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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Amazing Story of the Joe Tex/James Brown Feud

"Money won't change you, Joe - but I will take you out! Payback!"
"You better hold on, James - I don't play! I'll go upside your head!"

Joe Tex and James Brown were bitter rivals. The beef started over a controversy about stage moves. JT thought JB swiped his trademark microphone kicking tricks. JB claimed JT stole them from him. This led to an escalating series of thefts and public jabs that stands up to any modern day hip-hop feud. After all, Joe Tex was the original rapper.

Things started heating up when Jay-B covered a new Jay-T single, "Baby You're Right".

The singers released the cuts around the same time, but Brown had the bigger hit, reaching number two R&B and scoring on the pop chart. Joe was still wandering the wilderness in terms of record sales, so the drubbing on the charts had to sting.

It probably didn't help that James hands Joe his Tex ass, performance wise. How did Joe miss the opportunity to rap over that boring organ solo in the middle?

(not to mention the fact that Brown took half the songwriting credit for his version)

The battle began in earnest when JB stole JT's girlfriend, Bea Ford. Then, just to twist the knife, JB sent JT a letter telling him that he was through with the Bea and Joe could have her back.

This led to the magnificent diss record "You Keep Her", where Joe calls James out by name, saying he was better off without the Bea anyway.


The situation came to a head at a double-billed gig in Macon, Georgia. JB hadn't played his home turf in a while. JT opened the highly anticipated homecoming. He came onstage wearing a ratty, torn blanket, fell down on his knees, grabbed his back like he was in terrible pain, tangled himself up, and hollered, "Please! Please! Please! Get me out of this cape!"

Joe Tex did that opening for James Brown.

In Macon, Georgia.

Wayne Cochran says so!

JB was furious, and trailed JT to an after-show at a local juke joint, Club 15. The band at the gig just happened to be the Otis Redding and the Pinetoppers. Brown grabbed a couple of shotguns, went inside, and started firing at Tex, Omar style! Someone in the bar returned fire, and Joe fled out the back, while Otis and Johnny Jenkins hid behind the piano. Apparently seven people were injured in the crossfire. JB ran back to his tour bus, got behind the wheel, and took off.

"Remember that time James Brown shot up the Club 15 tryin'
to kill Joe Tex and you had to hide behind the piano?"

Eventually the two patched things up enough for Joe to pen the immortal line: "If I was a dancefloor, James Brown could mash potatoes on me all night long!"

Check out page two of this great article about Brown by Scott Freeman, written for Atlanta's Creative Loafing in 2007, and this summary of the beef by James McAllister.

It's all true!

Wayne Cochran wouldn't lie!

4 Comments:

Joe non Papa said...

Amazing is right! Never read this before.

domino9 said...

I'm loving this series, and so much good stuff to come. By the way, Joe may have patched up the feud but maybe JB thought different. As late as 1972 on the Get on the Good Foot album, when Hank Ballard calls out 'Joe Tex' amongst the hitmakers of the day, JB replies "Who?"

Dr. Filth said...

@ domino9: That's a great detail I'd forgotten! Thanks!

Jonathan Gould said...

This is a great story, repeated in several books, including R. J. Smith's recent James Brown biography "The One." The only problem is, there is no record of Joe Tex performing at any of the annual James Brown Homecoming Concerts that Clint Brantley promoted at the Macon City Auditorium during the perod in the early 1960s when Otis Redding was playing with Johnny Jenkins and the Pinetoppers. Don't get me wrong. The ads for James's Homecoming concerts are there in the Macon Telegraph, year after year. But never with Joe Tex on the bill. (And considering how much they disliked one another, why would James consent to have Joe play at his annual Macon Homecoming) If someone can provide me with something other than apocryphal information about this, I'd be thrilled. But until then, it has to be regarded as another urban legend of the Macon music scene -- like the myth (and I do mean myth) that Jimi Hendrix had an aunt who lived in Macon, and that Johnny Jenkins (who played guitar left-handed) was a major influence on him.

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