Remembering the Swamp Fox

Tony Joe White ca. 1970

Tony Joe White burst onto the national music scene in 1969 with “Polk Salad Annie,” a top 10 hit inspired by Bobby Gentry’s “Ode to Billie Joe,” drawing on his real life experiences in rural Louisiana. Over the course of an uncompromising six decade career, Tony Joe kept it down home in both minimal bluesy recordings and gutsy live performances on guitar/harmonica and whomper stomper – his name for a Gibson distortion pedal.

His 1967 composition “Rainy Night in Georgia” was included on his second album Continued in 1969 only at his wife’s behest. Six weeks later, Atlantic Records super producer Jerry Wexler shipped White a new rendition by Brook Benton. As White put it in an interview with STB founder Ric Stewart in 2002, “It was like hearing the perfect voice sing those words back to me. I must have played it a 50  times in a row…” It shot to #1 in the R&B chart and #4 on the Pop chart in 1970 and Tony Joe was suddenly on top of the business.

Tony Joe White and STB founder Ric Stewart after an interview at the Warfield Theater in 2002.

Tony Joe White went on to record 16 studio records in a career packed with one great song after another. On September 28, 2018, White released Bad Mouthin’ (his first all-blues album) on Yep Rock Records, just a one month before his demise at age 75 from a heart attack.  The Oak Grove, LA native’s songs were often picked for covers by musical luminaries such as Tina Turner, Joe Cocker and Elvis Presley. Presley cut three Tony Joe White tracks and the two bonded. White related that Elvis would sometimes find him during sessions at Stax asking how to play some ‘bluesy licks.’ “He’d probably forget them in 10 minutes, but I’d show him anyway.” As the King was reinventing his sound in the early 1970’s, his stage shows featured “Polk Salad Annie” replete with Kung Fu stage moves.

White’s “Willie and Laura Mae Jones,” from 1969 album Black And White, was covered by Dusty Springfield on her definitive work, Dusty In Memphis. His appearance duetting on Johnny Cash’s TV show in 1970 was loose, full of laughs and captured the Man in Black’s appreciation for the Swamp Fox. For a moment, everyone wanted to be Tony Joe!

The respect from on high was to continue albeit after decades of a low profile solo career. On his long-awaited final release Chuck Berry covered Tony Joe’s “3/4 Time (Enchiladas).” The rock and roll pioneer described Tony Joe White to Rolling Stone in 2017 as “vastly underrated,” especially such songs as “Polk Salad Annie,” “Rainy Night in Georgia,” and “The Train I’m On.”

With the top talent offering such effusive praise, imitation and admiration, it’s inevitable that more fans will connect with White’s brand of authenticity. Quite possibly the greatest songwriter that not everyone knows, Tony Joe White’s unfiltered take on swamp rock and funky country blues already stands the test of time.

 

Community Partnership

Thanks once again to the New Orleans Jazz Festival & Foundation, Inc for a community partnership grant that will help build the archives of oral histories. These archives are part of the budding exclusive content collection serviced by Save the Blues and the Blues Center, a future interactive museum in downtown New Orleans.

Catch glimpses of the Blues Center in the interview series with founder Ric Stewart at bluescenters.com.

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Jontavious Willis in Blues Center Interview #1 remastered

Jontavious Willis at Summerstage in Central Park

The Georgian blues phenom sits down for the inaugural Blues Center interview. In this expanded edition Jontavious talks about his mentor Taj Mahal, going down to Louisiana to get a mojo hand and Fats Domino’s update to “Junker’s Blues” with “The Fat Man.” Newly added concert footage from his appearances in New York City add to this mess o’ blues. Oh, and he can play county blues like a much older bluesman.

The Blues Continues – Octogenarians Mayall, Rush and Guy Steal the Show

The 2018 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival is now in the books. This time around the blues tent was the place to be! Grammy winner Bobby Rush also stood out in the interview stage jamming with his producer Scott Billington on blues harp). John Mayall, the dean of British blues, regained his dueling lead guitar format with Carolyn Wonderland. And not to be left out Buddy Guy sizzled on guitar, as he took his case directly to the audience (see photo).

 

Bobby Rush at the 2018 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival
John Mayall at the 2018 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival
The 2018 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival
Buddy Guy at the 2018 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival
Buddy takes the axe down the aisle. Blasting blues licks through the crowd

The Eddie Hinton Story – Will a troubled Southern R&B genius finally get his due?

He should have been a superstar along the lines of Eric Clapton. Or John Mayer. Someone like that. As gifted as he was as a soul singer, songwriter, guitarist and producer, Hinton should have been rich and famous instead of a tragic cult hero who died broke and broken, known mostly only to hardcore Southern R&B obsessives, a man whose best recordings aren’t even in print right now.

But that’s how the hand of fate works sometimes.

After moving to Muscle Shoals, Hinton played guitar on Staple Singers, Boz Scaggs, Waylon Jennings, Mavis Staples, Toots Hibbert and Jimmy Cliff records. His playing is featured prominently on the Aretha Franklin LP “This Girl’s in Love with You.” And “3614 Jackson Highway,” the underrated covers album Cher made at Muscle Shoals Sound, bearing that Sheffield studio’s now famous address.

 

Read the full story at: http://www.al.com/entertainment/index.ssf/2018/01/eddie_hinton.html

Wayne Perkins – Alabama’s Forgotten Guitar Master

Great rundown on Wayne Perrkins work with the Rolling Stones. Perkins’ “Hand of Fate” lines are among the most thrilling in a Stones catalog rich with guitar heroics. Skying, and full of heart…Perkins also played on two other cuts from “Black and Blue,” the Stones album “Hand of Fate” appeared on: melancholic ballads “Memory Motel” and “Fool To Cry.” Not only that, R&B number “Worried About You” originally tracked during “Black and Blue” sessions and eventually released on excellent 1981 Stones LP “Tattoo You,” boasts another, cascading Perkins solo.

Perkins’ also worked at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio with  David Porter and the Soul Children,  Dee Dee Warwick, Ronnie Milsap, Joe Cocker, Leon Russell, Jimmy Cliff, Jim Capaldi and  Steve Winwood. Perkins also provided lead guitar overdubs on Catch a Fire, the 1973 album by Bob Marley and the Wailers: “Concrete Jungle,” “Stir It Up,” and “Baby We’ve Got a Date.”

http://www.al.com/entertainment/index.ssf/2017/10/rolling_stones_bob_marley.html