One of my favorite SiriusXM stations plays oldies that trigger vivid memories of my younger self. Music is a prevalent and potent instigator of nostalgia. It can transport me to places I thought were long forgotten. I recently heard the song I Gotcha by Joe Tex. Suddenly, I was back in 1972 and in awe of Soul Train dancer extraordinaire, Damita Joe Freeman. Many of us will never forget the impromptu dance where Damita kicked her leg up to high heaven, and gracefully teased Tex while he performed his hit on the hippest show on television.

Joe Tex was born Joseph Arrington Jr. in Rogers, Texas on August 8, 1935 to Joseph and Cherie Sue Arrington. Tex along with his sister Mary Sue were raised by their grandmother until his parents divorced. At age 5, Tex would move to Baytown, Texas with his mother and sister and while there, he attended school, and worked as a shoeshine, and paper boy. He also sang in his school and church choir.

A young Joe Tex

During his junior year in high school, Tex entered a talent show at a Houston nightclub. He won first prize and beat out talent show competitors and then future stellars, Johnny Nash and Hubert Laws. Tex won $300 and a week’s stay at the famed Hotel Teresa in Harlem. While in New York City, Tex performed at Amateur Night at the Apollo and won four times.

At his mother’s insistence, Tex moved to New York City upon graduating high school in 1955. The aspiring performer worked various odd jobs that included being a caretaker at a Jewish cemetery. Tex met a talent scout who introduced him to record company executive, Henry Glover, who then signed the singer to King Records from 1955 to 1957.

While at King Records, Tex got rid of his birth name and also introduced the soul-stirring style of rapping to ballads, that has been imitated by the likes of crooners Barry White and Isaac Hayes. During his time with the label, the original rapper started a decades long bitter beef with fellow labelmate James Brown. The rivalry started over a controversy about stage moves. Tex was convinced, Brown had swiped his trademark microphone kicking tricks and riveting dance moves. Brown claimed, Tex stole them from him. The feud led to an escalating series of thefts and public jabs.

James Brown, Tex’s nemesis

The Tex and Brown feud took a nasty turn when in 1963, both men were booked to perform at the same venue. Reportedly, Brown stole Tex’s girlfriend singer, Bea Ford. Brown sent Tex a fiery letter. Brown stated, how he was done with Bea and that Joe could have her back. The melodrama that took place between the singers led to Tex’s memorable diss record, You Keep Her. On the recording, Tex calls out Brown’s name, and states how he was no longer interested in Bea. “James I got your letter, it came to me today. You said I could have my baby back, but I don’t want her that way.”

During a performance in Macon, Georgia, Tex mocked Brown’s performance to his hit song, Please, Please, Please while on stage. The gig was Brown’s homecoming show and so he was incensed at Tex’s disrespectful antics. After the show, Brown took a couple of shotguns, and reportedly, six people got shot. Brown did most of the shooting, and Tex ran back behind some trees and bushes. Suffice it to say, the pair never appeared at a show together again. According to eyewitnesses at the time of the shootings, one of Brown’s entourage members went around later, and gifted everyone in the room, including the injured, $100 in hush money.

Tex was soon opening for stellars like Jackie Wilson, Little Richard and eventually, left to record with Dial Records. In 1964, he found a recording home and garnered his first hit, Hold On To What You’ve Got (1965) at FAME Studios. He then went on to record such chart toppers as Show Me and Skinny Legs and All. Tex’s biggest hit I Gotcha which was released in 1972 went platinum.

Joe Tex recording

As times were changing so was Tex’s life. He moved to a ranch in Texas after becoming a minister in the Nation of Islam. Changing his name to Yusuff Hazziez and touring as a spiritual lecturer, Tex made the decision to stop performing after converting. However, after the 1975 passing of the Nation of Islam leader, Elijah Muhammad, Tex resumed his musical career releasing Under Your Powerful Love that same year. The showman recorded his final hit single, Ain’t Gonna Bump No More (With No Big Fat Woman) in 1977 at the height of the disco era.

On the flip side, Tex’s career was riddled with addiction to both drugs and alcohol. Sadly, after decades of temperance, he gave in to his addictions especially throughout his final years. He was also deeply in debt. Days after nearly drowning in his swimming pool, Tex died of a heart attack on Aug. 13, 1982. He was 47. He is survived by his wife and six children.

Joe Tex performing
Joe Tex with his raspy-voiced musical stylings is arguably, one of the most underrated of all the 60s soul performers.