R.I.P. Tony Joe White
It is with a heavy heart that we must bid adieu to the man who penned hits Brook Benton (“Rainy Night in Georgia”) and Tina Turner (“Steamy Windows”) but found his own fame as a recording artist with a little ditty called “Polk Salad Annie.” His name was Tony Joe White, and if there’s anyone who can be said to be the face of the genre known as “swamp Rock,” then it was – and forever will be – Tony Joe.
White, whose death was confirmed by his family via his most recent label, Yep Roc Records, was born in Oak Grove, Louisiana on July 23, 1943. The youngest of seven children, White was playing music at a relatively early age, and by the time he graduated from high school, he was pursuing music as a career. After several years of playing clubs and paying his dues, White signed to Monument Records in 1967, releasing a series of singles that failed to make much commercial headway…and one of those singles, you may be surprised to learn, was the song that would soon become his biggest hit.
“Polk Salad Annie” didn't make it on the charts for nine months, but after it finally cracked the charts in July 1969, it caught on in a big way, and by the next month it had entered the top 10, eventually hitting #8. While White never got that high with any subsequent single, he did score a few more minor hits with songs like “Roosevelt and Ira Lee” and “Save Your Sugar for Me.” More importantly, though, he continued to release strong albums which further cemented his gifts as a singer-songwriter and garnered him considerable critical acclaim. Plus, as noted above, White’s songs occasionally landed in the hands of artists whose interpretations of his work caught the attention of radio programmers.
We’ve compiled a playlist to give you a good, long listen to Tony Joe White’s back catalog, so just hit “play,” sit back, and do your mourning while recalling just how much wonderful work White did while he was here.