As one of the founding members of the...
Joe South 1940-2012
posted by Michael John Simmons
We were very sad to learn of Joe South's death from a heart attack on September 5, 2012. South was an amazing guitarist who got his start in the mid-1950s playing in the band of pedal steel guitarist Pete Drake. Over the years he made a name for himself as a studio guitarist and appeared on classic records like Bob Dylan's Blonde on Blonde and Aretha Franklin's "Chain of Fools," as well as playing with legends like Eddy Arnold and Wilson Pickett.
South was also a talented songwriter and performer. His first record was 1958's "The Purple People Eater Meets the Witch Doctor," a novelty song that he performed with more gusto and verve than the song perhaps deserved. His best known song was "(I never Promised You A) Rose Garden," which he sang on his 1969 LP Introspect and later became a massive international hit when it was covered by Lynn Anderson in 1970. He also wrote "Down in the Boondocks," which was a hit for Billy Joe Royal in 1965. South's songs were also covered by performers as disparate as Elvis Presley, Deep Purple and Loretta Lynn.
Along with being a talented guitarist, South was a fine singer who had a rich, soulful voice with more than a hint of country twang. His biggest hit under his own name was "Games People Play," an electric-sitar driven rant against man's inhumanity to man that earned him two Grammy Awards in 1969. Tragically, in 1971, his brother Tommy, who played drums in South's band, committed suicide. Tommy's death seemed to extinguish something in Joe's soul because he started to withdraw from the music world and by the mid-1970s he essentially retired from the music scene. Over the next few decades he only made rare concert appearances but he didn't release any music.
Because Joe South's career as a star performer was very brief, there aren't many clips of him out there. But we did find two that featured very cool guitars. On "Games People Play" South strums a Coral electric sitar. And on "Don't It Make You Wanna Go Home," which he sings with Johnny Cash, June Carter and George Lindsey he picks a Vox Ultrasonic. Joe South's career was too brief and he will be missed.
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