Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Joe Tex: all but forgotten except in Baytown, Texas

The Rock 'N Roll Hall of Fame has seen fit to deny entry to the most famous son of Baytown, Texas, while granting access to Grandmaster Flash. (link)

This makes next to no sense, cause without Joe Tex, the aforementioned most famous son of Baytown, Texas, Grandmaster Flash may never have found his groove.

So allow us to remind everyone who Joe Tex was, cause without membership in the Rock Hall, it seems likely that in time no one will remember him.

He was born in Rogers (Bell County), Texas, but moved to Baytown with his mama after his parents divorced.
. He began his music career in the refinery town 30 miles east of Houston.

While Joe attended the segregated G W Carver School, his neighbourhood contained both black people and working-class whites. To drum up custom for his shoeshining and paper round, Joe performed song and dance routines for neighbours, performing rhythm & blues and country songs, while trialing his own compositions. He also sang in the school choir and the McGowen Temple church choir. In the evenings, Joe worked at KREL Radio in Baytown, as Jivin’ Joe, alongside country-orientated disc-jockeys such as Cowboy Dickie Rosenfeld. Joe was playing the songs of black acts such as the Spiders, Lloyd Price and Johnny Ace alongside songs by Hank Williams… Joe had imbibed a variety of musical influences from gospel and blues, doo-wop, rock n’roll and country.

During his junior year of high school, Joe entered a talent search at a Houston nightclub. He took first prize over such performers as Johnny Nash, Hubert Laws, and Ben E. King-imitator Acquilla Cartwright. He performed a skit called "It's In the Book" and won $300 and a week's stay at the Hotel Teresa in Harlem. There, Arrington performed at the Apollo Theater. During a four-week period he won the Amateur Night competition four times(allegedly being told not to come back again...)

John Morthland, in Texas Monthly, called him "by far Texas' greatest contributor to soul music."
"Few pop singers articulated more fearlessly, or more accurately, the mutual vulnerabilities between men and women," Morthland wrote. He added that Joe Tex possessed a "black preacher's ability to bring a laugh with his moralism, but plain old country horse sense was his truest guide." (link)

Musicologists trace the beginnings to rap to Mr. Tex.

His style of speaking over music, which he called "rap," made him a predecessor of the modern style of rap music. (link)

Oddly enough (or maybe not) Joe converted to Islam in 1966, long before Cat Stevens bowed down to Mecca, but he didn't allow that to completely bury his sense of humor, making a comeback in 1975 with a song titled, "Ain't Gonna Bump No More (With No Big Fat Woman)."

He also was an avid Houston Oilers fan and wrote a song called "Do the Earl Campbell" (which I don't believe I ever heard) but probably one of his most famous songs was "I Gotcha," which can be heard on the soundtrack of the movie "Reservoir Dogs." (link)

So, to sum up, too bad the Rock Hall o Fame couldn't have put the guy from Baytown into its hallowed hall. Despite their short sightedness, we still think he was one of a kind.

'Course, we're not all that sure he would have cared. Toward the end of his life, this what he had to say to one curious writer and soul music fan:
“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.“(link)


Gritsforbreakfast said...

Thanks for this, Banjo, I hadn't heard of Joe Tex! I did find this nice clip from 1969, and several others, on YouTube.

jdallen said...

Yeah, back in the day, I bought one of his albums. A serious purchase in those times of my penurious existance.

1 - 2 - 3.

Slampo said...

"Do the Earl Campbell" !! Sheesh---Joe Tex was too good for the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame! It gets no better than "S.Y.S.L.J.F.M." By the way, we thinks that for some reason Navasota also lays claim to Mr. Tex, I believe. Like supposedly he lived there & ran a BBQ joint in his later years, something. Maybe it was Muslim BBQ.

Rob Whatman said...

Hi Banjo,

Joe Tex has been barred from the Hall of Fame! Madness!!!

This aggression shall not stand...

Thanks for the link!