A Rockapaedia Obituary
Tony Joe White
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Tony Joe White died aged seventy-five of a heart attack on October 24, 2018 at his home in Leiper's Fork, Nashville, Tennessee, U.S.A. He is survived by his wife Leann, whom he married in 1964 and their three children.
Tony Joe White, born on 23rd July 1943, was the youngest of seven children who grew up on a cotton farm near Oak Grove, Louisiana. He first began performing music at school dances, and after graduating from high school he performed in night clubs in Texas and Louisiana.
In 1967, Tony Joe signed with Monument Records, which operated from a recording studio in the Nashville suburb of Hendersonville, Tennessee, and produced a variety of sounds, including rock and roll, country and western, and rhythm and blues.
Over the next three years, Tony Joe released four singles with no commercial success in the U.S.A., although "Soul Francisco" was a hit in France. "Polk Salad Annie" had been released for nine months and written off as a failure by his record label, when it finally entered the American charts in July 1969. It climbed to the Top Ten by early August, and eventually reached No. 8, becoming Tony Joe's biggest hit there.
Tony Joe's first album, 1969's Black and White, was recorded with Muscle Shoals/Nashville musicians David Briggs, Norbert Putnam, and Jerry Carrigan, and featured "Willie and Laura Mae Jones" and "Polk Salad Annie", along with a cover of Jimmy Webb's "Wichita Lineman".
Three more singles quickly followed, all minor hits, and Tony Joe toured with Steppenwolf, Anne Murray, Sly & the Family Stone, Creedence Clearwater Revival and other major rock acts of the 1970s, playing in France, Germany, Belgium, Sweden and England.
In 1973, Tony Joe appeared in the film Catch My Soul, a rock-opera adaption of Shakespeare's Othello of which he played and sang four and composed seven songs for the musical.
In late September 1973, Tony Joe was recruited by record producer Huey Meaux to sit in on the Memphis sessions that became Jerry Lee Lewis's Southern Roots album. By all accounts, these sessions were a three-day, around-the-clock party, which featured The Memphis Horns.
From 1976 to 1983, Tony Joe released three more albums, each on a different label. Trying to combine his own swamp-rock sound with the popular disco music at the time, the results were not met with success and he gave up his career as a singer and concentrated on writing songs. During this time frame, he collaborated with American expat Joe Dassin on his only English-language album, Home Made Ice Cream, and its French-language counterpart Blue Country.
In 1989, Tony Joe produced one non-single track on Tina Turner's Foreign Affair albu. Playing a variety of instruments on the album, he also wrote four songs, including the title song and the hit single "Steamy Windows". As a result of this he became managed by Roger Davies, who was Tina Turner's manager at the time, and he obtained a new contract with Polydor.
The resulting album, 1991's Closer to the Truth, was a commercial success and put Tony Joe back in the spotlight. He released two more albums for Polydor; The Path of a Decent Groove and Lake Placid Blues which was co-produced by Roger Davies.
In the 1990s, Tony Joe toured Germany and France with Joe Cocker and Eric Clapton, and in 1992 he played the Montreux Festival. During the late 1990s, White also toured with Waylon Jennings.
In 1996, Tina Turner released the song "On Silent Wings" written by him.
In 2000, Hip-O Records released One Hot July in the U.S., giving Tony Joe his first new major-label domestic release in seventeen years. The critically acclaimed 'The Beginning' appeared on Swamp Records in 2001, followed by 'Heroines', featuring several duets with female vocalists including Jessi Colter, Shelby Lynne, Emmylou Harris, Lucinda Williams, and Michelle White, on Sanctuary in 2004, and a live Austin City Limits concert, Live from Austin, TX, on New West Records in 2006. In 2004, Tony Joe was the featured guest artist in an episode of the Legends Rock TV Show and Concert Series, produced by Megabien Entertainment.
In 2007, Tony Joe released another live recording, 'Take Home the Swamp', as well as the compilation Introduction to Tony Joe White. Elkie Brooks recorded one of White's songs, "Out of The Rain", on her 2005 Electric Lady album. In July of 2006, in Magny-Cours, France, White performed as a warm-up act for Roger Waters' The Dark Side of the Moon concert. Tony Joe's album, entitled Uncovered, was released in September 2006 and featured collaborations with Mark Knopfler, Michael McDonald, Eric Clapton, and J.J. Cale.
In 2013, Tony Joe signed to Yep Roc Records and released the album 'Hoodoo . He also made his Live...with Jools Holland debut in London, playing songs from Hoodoo.
During October 2014, Tony Joe appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman alongside the Foo Fighters to perform "Polk Salad Annie". Pointing to Tony Joe, Letterman told his TV audience, "Holy cow! ... If I was this guy, you could all kiss my ass. And I mean that.
In May 2016, Tony Joe White released 'Rain Crow' on Yep Roc Records. The lead track "Hoochie Woman" was co-written with his wife, Leann. The track "Conjure Child" is a follow up to an earlier song, "Conjure Woman".
The album 'Bad Mouthin' was released in September 2018 again on Yep Roc Records. The album contains six self-penned songs and five blues standards written by, amongst others, Charley Patton and John Lee Hooker. On the album Tony Joe also performs a cover of the Elvis Presley song "Heartbreak Hotel". Tony Joe plays acoustic and electric guitar on the album which was produced by his son Jody White and has a signature Tony Joe White laid back sound.
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