It took Joe Tex almost a decade of hard slog to find the audience his talent and songs deserved. Fortunately, persevering was something he was good at. After years of watching high quality singles go rapidly from the pressing plants to the deletion bins, Joe finally hit a long and commercially successful stride in the mid-60s that saw him rise to the top of soul music’s list of all time greats and stay there long after his premature death in 1982.
Every phase of Joe’s long and illustrious career is represented across several highly enjoyable Ace and Kent CDs. His mid-1950s R&B recordings for King were not commercially successful but the songs often displayed the beginnings of the humorous philosophy that was at the core of his later classic Dial recordings. He didn’t do much better when he pitched up as a rock’n’roll cowboy at Johnny Vincent’s Ace label. Vincent had Joe impersonate Little Richard, the Coasters, Sam Cooke and Chuck Willis (among others); those great records are compiled with the King sides on the Ace CD “Get Way Back”.
After brief periods with Motown-associated Anna Records in the late 50s and Chess Records’ Checker subsidiary in 1960, Joe signed with Nashville publisher Buddy Killen’s Dial label. Killen really believed in Joe’s all round talent and, although the records he cut for Dial were great from the start, it wasn’t until 1965 that Joe stuck commercial gold with the Muscle Shoals-created masterpiece ‘Hold What You’ve Got’.
For the next dozen years Killen produced Joe’s recordings in the Shoals area, Memphis, Miami and Nashville and their sessions seldom produced soul music of anything less than the highest quality. It’s ironic that Joe will always be best remembered by the UK public as the creator and performer of ‘Ain’t Gonna Bump No More (With No Big Fat Woman)’ but, if truth be told, it’s still a classic Joe Tex story-song, albeit set to a disco beat.
Many of the greatest moments in southern soul occur in Joe’s classic Dial 45s and album tracks. His consistency is almost unparalleled among his peers in what is a very small group of 1960s black American singers who also wrote their own songs. No matter how many times one might play Joe’s very best recordings, there always seems to be something new to enjoy in them – and that is truly the mark of greatness as far as I’m concerned.
It’s incredible to think that Joe had been gone for more than 30 years. Happily, his recorded legacy will always be there to remind us and future generations of his greatness, and you can find much of the best of it on Ace and Kent.
By Tony Rounce