[Today: The Swamp Thang...]
Q: What do Ray Charles, Roy Orbison, John Mayall, Etta James, Tom Jones, Isaac Hayes, Charlie Rich, B.B. King, Nelson Riddle, Chet Atkins, Candi Staton, Link Wray, Otis Rush, Earl Scruggs, Dusty Springfield, Kris Kristofferson, Solomon Burke, The Animals, Emmylou Harris, Wild Cherry, Levon Helm, Waylon Jennings, Long John Baldry and Tennessee Ernie Ford have in common? A: They’ve all covered songs written by Tony Joe White. But the first and most famous cover of White’s material – the one that saved his career – was when Elvis Aaron Presley picked up his song ‘Polk Salad Annie’ and turned it into a hit. Thanks to The King’s selling power, and the avalanche of covers that followed, White has been able to carve out a genuinely unique musical path that’s seen him follow nobody’s direction but his own.
As he told Cosmik Debris Magazine in 2000, “I’ve been really lucky with my music because my writing has allowed me to keep playing and singing and writing the way I feel. Well, I couldn’t ever have went any other way; there was no choice. But I’ve never had to really try to write something for the radio or to try to be in the top ten in Billboard or anything like that. I’ve always had the good, sweet time to write and play good songs, and if that’s laid back, then that’s what it is.”
Nicknamed The Swamp Fox (one of my favorite rock nicknames, fyi), White is the main purveyor of Swamp Rock, a down-home – and yes, laid back – mixture of rock, blues, soul, funk and country. His 1972 album The Train I’m On is one of our house favorites, but each of his LPs is a worthwhile slice of white southern storytelling soul. ‘Even Trolls Love Rock And Roll’ ’300 Pounds Of Hongry’ and ‘The Gospel Singer’ are the kind of songs that nobody but TJW could come up with, while ‘I’ve Got A Thing About You Baby’ sounds like a hillbilly Marvin Gaye laying down a pretty smooth love rap. This is an album that’s unpolished, unpretentious, and totally likable…
Listen: I’ve Got A Thing About You Baby
Listen: Even Trolls Love Rock And Roll
Listen: 300 Pounds Of Hongry
[Also, check out this great review]
Happy 40th birthday to Dave “Stunt Rocker” Rosen!