Joe Tex

by Pete Nickols

Joe Tex has never really received the credit he deserves for several examples of genuine musical innovation.

He was the first to cut a southern-soul record actually in the South which crossed over to the US Pop chart, namely “Hold What You’ve Got” at the end of 1964. He was also the first performer to imbue many of his single releases with extended spoken ‘soul-preaching’ passages, which he termed ‘rap’, well before the style was taken up by the likes of Isaac Hayes, Barry White and Millie Jackson. In addition, he often wrote and included in his recordings comedic lyrics based chiefly on the sayings and lives of people he encountered, making mundane black-southern humour sound almost profound and usually without the song in question losing its overall soulful appeal. He was also unquestionably a great ‘salesman’/self-promoter and a consummate ‘live’ performer.

Joseph Arrington Jr. was born in the small rural community of Rogers, in Bell County, Texas on August 8th 1935. The son of Joseph Arrington Sr. and Cherie Sue (Jackson) Arrington, at age 5, after a parental divorce, Joe moved with his mother the 150 or so miles south-east to Baytown (previously known as Goose Creek) on Galveston Bay, itself some 25 miles east of Houston.

As he grew a little older, Joe would perform song and dance routines to enhance his pocket-money earned as a shoeshine and paper boy. Then, at the George Washington Carver High School he sang in the choir, as well as that of the McGowen COGIC Temple.

A classmate of Joe’s was Ernie Rivers (originally from New Orleans) who also became a soul singer; but another local boy (and later performer) some four to five years Tex’s junior would get to know him even better, namely caucasian future country and blues-singer Johnny Williams, whose family lived right next to a couple called Sanders whose sometimes live-in maid was Joe’s mother. The boys played ball games together and when Joe was in junior high he would come round Johnny’s house, singing, playing the piano and telling jokes. Mixed race friendships were rare in non-integrated Baytown back then but the two guys continued to hang out together and would reunite later, as we shall see.

In his teens, Joe got up early to carry out part-time jobs to help his family, including work at a slaughterhouse. His sister Sue Singleton says: “Because there wasn't a father in our home, Joe acted as a father figure.”  Meanwhile, in the evenings he became ‘Jivin’ Joe’ on the local low-powered KREL-AM Radio Station, playing songs by ‘black’ R&B acts like Johnny Ace, Lloyd Price and early-50’s doo-wop groups alongside country winners from Hank Williams and co. Joe’s obvious vocal ability was nurtured by his High School music teacher, Matty Bell Durkee, who first got him interested in secular music, acting as his mentor and catalysing his early professional career by entering him in talent shows in nearby Houston.

At just such a contest in 1954, Joe took first prize over performers like Johnny Nash, Hubert Laws, and Acquilla Cartwright, an imitator of Ben E. King, with a comedic musical skit called "It's In The Book" and won $300 and a week's stay at the Hotel Teresa in Harlem in far-flung New York. Once in the Big Apple in the Fall of ’54 Joe decided his immediate musical future lay there and, as confirmed by his aunt, Bennie McGinty, Joe remained there, living in ‘a flophouse’ (a ‘doss-house’ providing cheap lodging) in Hempstead, Long Island and working as a gravedigger in a Jewish cemetery.

On Long Island he met up, and began to sing with a Glen Cove street-corner doo-wop group called the Sunbeams, originally formed in 1950 by ex-pat Philadephian John Cumbo. They would go on to cut a single for Herald in March 1955 but by then Joe Tex was working in a clothing store and about to take part in the famous Apollo Theater Amateur Night, which he duly won four times in a row, singing Arthur Prysock’s “Woke Up this Morning”. His prize was just $25 each time but he was also awarded a further 4 weeks’ professional booking. When that ended, Joe began to play local ‘clubs’, clearly now looking for a solo musical career, and it was Prysock himself who caught Joe’s act at Jimmy Evans’ Celebrity Club in Freeport, Long Island and who then arranged a successful introduction for him with King Records’ A&R man, Henry Glover.

Joe cut five singles for King between 1955 and 1957 (all at Beltone Studios, New York), beginning with the bluesy ballad “Come In This House”.

Soon, Tex was rubbing shoulders, sharing bills and often ‘crossing swords’ with the likes of fellow King artists James Brown and Little Willie John. Joe’s chiefly self-penned recordings were to a generally high standard (King rarely put out ‘rubbish’) – indeed I would argue that, despite being from the pre-soul era, musically most were significantly superior to his later Anna and Ace material (see shortly) – yet Tex clearly suffered from being ‘in the shadow’ of both of the aforementioned King performers and his 45s did not sell well, probably also seeing little promotion by King, whose big sellers of the period were Hank Ballard and Little Willie John.

Even though James Brown had then only achieved the one big hit (“Please Please Please”), this nonetheless allowed him to enjoy prominent billing at live gigs and the chance to develop his formidable stage ‘act’, which included stealing some of Tex’s own well-practised ‘dance moves’ and his special trick of flicking an apparently falling mike-stand back up with his foot.

Johnny Williams (left) on tour with Joe (third from left)

Understandably, Joe was less than pleased and, on one occasion, when opening a show for James, Joe deliberately mocked Brown’s own ‘stage antics’ by wrapping himself in a cape, dropping to his knees in fake anguish and hollering “Please! Please! Please! Please….get me out of this cape!” The audience thought this was hilarious, but later, a furious Godfather of Soul confronted Joe in a nightclub and tried to shoot him. Tex escaped unscathed through an exit; but this incident was the culmination of a series of disagreements between the two men, not the least of which was that Brown had taken up with singer Bea Ford, Tex’s ex-first wife, whom Brown claimed had left Tex for him (though in fact the couple had been divorced for some little while). This prompted Tex to write “You Keep Her”, which he recorded for Anna at the start of the 60’s (see shortly), the lyric of which began “James I got your letter, it came to me today, you said I can have my baby back but I don't want her that way, so you keep her.”
Joe also always claimed that he had written Little Willie John’s big 1956 hit song “Fever” (fitting the words to a tune influenced by Tennessee Ernie Ford’s late ‘55/early ’56 smash hit, “Sixteen Tons”) and that, struggling with debts, he had reluctantly sold it to Otis Blackwell for $300, something that Blackwell has always denied. However, there’s no doubt that “Fever’s” semi-comedic lyrics were very after Tex’s own writing-style and certainly Joe was a big Ernie Ford fan as he had earlier cut a send-up of the country singer’s also-hugely popular “Ballad Of Davy Crockett” on the flip of his very first King single in 1955, namely “Davy, You Upset My Home” (King 4840).

Johnny Williams backing up Joe on guitar

Meanwhile Tex, having got nowhere with his “Fever” claims, promptly wrote (no doubt in a fit of pique) a song called “Pneumonia” (King 4980) which was musically very similar in format to “Fever” but contained extremely ‘black’ comedic lyrics about Tex only getting pneumonia from his woman’s attentions, thus causing him to warn:
"If you put your cotton-pickin' hands around me, I'm gonna hit you with this rocking chair". Many felt the song’s ‘dark’ threats were really aimed at either John or Blackwell (or both)!

Apart from the ‘novelty’ items “Davy…” and “Pneumonia” and the rockin’ “Right Back To My Arms” and “She’s Mine”, Joe cut mainly blues ballads for King and I think the best of several good ones was ListenI Had To Come Back To You from his third 45 for the label (King 4911).

While with King, Tex did many promotional tours. When his young Baytown white pal Johnny Williams was at the University Of Texas in Austin, he regularly played guitar behind Joe, who would often work the Austin music scene. Williams remembers Joe’s band being irresponsible and often screwing up which used to annoy the always-professional Tex.

Joe’s sister Sue’s husband, Frank Singleton, used to drive Tex’s band to one-night gigs around this time and remembers those ‘rough’ days only too well. "It was hard then," he says. "People wouldn't give us a place to stay or eat. Joe had a white man with him, Johnny Williams from Baytown, who wasn't allowed to stay in the same room with us . . . that is, if we could find one. There were many times when we had to wire back to Baytown for money so we could make it to the next gig."

Tex’s last King 45 appeared in July 1957 but sales were poor and soon King were getting ready to release Joe from his contract. Meanwhile, our man headed south and soon began gigging regularly in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, where he became friendly with local pianist/organist James Booker, who introduced him to Johnny Vincent at Ace Records. With his break from King now complete, Joe began cutting tracks for Vincent at Cosimo’s famous studio, his first 45 for Ace, “Cut It Out”, being listed as a new release as early as 20 January 1958.

Cosimo himself found Tex easy to work with and, although his Ace recordings were not big sellers, still felt that Joe would eventually become a big name. Again, though, at Ace, Joe too often ‘borrowed’ from the styles of others, namely Chuck Willis (“Cut It Out”) and Fats Domino (“Just For You And Me”) both on #544; from Little Richard on “Open The Door” (a vocal overdub by Tex on a James Booker instrumental -#547), on “You Little Baby Face Thing” (#550) and again on “Yum Yum Yum” (#572); and from The Coasters on “Charlie Brown Got Expelled” (#559) and “Grannie Stole The Show” (#591). Tex stayed closer to a home-grown style on flip-sides like “Mother’s Advice” (#550), ListenBlessed Are These Tears (#559), “Don’t Hold It Against Me” (#572), “Boys Will Be Boys” (#591) and a self-penned side much later released by Ace on #673, “Baby You’re Right”, a song which old enemy James Brown had by then already taken to No.2R&B/No.49Pop in the summer of 1961 (King 5524).

However, Joe had moved on from Ace by the time of Brown’s release. When Larry McKinley and Joe Banashak held auditions for their fledgling Minit label in January 1960, Joe was there and was immediately accepted; however Johnny Vincent wasn’t about to let Tex move to a ‘cross-town’ rival, though Joe’s determination to leave Ace soon resulted instead in him joining faraway Anna Records in Detroit a little later that same year, a label which had been formed in 1959 and named after one of Berry Gordy’s sisters but owned by Berry’s other sister Gwen and her then boy-friend, songwriter/producer Billy Roquel Davis (aka Tyran Carlo), with distribution (after the first two releases) provided by Chicago-based Chess Records.

Joe had been upset by news of his old school sweetheart, Jean, recently getting wed and, on stage, he had begun using his angst in ad-libbed ‘raps’ as part of his own version of Etta James’ current early-summer 1960 hit ListenAll I Could Do Was Cry (Argo 5359). His two-part ‘cover’ of this song (his first Anna release on #1119) actually bubbled under the Pop Hot 100 for 3 weeks in August/September 1960, peaking at No.102. However Tex recalled: “All I got out of it was $500. The record made enough noise for me to go to New York to (once more) play the Apollo. I was co-headliner (and) I demanded some more money but Chess wouldn’t come up with a dime.”

Joe’s next Anna 45 (#1124) tried the same trick by offering up a two-part follow-up to Jerry Butler’s Fall 1960 No.1 R&B/No.4 Pop smash “He Will Break Your Heart” (Vee-Jay 354). Entitled “I’ll Never Break Your Heart”, it was a tad pacier than Butler’s recording but didn’t fare as well as Tex’s initial Anna release.

By 1961 Anna was about to ‘fold’ as Billy Davis had by then thrown his weight instead behind the label’s distributors, Chess Records; but, just before Anna disappeared, one more Joe Tex 45 became the label’s last-ever release (#1128), namely a re-cut of his own song “Baby You’re Right”, which was coupled with the genuinely great rock ‘n roll track, “Ain’t I A Mess”.

As Tex’s days at Anna were ending, Tex ‘moonlighted’ to cut a 1961 forty-five for the Philadelphia-based Jalynne label (#105), a subsidiary of Red Top Records, owned by Marvin “Red” Schwartz and Irving Nathan. Tex’s two self-penned (and self-published) sides were the plodding blues-ballad “Goodbye My Love” and the more upbeat “Wicked Woman”. Distribution was handled by far-away Hollywood Boulevard’s Candix Enterprises, whose own label had released Theola Kilgore’s “The Sound Of My Man” single (#311).

Later in 1961, the state-hopping Tex next appeared in Nashville, working with WLAC DJ/producer Hoss Allen and doing some writing for Jerry Butler, whose big hit he had recently emulated.

It was here that he also encountered songwriter Robert Riley, fresh out of jail, where he had earlier co-written (with Johnny Bragg) the Prisonaires’ original 1953 recording of “Just Walkin’ In the Rain” for Sun (#186), although Riley had not sung on that or any other of the group’s Sun recordings. Riley had just obtained a songwriting job with Buddy Killen’s Tree Publishing. The job didn’t last long as Riley soon absconded with $1000 of Tree’s money – but it lasted long enough for Riley to introduce Tex to Tree executive Jerry Crutchfield after watching Tex perform at Nashville’s Sulphur Dell Ballpark.

Crutchfield was ‘running the Tree shop’ while Buddy Killen was away on his honeymoon in Florida. Despite this, Jerry’s call to Buddy brought Killen back early to Nashville to see and hear Joe, who auditioned successfully with his song “What Should I Do”, which would become his first 45 for Killen’s new Dial label, initially formed by Killen purely for Tex after Buddy could find no existing labels willing to cut Tex’s song.

Buddy had actually encountered Tex a few years before at, of all places, the Grand Ole Opry, dressed in full cowboy regalia, and, although not then really into black R&B at all, Buddy clearly saw something special in Joe at his 1961 audition.

However, it would be a long time before Tex’s liaison with Killen would bear commercially successful fruit. Tex of course, already with 6 hitless years of recording behind him, was hoping for great things and their failure to arrive created regular studio ‘tension’ between Joe and Buddy. However, Tex was quoted as saying he nevertheless received a royalty cheque for $40,000 in 1961, with which he went out and bought two houses, one for his mother and one for his grandmother.

Nine hitless Tex 45’s emerged on Dial between 1961 and 1964 for which Killen partly blames a lack of promotion by his chosen distributor, London/Parrot, but also adds: “When I put Tex with the Nashville musicians they used clean country techniques that didn’t fit with his soulful style. When I acquiesced to Tex’s wishes and used his band, I had to endure their sloppy musical techniques. Tex was a raw talent with a raw band and I knew they would (only) get…R&B airplay, but I was looking for something bigger”. In other words Killen wanted ‘crossover’ success. Just as both parties were preparing to go their separate ways in the winter of 1964, it finally arrived, big time!

But even before it did, there was also a ‘moonlighting’ 45 by Joe (now very rare) for  Sam Montel’s Michelle label (#MX934), i.e. the bouncy, poppish “I’ve Got A Song” c/w the “I Who Have Nothing”-influenced ”The Next Time She’s Mine”. Then, on Soul Sound 009 there appears to have been a reissue, whether authorised or not, of Joe’s 1963 Dial 3013 release, featuring the same two songs, “I Should Have Kissed Her More” and “Someone To Take Your Place”.

Meanwhile, in far-away Chicago, Checker put out some previously unissued Anna recordings by Tex on two singles in 1963 and 1964, “You Keep Her” c/w “Don’t Play” (#1055) and “Sit Yourself Down” c/w “Get Closer Together” (#1087).

Anyway, Buddy and Joe’s big ‘pay day’ happened like this. Buddy convinced Joe to try for success just one more time by doing things his, Buddy’s ‘way’. Joe agreed and Buddy took him off to Rick Hall’s Fame studio in Muscle Shoals on 6th November 1964. Killen says he brought with him from Nashville Kelso Herston (on rhythm guitar) and Ronnie Wilkins (who later co-penned “Son Of A Preacher Man”, on piano), while also getting Joe South to come up from Atlanta to play lead. Buddy says Tex was merely allowed his own regular drummer, Clyde Williams and bass-player Clarence Hadley, although session records indicate Clarence’s brother Lee also took along his guitar and Warren Jones his bass, while Eddie and Mack Williams made up the horns.

Having spent 7 hours getting ‘in the can’ what was no more than a passable cut of Joe’s song “Fresh Out Of Tears”, Killen was all but ready to call it a day when he recalled another little ballad Joe had sung for him recently. Eventually two takes of “Hold What You Got” were obtained, each full of mistakes and Killen ordered some overdubbing from Kelso and Wilkins plus some harmony vocals from Tex. Back in Nashville, after much editing by Killen of the two takes at RCA’s studio, Buddy eventually came up with a finished article which, when distributed under Dial’s brand new arrangement with Atlantic, would hit No.2 R&B and, perhaps even more significantly, No.5 Pop. (see a 1965 Shindig performance of the song here). 

When Joe finally hit paydirt for Dial in 1965, it prompted Checker to ‘cash in’ by adding their 1963/4 released tracks to Joe’s earlier ‘issued’ Anna sides and releasing them all together on the album “Hold On! It’s Joe Tex” (LP 2993) with sleeve-notes by none other than Tex’s old Nashville associate, Hoss Allen. Later in ’65 Checker would also issue a further single of Tex’s previously-released Anna sides “Baby You’re Right” and “All I Could Do Was Cry Pt.2” (#1104). King, too, would try to cash in, duly reissuing that year Joe’s “I Want To Have A Talk With You” and “Come In This House” (#5981) as well as releasing “The Best of Joe Tex” LP (King LP 935) which was the first release to include two previously unissued Tex King tracks, the rockin’ “Another Man’s Woman” and the blues-ballad “Gee I Really Want You”. (Later, in 1969, Dial’s old distributor, London, would also reissue Joe’s old Dial 45 “Say Thank You” and “Looking For My Pig” on their Parrot label - #45012).
However, Buddy and Joe were now ‘up and running’. Twenty-eight Dial 45s by Tex would see Atlantic distribution up till the end of 1970 and 21 of these would hit both the R&B and the Pop charts, with a further two hitting the Pop charts alone. Ten of the 28 reached the R&B Top Ten, of which two made No.1 and three made No.2.  In addition, Joe had twelve Atlantic LPs released up to 1970, 7 making both the Top 200 Pop Album chart and the R&B album listings. This was truly success on a major scale.

Although Joe’s biggest-ever commercial hits would not arrive until the 70’s, it was his Dial recordings between 1964 and 1970 for which he will be best remembered by ‘real’ soul fans. They used two quite different styles, one rhythmic, one slow-paced.

The rhythmic items were often influenced by dance-skits Tex performed, sometimes with audience-members, at his live gigs. Their danceable beat was often combined with humourous lyrics, part spoken, part sung. A good example of this style is one of his big hits which Joe says it only took him a few minutes to write, namely “Show Me” (Dial 4055) (catch a 1969 Swedish TV performance of it here) Another pacy dance favourite was “Skinny Legs And All”, based directly on a stage routine which always featured a skinny-legged girl from his audience.

The recording of it was made at Chips Moman’s American Studio, though later a busload of Nashville tourists added the phony live crowd noises, overdubbed ‘back home’ by Killen without them even having heard Tex’s recording.

A fine, expressive mid-pacer was “I Want To Do (Everything For You)” (Dial 4016) and you can enjoy a good live version of this track here.

However, Tex also recorded some sublime, much deeper, slow-paced country-soul, often with telling storyline lyrics, which were sometimes also humourous, sometimes not, sometimes delivered partly in the ‘rap’ format, sometimes simply ‘sung’. I think Tex’s best deep country-soul outings were “The Love You Save (May Be Your Own)” (Dial 4026 – catch a 1966 Hullabaloo TV performance here), the superb Viet Nam war song “I Believe I’m Gonna Make It”(#4033), “The Truest Woman In The World” (#4051), the seasonal but still sublime “I’ll Make Every Day Christmas (For My Woman)” (#4068), “Buying A Book” (#4090), the Joe-Tex-as-love-counsellor ListenThat’s The Way (#4093), with it’s ‘telling’ rap-intro,  the singer’s fine version of Dan Penn’s “Do Right Woman – Do Right Man” (Atlantic LP 8156) and ListenWhen A Woman Stops Loving A Man (unissued – Charly LP CDX41). Another deep if more bluesy winner from even before Joe had his first big hit in 1964 was “I Had A Good Home But I Left” (#3023), whilst I think my all-time favourite deep Tex classic was actually cut after Dial’s deal with Atlantic had ended in 1970 and they had taken up with Mercury, namely 1972’s absolutely stunning “Spills The Beans” album-track ListenLet’s Go Somewhere And Talk (also released as a single on Dial 1021).

There were also many more deep tracks that ran the above examples very close – a truly wonderful heritage for country-soul fans to enjoy.

The switch to Mercury saw 14 more Tex Dial singles emerge, five of which made the R&B chart, with two also crossing over to the Pop listing. Of these, the comedic dance-item “I Gotcha” (Dial 1010) proved to be Joe’s biggest-ever seller, hitting No.1 R&B/No.2 Pop. Mercury also issued three Tex LPs in this period, the one named after “I Gotcha” making No.5 R&B/No.17 Pop in the album charts, while “Joe Tex Spills The Beans” also made No.42 in the R&B LP listings.

Next, between 1976 and the Fall of 1978, Buddy moved Dial’s distribution to Epic, which resulted in three more Tex R&B hits, another huge-seller being the jokey 1977 disco-smash “Ain’t Gonna Bump No More (With No Big Fat Woman)” (a No.7R&B/No.12 Pop hit on Epic 50313). The album this spawned, “Bumps & Bruises”, also made No.32 R&B/No.108 Pop on the album charts.

After Epic, Killen moved on to Henry Stone’s Miami-based TK concern, and three more Tex Dial 45s appeared, with only the ‘nonsense-funk’ of “Loose Caboose” managing to hit the R&B chart on Dial 2800 at the end of 1978. By the end of 1979 the TK deal was also over and, after a 12 inch reissue of a Dial/TK seven-incher on the TK label itself, Joe’s last recordings would appear after he had largely retired from the music biz, on Polydor (1980), Columbia (1981) and Handshake (later in 1981).

To briefly summarise some significant moments in Joe’s personal life, in 1966 he was introduced to Islam by Norman Thrasher, the ex Hank Ballard Midnighter who was then his road manager. The next year, it was reported that Joe got $10,000 and a Cadillac each for himself and his then wife as his fee for a KFC commercial – what’s more that year he was also reported as being the owner of three racehorses. By December Joe was acting as a pallbearer at Otis Redding's funeral, a sad role he would repeat again as early as June 1968 at Little Willie John's funeral further to the singer’s death in prison on 26th May. Joe then joined with Solomon Burke, Arthur Conley, Don Covay and Ben E. King as part of Atlantic’s “Soul Clan”. This amalgamation was short-lived, although its members would recreate it for a brief spell in 1981. It was also back in 1968 that Tex actually converted to Islam, although his career continued unabated at this time. In March 1972, he was robbed of $7000 worth of jewels and clothing from his hotel room in Detroit. Later that year, as his big hit “I Gotcha” finally left the charts, he became Yusef Hazziez (or Minister Joseph X. Arrington) and quit performing in order to serve the spiritual leader Elijah Muhammad. In April the following year he married Leah X. Miller in a Muslim ceremony in Washington D.C. In 1975, he was photographed at a Muslim rally in Atlanta in the company of fellow ‘soul-music Muslims’, the aforementioned Norman Thrasher (now Norman Muhammad) and The Mighty Hannibal (now Wali Shabazz). Later that same year, on the death of Elijah Muhammad – and with the blessing of his son Wallace Muhammad – Joe duly returned to the secular music business.

In 1979 he released a final album, entitled 'He Who Is Without Funk, Cast The First Stone', and then retired from full time performing, devoting himself once again to Islam while spending much more time at his Navasota Texas ranch, situated some 35 miles NW of Houston. He was also an avid supporter of the Houston Oilers football team, writing a song called "Here Come Number 34 (Do the Earl Campbell)" about one of their revered players, which saw release on Handshake.
Joe’s nephews Wyman and Neil Armstead used to drive him to concerts around this time when he performed near Baytown. "He had me driving him before I had a driver's license," Wyman says. "You couldn't trust him to drive ‘cos he liked to write songs while at the wheel and talk to people in the back seat about them.”
Throughout his career Tex had taken care of himself, almost entirely avoiding alcohol and drugs, but 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.”

Joe died on August 13, 1982 at the Grimes Memorial Hospital, two days after suffering a heart attack at his Navasota home. Some days before the attack, Joe had been found at the bottom of his swimming pool, though no-one knew whether he had just got ‘high’ and fallen in or whether he’d tried to commit suicide. His lungs were pumped at the hospital and he was sent home, only to suffer the heart attack soon after. He was survived by his wife, Beliliah, their one daughter, Eartha Doucet, and their four sons, Joseph Arrington III, Ramadan Hazziez, Jwaade Hazziez and Joseph Hazziez. According to Jet magazine, Tex had eight known children, several born to other women who now crept ‘out of the woodwork’ to try to claim a share of his estate.

However, Buddy Killen says Joe’s self-indulgence in his final years actually left him “owing the federal government, numerous women, relatives, me and various hangers-on a total of hundreds of thousands of dollars.” Killen adds that “Joe had been experiencing depression due to all of his financial woes, failing health and declining career.”  At Joe’s funeral, held in a wood-frame church in Navasota, Killen claims the mortician refused to bury Tex until someone came up with $5000. Killen agreed to pay it and the guy eventually ‘put Joe in the ground’.

Towards the end of his time, despite all his troubles,Tex at least could still identify with what really mattered to him in life. He told writer Peter Guralnick: “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…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.”


For a good Tex discography go here:

For reviews of most of Joe’s main albums go here:

For CDs of Tex’s best work I would recommend those issued by Clive Richardson’s Shout label – “Early Singles & Rare Gems” (#47) covers Joe’s ‘pre-hits’ 1961-64 Dial period, while “Singles A’s & B’s” Volumes 1 to 4 inclusive (#64, 67, 72, 76) cover all Joe’s Dial 45s between 1964 and 1976. Four of Joe’s best Atlantic LPs from this period (plus bonus tracks) also feature on two more RPM/Shout CDs (# 237, 238), while four more, again plus bonus tracks, appear on two Connoisseur CDs (VSOP #345, 346). In 1996 Charly issued a 2-CD Greatest Hits Box Set (CPCD 8266-2), while UK Ace/Kent produced two ‘overview’ CDs of Tex’s best Dial material on CDKEND #114 and 117, then featuring some of his later work on CDKEND 216 and Southbound CDSEWD 43. More unissued-at-the-time Tex sides appeared back in 1989 on the Charly CD (#161) “Different Strokes” (which mirrored a Charly double-LP of that name also from 1989). There have been many other Joe Tex compilations.

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