Monday, September 17, 2012
In the Business ... Not Famous ... But Important
I missed most of that attitude growing up. Maybe it was because I always wanted to be a scientist of some kind. But I’ve known plenty of people who hoped to make it big. That would be nice. But, you know, in the entertainment business, there are plenty of people working hard and successfully that don’t have the fame. They are in supporting roles. Not everyone can be a star. For every Jimi Hendrix, there is a Noel Redding or a Mitch Mitchell or a Billy Cox. (Got you on the last one — didn’t I? He was bassist and backup singer with Jimi and both the Experience and the Band of Gypsys.)
Who played along with Elton John? Even the Beatles had studio musicians. They didn’t play the violins on Eleanor Rigby. And what about the producers? You’ve heard of George Martin, but who produced the Rolling Stones? The Who?
Even the famous may not be well known. I’m sure you’ve heard of Styx, but what about Dennis DeYoung? ... ok, you’re a Styx expert. And what about the engineers and the studio interns and the roadies and all the others that make it all work. Maybe it’s because I’m a studio engineer and sometimes producer that I think about those people.
Many are more well known than is first apparent. I always was envious of the career of Al Kooper or Alan Parsons. Song writers ... musicians ... producers ... integral to the process, but maybe not so famous.
Or are they? They had albums.
Remember, even Bob Dylan started out being covered by the more famous: Byrds; Peter, Paul and Mary; and Sonny and Cher before getting his own place in front of the mike.
So, who has heard of Joe South? Raise your hands. I suspect some of you guitarists out there know Joe.
Joe South was a singer / songwriter and guitarist, best known for his songwriting, South won the Grammy for writing the “Song of the Year” in 1970 for “Games People Play” and was again nominated in 1972 for “Rose Garden.”
Besides those two hits, he wrote “The Purple People Eater Meets the Witchdoctor” (everyone has to start somewhere), “Birds of a Feather,” “Down in the Boondocks,” and “Hush” (love the Deep Purple version). In total he penned eight hits.
He was a studio musician and played with Aretha Franklin, Tommy Roe, and Bob Dylan. More important to my personal view is that he was a session guitarist in Muscle Shoals at both FAME and the Muscle Shoals Recording Studio.
Sadly he halted his career in 1971 upon the death of his brother who committed suicide. So we haven’t heard from him musically for a lot of years. He passed away this month at the age of 72. Not famous, but influential, well-loved, well-known, and a part of musical history. May the laborers in the field not be forgotten.
Just ask those that have recorded his songs: Lynn Anderson, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Glen Campbell, Loretta Lynn, Carol Burnett, Andy Williams, Kitty Wells, Dottie West, Jim Nabors, k.d. lang, the Raiders, Dixie Flyers, Coldplay, Gene Vincent, Billie Jo Royal, the Osmands ... and don’t forget Aretha’s Chain of Fools with Joe as a sideman.
Now that’s what I call a successful career. He’s famous to me.