Joe South  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Joe South (born Joseph Alfred Souter, February 28, 1940 - September 5, 2012) was a multi-talented American singer-songwriter and guitarist.


South opened his pop career in July 1958 with the novelty hit "The Purple People Eater Meets the Witch Doctor". Thereafter South's music grew increasingly serious.

In 1959, South wrote two songs which were recorded by Gene Vincent: "I Might Have Known", which was on the album Sounds Like Gene Vincent (Capitol Records, 1959) and "Gone Gone Gone" which was included on the album The Crazy Beat of Gene Vincent (Capitol Records, 1963).

He had met and was encouraged by Bill Lowery, an Atlanta music publisher and radio personality. He began his recording career in Atlanta with National Recording Corporation, where he served as staff guitarist along with other NRC artists Ray Stevens and Jerry Reed. South's earliest recordings have been re-released by NRC on CD.

South was also a prominent sideman, playing guitar on Aretha Franklin's "Chain of Fools", Tommy Roe's "Sheila", and Bob Dylan's Blonde on Blonde album. Some list South on the electric guitar part that was added to Simon & Garfunkel's first hit, "The Sounds of Silence", although others credit Al Gorgoni and/or Vinnie Bell instead.

Responding to late 1960s issues, South's style changed radically, most evident in his biggest single, 1969's pungent, no-nonsense "Games People Play" (purportedly inspired by Dr. Eric Berne's book), a hit on both sides of the Atlantic. Accompanied by a lush string sound, an organ, and brass, the production won the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Song and the Grammy Award for Song of the Year. South followed up with "Birds Of A Feather" (originally "Bubbled Under" at No. 106 on February 10–17, 1968, more successful as a cover by The Raiders that peaked on the Hot 100 at No. 23 on October 23–30, 1971) and two other soul-searchers, the back-to-nature "Don't It Make You Want To Go Home" (also covered eight months later by Brook Benton With The Dixie Flyers) and the socially provocative "Walk A Mile In My Shoes" (also covered by Elvis Presley in a Las-Vegas era version, Bryan Ferry, and Coldcut).

South's compositions have been recorded by many other artists as well, including Billy Joe Royal's songs "Down in the Boondocks", "I Knew You When", "Yo-Yo" (later a hit for the Osmonds), and "Hush" (later a hit for Deep Purple and Kula Shaker). South's most commercially successful composition is Lynn Anderson's 1971 country/pop monster hit "(I Never Promised You A) Rose Garden", which was a hit in 16 countries worldwide and translated into many languages. Anderson won a Grammy Award for her vocals, and South won a Grammy Award for writing the song. South would go on to write more hits for Anderson, such as "How Can I Unlove You" (Billboard Country No. 1) and "Fool Me" (Billboard Country No. 3).

The 1971 suicide of his brother, Tommy, drove South into a deep depression. Tommy had been his backing band's drummer and accompanied South not only in live performances but also on recording sessions when South produced hits for other artists, including Royal, Sandy Posey, and Friend and Lover.

South was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1979.

In 1988 Dutch DJ Jan Donkers interviewed South for VPRO-radio. The radio show that aired the interview also played four new songs by South, but a new record was not released.

On September 13, 2003 South was inducted into Georgia Music Hall of Fame and played together with Buddy Buie, James B. Cobb, Jr. and Chips Moman at the induction ceremony.

Joe South died on September 5, 2012 of heart failure. He was 72.


  • 1968 Introspect (Capitol)
  • 1969 Games People Play (Capitol)
  • 1969 Don't It Make You Want to Go Home (Capitol)
  • 1970 Greatest Hits (Capitol)
  • 1971 Joe South (Capitol)
  • 1971 Joe South Story (Compilation of early 1960s singles) (Mine Records/MGM)
    Later reissued as Walkin' Shoes: The Joe South Story
  • 1971 So the Seeds Are Growing (Capitol)
  • 1972 A Look Inside (Capitol)
  • 1975 Midnight Rainbows (Island)
  • 1976 You're the Reason (Compilation of early 1960s singles) (Nashville/Gusto Records)
  • 1990 The Best of Joe South (Rhino Records/CEMA Special Products)
  • 1999 Retrospect: The Best of Joe South (Koch Records/EMI-Capitol Special Products)
  • 2001 Anthology: A Mirror of His Mind — Hits and Highlights 1968–1975 (Raven)
  • 2002 Classic Masters ("best of" compilation) (Capitol)
  • 2003 Introspect / Don't It Make You Want To Go Home (re-issue) (Raven)
  • 2006 Games People Play / Joe South (re-issue) (Raven)

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Joe South" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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