Joe Tex

  • R&B and soul singer and songwriter born Joseph Arrington Jr. in Rogers Texas in 1933. Died in 1982 of a heart attack.
  • Tex played saxophone in his high school band, and sang at his local church choir. He won a talent show in Houston in the early 50s, earning him $300 and a trip to New York City. During his 4 weeks in New York, he performed at an amateur competition at the Apollo Theater, winning 4 times – this led to his discovery by a record producer, who offered him a recording contract at the age of 19.
  • Between 1955 and 1964, Tex recorded nearly 30 singles without any success. During this time, he developed a unique stage personality, doing dance moves and tricks with the microphone during his performances, while opening for more established artists like Little Richard, Jackie Wilson and James Brown.
  • Tex had an infamous feud with James Brown. Many claim that Brown stole Tex’s stage antics for his own act. In 1961, Brown recorded a cover version of Tex’s Baby You’re Right, changing the lyrics so that Tex would not have sole songwriting credit. Tex’s ex-wife Bea Ford started working with Brown in 1960 – together they recorded Brown’s song You’ve Got the Power that year. Soon after, Brown sent Tex a letter, saying that he was done with Ford and that Tex could have her back. In response, Tex recorded the song You Can Keep Her. Their feud came to a head in 1963, when both Brown and Tex were performing at a concert in Macon Georgia. During Tex’s performance, he mocked Brown by rolling around on the stage with a cape. Brown left the venue and returned with a gun, planning to shoot Tex, who had already left.
  • Tex finally had a hit in 1964, with Hold What You Got, which reached #5 on the Hot 100 chart and #1 on the R&B chart. It’s notable for its 2 verses between the refrain that are spoken instead of sung – sort of an early hip hop song. Tex’s songs began to chart regularly – between 1965 and 1969, he had 23 songs in the Hot 100 – I Want To (Do Everything For You) and A Sweet Woman Like You both topped the R&B chart, and The Love You Save (May Be Your Own) and Skinny Legs and All reached #2 on the R&B chart. Tex claimed that James Brown stopped radio disc jockeys from playing Skinny Legs so that it wouldn’t overtake one of Brown’s songs that was #1 on the chart.
  • In 1972, Tex released the album I Gotcha. The first single from the album was A Mother’s Prayer, with the title track I Gotcha as the B-side. Radio DJs started playing the B-Side instead of the A-Side, and the song became Tex’s biggest hit, reaching #2 on the Hot 100 and #1 on the R&B chart, selling around 3 million copies. The funk song ended up ranked #6 of all singles from all artists for the year.
  • By September of 1972, Tex was ready to quit show business, to pursue a career as a minister for Islam. He took a new name – Yusuf Hazziez – and toured as a lecturer in the Islamic faith. He returned to recording as Joe Tex in 1975, and the following year, he had his last Hot 100 hit, the hilarious disco hit Ain’t Gonna Bump No More (With No Big Fat Woman), which peaked at #12 (and at #2 in the UK). The song was nominated for a Grammy (one of five nominations in his career), and Tex performed it at the Grammy award ceremony in 1978. His final release was in 1981 – in his career, he released 81 singles and 18 studio albums.
  • Joe Tex has been nominated for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame 6 times, as recently as 2017. I wonder how many of today’s hip hop artists know of his legacy and the early work that Tex did to establish that sound? Here is Tex performing I Gotcha on Soul Train – you’ll see the microphone tricks and stage antics that were signatures of his work.

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