oe Tex was a southern soul singer who spent ten years looking for his place -- recording everything from rock'n'roll to crying blues. Finally, with a blend of gospel and country music, he gained fame as a down-home storyteller -- the "master rapper" of the sixties.
His motivation for entering show biz, he explained, was to make enough money to buy homes for the two women he admired most -- his mother and his grandmother. He started singing as a child and sang in the school chorus and, on weekends, with pop and gospel groups. In 1954, at the age of eighteen, he entered a hometown talent contest and won first prize -- a two-week trip to New York City. He turned up at the Apollo Theater on amateur night and again walked off with top honors. He was given an extended four-week booking, which led to offers from rival nightspots.
In 1956, while singing at the Celebrity Club on Long Island, Joe was discovered by a scout from King Records. His audition song, "Davy You Upset My Home," became his first single release. It flopped, as did five other singles he cut for the company.
He moved to the Ace label in 1957, and over the next four years, issued another half dozen discs. Somehow, though, tunes like "Little Baby Face Thing," "Yum Yum Yum," and "Charlie Brown Got Expelled" failed to catch on with the public.
Then, in 1961, Joe signed with Dial, a new firm headed by Buddy Killen, based in Nashville. Buddy was sure he could help Joe find a successful formula, even though it might take a while to develop.
Joe had been a long-time admirer of country music, especially tunes that were essentially morality narratives. With Buddy's help, he discovered that such material, delivered in a black "preacher" style, was both effective and ear-catching. Joe began to write a series of folksy little sermons: some on the state of the world, but mostly on man's responsibility to women. For inspiration, he drew on true-life experiences -- his own, or those of people he met. To have hits, he reasoned, people must identify.
Late in 1964, Joe pulled a piece of paper out of his pocket with four lines scribbled on it. From that, he and Killen created "Hold What You've Got," which became a gold record in January 1965. It was the first of two dozen such songs Tex would place on the charts over the rest of the decade. They included "I Want To," and in 1966, "A Sweet Woman Like You" and "S.Y.S.L.J.F.M. (The Letter Song)." In 1967, there was "Show Me," followed by "Skinny Legs and All" (a million-seller in 1968) and "Men Are Gettin' Scarce."
Then, in 1972, Joe made an impressive comeback with the biggest single of his career. There had always been a sly, cunning, almost smug sound to his releases, but nothing like the raving self-confidence of "I Gotcha." Issued late that January, it made a slow climb to number two. The single was certified gold on March 22 and hung in for 21 weeks on the hit parade.
Soon after, Joe stunned the music world by announcing his retirement. He was to become a Muslim minister and assume the name of Joseph X (later, Yusuf Hazziez). He spent most of his time on his farm and was known as a devoted Houston Oilers fan (he even recorded a tribute to running back Earl Campbell entitled "Do the Earl Campbell").
Joseph X left Dial Records and went on a speaking tour on behalf of his new religion. It didn't last long. Once home, he got his band together and tried recording again for Mercury. Four singles were made, but none of them sold.
Joe Tex did return, however, and as Joe Tex. In 1977, he had one final hit, a comedy record called "Ain't Gonna Bump No More (With No Big Fat Woman)." It reached #12 on the pop charts and #7 on the R&B charts. He later became a television script writer and in 1981, he joined the Soul Clan reunion, which included Wilson Pickett, Don Covay, Solomon Burke, and Ben E. King. Not long after, on August 12, 1982, Joe died of a heart attack on his farm at age 49. Among the pallbearers at his funeral were Killen, Pickett, King, Covay, and Percy Mayfield.
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