Monday, September 10, 2012

Joe South (1940--2012)

     Joe South, who passed away on September 5th had not been heard from very much since his heyday in the late 60's/early 70's. His style of songwriting and guitar playing which was filled with a  distinctly southern feel which still holds up very well today.
      Born Joseph Alfred Souter in Atlanta Georgia, he started songwriting during the late 50's, penning the novelty song, "The Purple People Eater Meets the Witch Doctor" in 1958, and a couple of songs for Gene Vincent. His first big hit as a songwriter was in 1962 when a local group, The Tams hit #12 with, "Untie Me".
     He spent much of the mid-60's as a top rate studio guitarist with the National Recording Company which also included producer/keyboardist Ray Stevens and guitarist Jerry Reed. South's guitar work could be heard on the electric version of Simon & Garfunkel's, "Sound of Silence" Bob Dylan's, "Blonde on Blonde" album, and the amazing guitar work the propelled Aretha Franklin's, "Chain of Fools".
     His next big hit as a songwriter was in 1965's, "Down in the Boondocks" by Billy Joe Royal in 1965. His list of hits for others include:

    "Hush" (Deep Purple 1968)
   "Yo-Yo" (The Osmonds 1971)
    "Birds of a Feather (The Raiders 1971)
    "(You Never Promised Me a) Rose Garden (Lynn Anderson 1971)
    "Don't It Make You Want to Go Home" (Brook Benton 1972)

     He is best remembered for the song, "Games People Play" which was his biggest hit and garnered him two Grammys (he also received a Grammy for, "Rose Garden"). His other top 20 hit was, "Walk a Mile in My Shoes" which Elvis made a staple in his live performances.
     In 1971, his brother and the drummer in his band, Tommy, committed suicide. This threw Joe into a depression which, along with a drug problem, drove him into a self imposed exile in Hawaii for years until he cleaned up his life. His reclusiveness assured that any kind of "comeback" was not in the cards. He eventually moved back to Buford Georgia.



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