Joe South Biography

Joe Souter, 28 February 1940, Atlanta, Georgia, USA. South was obsessed with technology and, as a child, he developed his own radio station with a transmission area of a mile. A novelty song, ‘The Purple People Eater Meets The Witch Doctor’, sold well in 1958, and he became a session guitarist in both Nashville and Muscle Shoals. South backed Eddy Arnold, Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Marty Robbins and, in particular, Bob Dylan (Blonde On Blonde) and Simon And Garfunkel (most of The Sounds Of Silence). His 1962 single, ‘Masquerade’, was released in the UK, but his first writing/producing successes came with the Tams’ ‘Untie Me’ and various Billy Joe Royal singles including ‘Down In The Boondocks’ and ‘I Knew You When’. His first solo success came with the 1969 single ‘Games People Play’, which made number 12 in the US charts and number 6 in the UK. South also played guitar and sang harmony on Boots Randolph’s cover version. The song’s title was taken from Eric Berne’s bestselling book about the psychology of human relationships. Another song title, ‘(I Never Promised You A) Rose Garden’ came from a novel by Hannah Green, and was a transatlantic hit for country singer, Lynn Anderson. ‘These Are Not My People’ was a US country hit for Freddie Weller, ‘Birds Of A Feather’ was made popular by Paul Revere And The Raiders, but, more significantly, ‘Hush’ became Deep Purple’s first US Top 10 hit in 1968.

South himself made number 12 in the US with ‘Walk A Mile In My Shoes’, which was also featured by Elvis Presley in concert, but his own career was not helped by a drugs bust, a pretentious single ‘I’m A Star’, and a poor stage presence. He told one audience to ‘start dancing around the hall, then when you come in front of the stage, each one of you can kiss my ass.’ South’s songs reflect southern life but they also reflect his own insecurities and it is not surprising that he left the music industry in the mid-70s, heeding his own words, ‘Don’t It Make You Want To Go Home’. South was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1979. He returned to the music business in the mid-90s.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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