King of Texas Soul

Of all the major stars of the Southern soul era, none remain more unheralded today than Joe Tex. Despite having several Top 40 singles from 1965 to 1977, you won't hear Tex on your average jammin' oldies outlet. The fact that he died in 1982 at age 49, just before Southern soul was "rediscovered," may have something to do with it. Residual fallout from Tex's conversion to Islam and brief retirement to serve Elijah Muhammad could be a factor, too. Ultimately, Tex's emphasis on small-town Texas aphorisms may have rendered his brand of soul too bumpkin for an increasingly urban audience. But regardless of why Joe Tex is all but ignored today, he remains Texas' single most prominent contribution to soul music. Born in Rogers and raised in Navasota, Tex's captivating showmanship (James Brown adapted the celebrated "Microphone Trick" from Tex), gospel-style testimonials, and unique songwriting were honed over a long decade of commercial misfires. His 1965 breakthrough hit, "Hold What You've Got," was recorded haphazardly at Fame Studios at Muscle Shoals in three spliced-together takes that Tex initially deemed unreleasable. Producer Buddy Killen released it anyway, and Tex's anger was quickly mollified as the record climbed the chart. From then on, whether he was singing from a foxhole in Vietnam ("I Believe I'm Gonna Make It") or a Navasota Juneteenth barbecue ("Men Are Getting Scarce"), Tex's pragmatic, front-porch philosophies made his songs stand out as unabashedly Texan.

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