, meanwhile, was thrilled to have Davis as his producer, and was just knocking 'em dead. He followed Who's Making Love with an unparalleled string (for Stax artists anyway) of eight consecutive top ten hits, including gems like Take Care Of Your Homework and Jody's Got Your Girl And Gone. He was, quite simply, 'on top'. According to Rob Bowman's excellent Soulsville USA, Don Davis had decided to steer clear of the Stax studio entirely at this point, and was recording the basic tracks for Johnnie's records at Muscle Shoals, with the addition of the great Eddie Hinton on guitar.

Today's really cool B side (the flip of 1971 top ten hit Hijackin' Love) also features The Dramatics (who had just waxed their #3 smash Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get for Volt) on background vocals. It gives the record this whole Gospel dimension, I think, and you can hear Johnny returning to his Sam Cooke roots... I love that little 'yodel' thing, man. He's really testifying there at the end, ain't he?


Johnnie Taylor continued to chart regularly for Stax, with huge hits like I Believe In You (You Believe In Me), Cheaper To Keep Her, and We're Getting Careless With Our Love dominating the airwaves right up until the company collapsed under its own weight in 1975. Wasting no time, Johnnie signed with CBS in August of that year, and brought Don Davis with him.

When Columbia Records released Eargasm in early 1976, it was obvious that Johnnie Taylor was, once again, in the right place at the right time. The first single from the album, Disco Lady (written by Davis and Harvey Scales), was an absolute monster. It spent a month at #1 on the pop charts (six weeks R&B), on its way to becoming the FIRST "platinum" record EVER, in any genre. Talk about your big hits! The next single pulled from the album (released the same day as Ted Taylor's version on Alarm), was the phenomenal Somebody's Gettin' It, which went to #5. Love Is Better In The A.M. did even better the following year, and Johnnie was on a roll.

By the end of the decade, however, the whole 'death to disco' backlash took its toll on Johnnie (now understandably viewed as a disco mainstay), and CBS declined to renew his contract in 1981. A short-lived stint with the Beverly Glen label would produce an album, Just Ain't Good Enough, in 1982, and a few singles pulled from the album were released, with What About My Love breaking back into the top 40 R&B.

Johnnie had lived in Dallas for years, and when fellow Texas soul man Z.Z. Hill died suddenly in 1984, he was called upon to sing at his funeral. When Malaco Records' Tommy Couch heard him, he asked Dave Clark to convince him to sign with them. Just as with Otis Redding 17 years earlier, Johnnie was about to replace Z.Z. as his new label's biggest selling artist. He had found a home, and would go on to release one solid album after another. Although he hated being pigeonholed as a 'blues' artist, it kinda came with the territory at Malaco, and he dealt with it.

I saw him perform in New York as part of the late lamented Benson & Hedges Blues Festival sometime in the late eighties, and he was fantastic. The 'blues purists' in the audience weren't quite sure what to make of his 'disco' outfit, and his big band, but when he sang songs like Little Bluebird and I Got To Love Somebody's Baby he just brought down the house, man.

His 1996 album Good Love topped Billboard's Blues chart that year, and a hit single from the album, Last Two Dollars, helped to make it Malaco's biggest selling album ever.

In 1999, Big Head Hundreds (kind of a follow-up to Last Two Dollars) was released as the single from his latest album Got to Get The Groove Back, and became a solid regional hit as well. Taylor had kept up with the times, and the fat production on here, as well as lines like "...this chick talkin' about how she wants a mink coat and diamond rings, a black Navigator and thangs" showed just how bad he managed to remain in a hip-hop world. Whenever I listen to his later Malaco material, I can't help but think that this might have been what Sam Cooke would have sounded like if he was around today...

On May 31, 2000 Johnny Taylor was felled by a massive heart attack at his home outside of Dallas. His funeral at the Good Street Baptist Church was attended by over 7000 people, among them soul legends like Aretha Franklin, Al Green and Bobby Womack. People filed silently past his casket for hours. Perhaps Tommy Couch put it best when he hailed him as "the last of the great soul men".

...gone to Soul Heaven.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Ted Taylor - Going In The Hole (Ronn 65)


Going In The Hole

Hey everybody! After I posted a Clarence Fountain tune on Jewel Records over at holy ghost on October 11th, I noticed that my compadre Dan Phillips offered up a Bobby Patterson side on Paula just three days later (great minds thinking alike, and all of that). I figured I'd complete the cycle, and put up something on Ronn for ya today.

Austin Taylor was singing Gospel in his hometown of Okmulgee, Oklahoma by the time he was 14 years old. While still in his teens, he moved out to the West coast and joined The Santa Monica Soul Seekers, a Gospel 'quartet' that had been formed by Lloyd McCraw in 1947. When the group approached Modern Records arranger Maxwell Davis about a recording contract in 1955, he convinced them to 'crossover' and start singing R&B.

In one of my favorite Bihari Brothers stories, they decided to get more bang for their buck by marketing the singers as two different groups! They would release a single by The Jacks on RPM, then follow it up with a Cadets release on Modern. By sharing lead vocal duties between the different members, the public never realized the records were by the same outfit. You gotta love it! The Jacks hit big in 1955, taking Why Don't You Write Me all the way to #3 R&B that summer. By the time The Cadets broke into the top 5 the following year with Stranded In The Jungle, 'Ted' Taylor had already left the group(s).


His first singles were released on the Ebb label in 1957, but didn't cause much of a stir. By 1959 Ted had signed with Duke Records, and began showcasing his songwriting ability with songs like Be Ever Wonderful. The next few years saw him jumping from one obscure label (like Top Rank International and Gold Eagle) to another, and his records were going nowhere.

Columbia Records A&R man Dave Kapralik heard Ted's unbelievable voice, and signed him for their newly revitalized Okeh subsidiary in 1962. Columbia wanted a piece of the hot R&B market, and appointed Carl Davis (who was the man behind Gene Chandler's mega-smash Duke Of Earl for Vee-Jay earlier that year) as the head of production for the label at around the same time. Davis brought in local talent like Curtis Mayfield, Billy Butler, and Johnny Pate and set about creating 'The Chicago Sound'. Taylor's records from this period are simply fantastic, revealing a more 'hard soul' side of Chicago than other Okeh artists like Major Lance.

In late 1964, Columbia decided to send Taylor to Nashville to work with big Country & Western producer Billy Sherrill. It turned out to be a great idea, resulting in Ted's biggest hit, Stay Away From My Baby, which spent 3 months on the charts in 1965, making it as high as #14 R&B. After a few more singles on Okeh, Ted signed with Atlantic, but his Atco releases sank without a trace. His next stop would be with Stan Lewis' Jewel label in 1966. As I said over at holy ghost; "Lewis had started out with a jukebox route, and was able to open his own record store in 1948. He was quite the entrepreneur, and built up his mail-order business by advertising on the radio, especially on John R's fabled WLAC broadcasts. Before long, Stan became the 'go-to' distributor in the region for all the major labels, developing close ties with Chess in particular. He started his own label, Jewel, in 1963 and soon branched out to form the Paula and Ronn labels as well."

After a few singles on Jewel, Taylor became one of the first artists on Lewis' new Ronn imprint in 1967. He was back in the charts by 1969 with It's Too Late cracking the R&B top 40 that summer, and both Something Strange Is Going On In My House and How's Your Love Life Baby doing the same in 1970 and '71. This was around the time that Lewis signed the Texas dynamo Bobby Patterson to his label, and paired him with Jerry Strickland as both a songwriting and production team. The A side of today's single, I Want To Be A Part Of You Girl, is a sweet soul ballad that was written and produced by the duo at Lewis' Sound City Studios in Shreveport, Louisiana in 1972.

This monumental slab of greasy funk that you're listening to now, however, was co-written by Taylor and Marshall McQueen and produced by Ted himself. The band on here is just INCREDIBLE... I mean, check out the 'in-the-pocket' groove laid out by the bass player and drummer, while the wah-wah pedal just screams! As good as it gets, yo. Now, ol' Dan has done a lot of research into the house band at Sound City, the African Music Machine, and they just crank. I'd like to be able to tell you that they're the guys funkin' it up on here, but I'm not really sure. I mean, they go to all this trouble of printing where the A side was recorded, but leave that info out on the B... The really cool photo at left shows Ted holding a decked out Fender circa 1970s, could that possibly be him working the 'white room' wah-wah? Whew!

After barely denting the charts for Ronn one more time with What A Fool in 1973, Taylor decided to move on the following year. His next releases appeared on the Alarm label, which was started by Jerry Strickland and Stewart Madison in 1975 and (according to this cool scan I borrowed from the Home Of The Groove) still operated out of Sound City Recording in Shreveport. Ted's version of Steal Away (Alarm 112) made #64 R&B in the summer of 1976, but it's the ultra-amazing B side of that record, Somebody's Gettin' It that you should check out. As Dan pointed out when he posted it last year, it was produced and arranged by Wardell Quezergue, and it shows it! Ted's Alarm singles (along with some 1977 album tracks) have been re-issued on a CD by Basix Records which lists Malaco studio regulars James Stroud on drums and Carson Whitsett on keyboards (along with Dorothy Moore and The Jackson Southernaires (!) on background vocals), so I'm guessing the song was recorded in Mississippi at the Malaco studios.

Ted Taylor went on to release a few singles on MCA, and later formed his own label, Solpugids (apparently named after a species of 'non-arachnid spiders'), in the mid-eighties. He was 'on the comeback trail', and touring again as a 'down home blues' type singer when he lost control of the car he was driving, and died on the road in Louisiana on October 22, 1987.

May he Be Ever Wonderful.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Slim Harpo - I'm Gonna Miss You (Like The Devil) (Excello 2273)


I'm Gonna Miss You (Like The Devil)

What this has to do with Nashville


No discussion of black music in Nashville would be complete without talking about Ernie Young.

Young, the owner of Ernie's Record Mart, founded his Nashboro Gospel label in 1951 (for more on the Nashboro story, please visit my new Gospel music page, holy ghost). Excello was started as a subsidiary label the following year. Initially viewed as another outlet for his Gospel acts, Young soon realized the potential of the local R&B scene, and began recording regional artists like Kid King and 'Little Maxie' Bailey. The records didn't make much noise outside of the city limits until they hit big with Excello 2047 in January of 1955.

Arthur Gunter's excellent Baby, Let's Play House (now featured over at Brown Eyed Handsome Man) was leased by Chess for national distribution, and would climb to #12 on Billboard's R&B chart, putting Excello on the map (the song would be covered by some guy from Memphis later that year...). The label would have an even bigger hit that summer when Louis Brooks And His Hi-Toppers would ride It's Love Baby (24 Hours A Day) all the way to #2, spending almost three months on the charts.

J.D. Miller operated a small studio and record label (Feature) out in the rice country of Crowley, Louisiana. He had been recording some regional Cajun and Country music in the early fifties with moderate success, when he first heard Lightnin' Slim at WXOK in Baton Rouge. Miller has said that Lightnin's music "did something to me", and, with the help of disc jockey Diggy-Doo, he recorded Lightnin's Bad Luck in the Spring of 1954. He pressed a few copies on Feature and sent them out to both Ernie's Record Mart and Randy's Record Shop to sell. When they started spinning the record on WLAC, the phones lit up, and before he knew it, they were ordering 500 copies at a time. There was no way J.D. could keep up with the demand, and he decided to travel to Nashville for a 'record convention' in 1955.

He met with Ernie Young and worked out a deal that would lease the material he was recording back in Crowley to Excello for release and distribution. It turned out to be a great set-up for both men, as they were free to concentrate on what they did best. Lightnin's first few Excello singles sold very well in the South, and Miller's studio soon became ground zero for 'swamp-blues', producing some of the greatest records ever. In addition to Lightnin' Slim, Guitar Gable, Lazy Lester, and Lonesome Sundown would all appear on Excello by the end of 1956.

James Moore had come up the hard way in the 'Cajun Prairie' outside of Baton Rouge. In addition to working down on the docks, he played both harmonica and guitar at local juke joints and house parties under the name of Harmonica Slim. Lightnin' used him as his harmonica player on gigs around town, and brought him down to Miller's studio in Crowley. Apparently, there was already a blues man calling himself Harmonica Slim out in Texas, and it was Moore's wife who came up with the moniker "Slim Harpo". His first record for Excello, I'm a King Bee was released in July of 1957. Although it didn't chart, it would go on to become somewhat of an underground smash on both sides of the Atlantic (just ask Mick Jagger).

When Harpo's Rainin' in My Heart broke big in 1961, it became the highest selling of any of J.D. Miller's productions up to that point, spending 9 weeks on the charts, and even breaking into the Pop top 40! Excello rushed out an album that basically collected the best of his earlier singles for them, and things were looking good. Harpo, apparently unhappy with the way his royalties were being paid, refused to record a follow-up single, and, much to Miller's frustration, essentially 'lost the moment'.

Slim would not chart again for almost five years, but he would make up for it by coming up with his (and Excello's) biggest selling record ever. Baby Scratch My Back was just an absolute monster, spending almost 5 months on the charts in 1966 (including two weeks at #1 R&B), and cracking the top twenty pop. Today's B side is the flip of that amazing single, and continues that great swampy groove. The percussion on Miller's records was always the key, as you can tell here, and supposedly it was the always resourceful Lazy Lester (hero of the Ponderosa Stomp), who was responsible for creating 'that sound' by banging on 2x4's, newspapers, or whatever else was handy. His next single, Shake Your Hips, would be the last recording Slim would make in Crowley.

By the end of 1966, Ernie Young had sold his labels to a corporation and left town. The new owners built a new studio and offices on Woodlawn Avenue in Nashville, losing most of that 'funky charm' forever. They also had no use for J.D. Miller, and began producing their biggest star themselves at the new plant. Although Tip On In and Te-Ni-Nee-Ni-Nu sold fairly well in '67 and '68, the new records failed to capture that southwest Louisiana thang.

Harpo remained in demand as a live performer, and now had old pal Lightnin' Slim in his band with him. They actually opened for John Mayall's Bluesbreakers at The Fillmore East in March of 1969(!), and were back in the studio later that year cutting a new record with Crowley regulars Rudolph Richard and James Johnson in an attempt to recapture 'that sound'. A European tour was scheduled for early 1970 to support the album.

Slim's last recordings were made in late 1969, when Excello A&R chief Shannon Williams flew him up to Nashville to work with producer Bob Wilson. The resulting two singles, Folsom Prison Blues (2306) and I've Got My Finger On Your Trigger (2309) are simply fantastic, and showed the direction Harpo's work was headed in the upcoming decade. Only it was never to be.

James Moore died in Baton Rouge General Hospital on the last day of January, 1970. The cause of death was a sudden heart attack, possibly triggered by a drug overdose. He was 46 years old. The album he was working on was released shortly after his death. It was called "He Knew The Blues".

He sure did.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Joe Tex - You Better Believe It Baby (Dial 4033)


You Better Believe It Baby

More Nashville Soul


Joseph Arrington Jr. grew up in Baytown, Texas, just across the river from Houston. In addition to singing in the church choir, he became well known as a dee-jay on local radio station KREL while he was still in high school.

He won a local 'talent search' competition when he was 17, with an act that included his singing, dancing and comedy. The first prize was $300 and a trip to New York. While he was up there, Joe managed to win the fabled amateur night at the Apollo Theatre four weeks in a row (at which point they they told him not to come back)! He made up his mind to return to New York right then and there (once he finished high school, that is!).

His dynamic stage presence and nascient songwriting abilities caught the attention of Arthur Prysock who introduced him to the right people at King Records. Re-christened 'Joe Tex', they offered him a contract in 1955. Label-mate James Brown was so impressed with Tex's moves and 'microphone acrobatics', that he lifted them wholesale (he would go on to take Joe's Baby You're Right to #2 R&B in 1961). Joe, for his part, felt that he was kind of 'lost in the shuffle' at King, and moved on to New Orleans in 1957.

This was where it was all happening at that point, with Cosimo's studio cranking out hit after hit for folks like Little Richard and Larry Williams. Johnny Vincent signed him up on Ace, and paired him with James Booker. Despite this incredible combo, Tex remained pigeon-holed as a 'clown' and his 'novelty' records went nowhere. When Larry McKinley and Joe Banashak held their famous Minit records audition in January of 1960, Joe tried out, and was immediately accepted. the only problem was that he was still under contract with Vincent, who had no intention of letting him go to a cross-town rival.

They eventually worked it out, and Joe got his release. He next signed with Billy Davis' Anna Records up in Detroit. They were riding high with the success of Barrett Strong's Money at that point, and their distribution was picked up by Chess in Chicago. Joe's three singles for the label didn't make much impact, and by 1961, Davis (who was married to Berry Gordy's sister, Gwen) folded the label, and threw his weight behind the emergent Tamla/Motown empire to be. They, apparently, had no interest in signing Tex.

Buddy Killen, a man who was born in Muscle Shoals, had the music in his blood. He came up playing in local bands, and by 1951 had set off to Nashville to play bass in the house band at The Grand Ole Opry. He must have been good, as he ended up touring behind Country legends like Hank Williams and Jim Reeves.

Nashville, at this point, was just beginning to earn its reputation as "music city", and Killen was offered a job with the newly formed Tree Publishing Company. Buddy, a songwriter himself, had an 'ear for it', and was responsible for Tree getting the publishing rights to a little number called Heartbreak Hotel in 1955. Needless to say, that broke things wide open, and on the basis of that, Buddy was made part-owner of Tree in 1957. His own song, Forever, became a top ten hit for the Little Dippers in 1960, and things were looking good.

Joe Tex was playing in a small club in Nashville in 1961 and just knocked the socks off of Killen's right hand man, Jerry Crutchfield. As legend has it, Buddy actually cut his Florida honeymoon short to fly back to Tennessee and see what all the fuss was about. He was as impressed as Jerry was with Joe as a 'singer-songwriter', and brought him into the studio to cut a demo. His own excitement about the possibilities of Joe's unique blend of Country and R&B notwithstanding, Buddy was unable to convince any of the major Nashville record labels to sign him. That's when he decided to start his own.

Dial Records was formed in 1961, with Killen using his industry connections to secure a distribution deal with London. Joe's first releases for the label didn't do much, in spite of the quality of the material. Great songs from this period like Meet Me In Church and I Wanna Be Free went unoticed as they had trouble finding an audience in either the Country or R&B markets.

After some ten Dial singles sank without a trace, Tex became disillusioned and was ready to call it quits. Buddy never lost sight of his belief in Joe's potential, however, and convinced him to come to Muscle Shoals to give it one last shot in October of 1964. They worked on a song Joe had written about losing his high school sweetheart, and he wasn't happy with the results. As he left for the long drive back to his home in Baton Rouge, he made Killen promise never to release it.

Buddy, by now an old hand in the studio, went to work on the tune, beefing up the background track and eventually splicing the same chorus together several times before he was happy with it. Jerry Wexler, who already had his eye on Fame at this point, heard it and offered Killen a new distribution deal with Atlantic on the spot. When Hold What You've Got was released in January of 1965, it just took off, selling over 200,000 copies the first week and spending 2 months on the charts, where it climbed as high as #5 pop and #2 R&B (only kept from the #1 position by the Temptations' My Girl). When Joe first heard the song on the car radio, he called Killen and went off on him, but Buddy was able to calm him down with his first royalty check for the tidy sum of $40.000.

After ten long years, Joe Tex had finally arrived. Dial embarked on an agressive schedule of releases, with two singles - I Want To (Do Everything For You) and A Sweet Woman Like You - reaching the #1 spot back to back later that same year. Today's positively SMOKIN' tune was released in the Spring of 1966 as the flip of the top ten Vietnam record I Believe I'm Gonna Make It. Lending a certain 'british invasion' quality to Joe's Country Soul, I'm guessing it features the great Reggie Young and Tommy Cogbill, and shows off Killen's skills as a producer once again. I love the way the vocals fade out there at the end, right before the band comes right back at ya... un-huh!

Joe had cracked the top ten with both of his releases (Skinny Legs And All and Men Are Gettin' Scarce) just prior to the issue of the Soul Clan single in June of 1968. He was, arguably, the hottest star on there at that point, and would continue his success on the charts well into the seventies - something his fellow Clan members would be unable to do.

It was around this time that Joseph Arrington Jr. changed his name once again, privately becoming Yusef Hazziez and embracing The Nation Of Islam. Publicly, he kept up his 'Joe Tex' persona and came up with his biggest hit yet in January of 1972, I Gotcha. This super-sized slab of funk was, once again, produced by Buddy Killen and spent over 4 months on the charts, including two weeks at #2 on the pop side. Although he kept up with touring, and TV appearances and the whole deal, Joe was content to take the money back to the ranch he built himself in Navasota, Texas, just up Highway 6 from Baytown.

As the disco era progressed, Joe and Buddy jumped right in, breaking into the top ten with a song Killen wrote, Ain't Gonna Bump No More (With No Big Fat Woman). Released on Epic, Dial's new distributor, it became a huge club record in 1977, and sold millions. Although there were a few more releases to round out the decade, for the most part Joe hung out in Texas, rooting for The Houston Oilers and his friend Earl Campbell.

In 1981, there were big plans for a Soul Clan reunion, complete with a world tour and a new album. At a press conference in New York in July of that year, Joe told author Gerri Hirshey "It ain't gonna work... We are five different men. Most of us are loners... a soul man is that, singular... As far as I can see, the future of the Soul Clan died with Otis Redding." As it turned out, he was right, the single concert held in NYC that summer was a disaster, and the rest of the plans failed to materialize.

On August 12, 1982 Joseph Arrington Jr. died suddenly from a massive heart attack on his ranch in Navasota. The pall-bearers at his funeral included Soul Clan members Don Covay, Wilson Pickett, and Ben E. King as well as the legendary Percy Mayfield and a broken-hearted Buddy Killen, who said that he had lost his 'best friend'. Solomon Burke would fly in later on and hold a private service for his family.

Peter Guralnick's wonderful Sweet Soul Music (also known around here as 'the bible') ends with this quote from Joe:

“It’s been nice here, man. A lot of ups and downs, the way life is, but I’ve enjoyed this life. I was glad that I was able to come up out of creation and look all around and see a little bit, grass and trees and cars, fish and steaks, potatoes. Everywhere I've gone, I can always go back, and I can always find a friend. I don't go trying to make nobody like me, I just be me, you know, and it has worked out, and I thank God for that. I’m thankful that He let me get up and walk around and take a look around here. ‘Cause this is nice.“

Yes it is.
____________________________________________________________________

(please check out the excellent piece on Joe (and his guitarist Johnny Williams) at Rob Whatman's superb Brown Eyed Handsome Man.)