The “Golden Hits Of The 60s” 

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Monument 1104

No. 8   August 23, 1969




“They don’t know if I’m black, white, country or rock,” said Tony Joe in a publicity handout.  In a pigeon-

holed world that can be a problem of success-impeding pro­ portions. Astute critics have  dubbed White’s

funky country-blues style “swamp rock;’ but “swamp soul” might be a more accurate label to bare.


Tony Joe White (b. July 23, 1943)-who was affec­ tionately billed “the Swamp Fox” by French press-was

born in Goodwill, Louisiana, and raised in Oak Grove, Louisiana, a town near the borders of Arkansas

and Mississippi, in a community that he described to Blues & Soul as ” [thriving] around one cotton gin

and three stores.” The youngest of seven children, Tony Joe­ born part-Cherokee-spent much of his youth

picking cotton and listening to the rest of the family playing tunes.


“I didn’t care much about music when I was grow­ ing up,” White recalled to Irwin Stambler in The 

Ency­ clopedia of Pop, Rock, and Soul. “I heard it all the time. My daddy played every kind of instrument

you could think of. But I was much more interested in baseball.” All that changed in Tony Joe’s late

teens, by which point he was roaming the region playing in country-rock bands. “The first group I had

was called Tony and the Mojos. We wore blue-speckled smoking jackets and played a lot of bars around

home. Another outfit was called Tony & The Twilights:’


Tony and his Twilights migrated to Texas in the mid-’60s, but then splintered. White stayed on in Cor­ pus

Christi, working the bars as a solo act. In 1968, he took that obligatory trek to Nashville to make the

rounds of the publishers and record companies. Com­ bine Music signed him on as a songwriter, and one

of his demo disks found its way to the offices of Monu­ ment Records. A variety of now-rare singles

(“Georgia Pines;'”Watching the Trains Go By,””Soul Francisco”) were issued before Tony Joe hit paydirt

with “Polk Salad Annie”; all of these sides were produced by BILLY SWAN.


White did make the Hot 100 on three other occa­ sions, with “Roosevelt and Ira Lee” (#44, 1969),  “Save

Your Sugar for Me” (#94, 1970), and “I Get Off on It” (#79, 1980). In the early ’80s, he picked up a

minor fol­ lowing with watered-down country material for Columbia Records. “Mama Don’t Let Your

Cowboys Grow Up to Be Babies” (1980), “The Lady in My Life” (1983), and “We Belong Together” (1984)

all made the C & W charts-an interesting development, consider­ ing Tony Joe’s distaste for the genre. “I

listen to most things as long as they’ve got guts and soul;’ he told Blues & Soul. “I just can’t stand Cajun

music at any price, same goes for country. Now, blues I like.”


In addition to recording, White has written notable numbers for Ray Charles, George Jones, Roy

Orbison, Hank Williams, Jr.; and charters for Brook Benton (“Rainy Night in Georgia”), Dusty

Springfield (“Willie and Laurie Mae Jones”), and Elvis Presley (“For Old Times Sake;’ and “I’ve Got

a Thing About You Baby”). Four of his tunes were included in Tina Turner’s 1989 watershed album

Foreign Affair; including “Steamy Windows (#39, 1989). The same year, Tony Joe formed his own

Swamp label to issue Closer to the Truth, fol­ lowed by 1993’s Path of a Decent Man.  The last tune

Conway Twitty would ever put voice to was Tony Joe’s “Rainy Night in Georgia;’  dueted with Sam

Moore-the Sam of Sam and Dave-for the genre-crossing rhythm, country, and blues album.