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Monday, February 6, 2012

JOE TEX month Day 6: The Anna/Chess singles: 1960-1963

It's a hit!

The turn of the decade saw Joe land on yet another roster, this time the proto-Motown label Anna.

The thought of Joe Tex on the label that eventually turns into Motown leads to all kinds of speculation of what Joe would have sounded like if he stayed in Detroit. Considering both Joe and Motown's fondness for two part titles, the parenthetical possibilities are endless.

"If Sugar Pie Honey Bunch (Was As Sweet As You)" . . .

"You've Really Got a Hold On (To What You've Got)" . . .

"Mickey's Monkey (Don't Stop No Show)!"

For Anna (and Chess, who licensed the early Anna material) Tex delivered his best series of singles yet. His songwriting was growing by leaps and bounds and his performances exude the miles of confidence, charm and shamelessness that makes his work for Dial so unique and special.

Eventually all of these wound up on the post-"Hold on the What You've Got" compilation album at the top of this post, which is to my ears the first must-own Joe Tex LP (unless you've got 'em all on 45 that is!)

The biggest innovation in his performance style are the raps. Both "I Will Never Break Your Heart" and the eventual Etta James hit "All I Could Do Was Cry" stretch out over both sides of the 45, and the second part is all storytelling. While they're not quite the full-on knowledge drops that he gets into in a few years, it's still the first appearance of the style that set him apart from all other soul singers.

"I'll Never Break Your Heart" is an uptempo answer record to the Impressions' classic "He Will Break Your Heart". It cooks delightfully for the first half, with the Texcitement building every minute, but it really takes off on the flip, where Joe preaches himself into a frenzy. He's so worked up at the end that he hollers "It's a hit!" Sadly, it wasn't. Joe still had four frustrating years to go.

His other singles for Anna are more straight ahead, but they still are a breed apart from typical R&B. Check out the hilarious "Don't Play" down at the first post of Joe Tex month, and dig "Ain't I a Mess", an autobiographical tale of destiny that includes his Grandma, a travelogue of soul-circuit theaters and that fantastic laugh.

Tune in tomorrow for the incredible story of the Joe Tex/James Brown war.