Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Howdy, Tex: Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Part IV

Although he’s largely forgotten today, Joe Tex was a hugely popular R&B singer for about five years
in the late Sixties, notching eight Top Ten hits on the R&B charts between 1964 and 1968, including three Number Ones. Most of his pop success followed in the 1970s, after his R&B career had cooled off a bit. But he was perhaps most famous for his feud with James Brown. Each man claimed the other stole his dance moves and mike-stand tricks, and Brown covered Tex’s “Baby You’re Right,” just after Tex’s version came out, then had the temerity to have the bigger hit with it.

In 1960, Brown cut a duet with Tex’s ex-wife, Bea Ford, a song called “You’ve Got the Power." Then Brown sent Tex a letter saying he was done with Ford, and that Tex could have her back. This prompted one of the greatest answer records of all time: Tex’s “You Keep Her”:

James, I got your letter
It came to me today
You said I could have my baby back
Well, I don’t want her that way
So you keep her

Brown eventually showed up at a nightclub where Otis Redding was singing, while Tex was in the audience, and started firing a shotgun in Tex’s general direction. Several members of the audience were hit while Tex ran outside and hid in the bushes. That appeared to be the end of it, thankfully.

Tex went on to have a handful of crossover pop hits, starting with “Hold What You’ve Got,” which went to Number 5 in 1965. “I Gotcha” went to Number Two in 1972, and after the fluke semi-novelty “Ain’t Gonna Bump No More (With No Big Fat Woman)” in 1977, that was it for Joe Tex. He died of a heart attack in 1982 at the age of either 47 (per Wikipedia) or 49 (per Billboard).

The Case For Anybody that James Brown considers a rival has to be a pretty great singer, and Tex was. “Hold What You’ve Got” is a great single, as is “I Gotcha,” which Quentin Tarantino featured in Reservoir Dogs. He wrote all of his own material too.

The Case Against Tex never had all that much success on the pop charts – just three Top Ten hits. He didn’t have a particularly long career, either. He didn’t land a hit on even the R&B charts until he had recorded 30 singles and was pushing 30. Then he retired in 1972 to work as an Islamic minister, after having changed his government name to Yusuf Hazziez, although he made a comeback in 1975 before quitting for good in 1981, and then dying very young.

The Cool Factor “Ain’t Gonna Bump No More (With No Big Fat Woman)” is a pretty unlikely hit for an Islamic clergyman. Joe Tex (he was born Joseph Arrington in Baytown, Texas) is a great name.

The Verdict Twenty years ago, or even five years ago, Tex would have had a shot. Bobby “Blue” Bland is in, as is Solomon Burke and Percy Sledge, and Joe Tex fits in nicely with that group, although I don't see anything to particularly recommend him above any of those gentlemen. In the current landscape, I can't imagine how he gets in, and as great a singer as he was, I just don’t see the impact or the influence that would warrant the honor. I vote no on Joe Tex.  


  1. I have no idea where this nomination even comes from. No really memorable hits, not an exceptionally long career, no real lasting influence. I think he just got nominated because someone in the hall of fame is a fan.

    1. I suspect fandom has a lot to do with not just nominations but elections. The question I ask is, "Can you properly tell the story of popular music without mentioning this person?" If the answer is no, they're in. For a large number of R&R HoFers, however, the answer is yes (just as it's the case in various sports Halls of Fame).

  2. JB, this quote is perfect: "Can you properly tell the story of popular music without mentioning this person?" It's not the only question that should be asked but it is the most important.

  3. James Brown just walked in off the street and started shooting up a nightclub?

    I'm not even sure Joe Tex qualifies for the Texas Music Hall of Fame. If he does, Archie Bell and the Drells better get in first.