Before rap tunes from Kurtis Blow, The Sugarhill Gang, and Doug E. Fresh became the classic hip hop of the 1980s, soul singer Joe Tex was paving the way 20 years earlier with his unique vocal style of rapping as well as singing on wax. A Texas native born Joseph Arrington, Jr., Joe Tex began his recording career in the 1950s after winning a recording contract in a talent show at the famed Apollo Theater. Tex recorded and released a decade’s worth of singles before finally scoring his first hit in the mid 1960s: a song entitled “Hold What You’ve Got,” a ballad that made it to number one on the R&B chart and number five on the pop chart. Later, songs like “Skinny Legs and All” and his number one hit “I Gotcha” featured Tex’s unique style of rap combined with witty banter, while chart-topping ballads such as “I Want To (Do Everything For You)” and “A Sweet Woman Like You” featured his powerful voice and dynamic range. As a performer, Tex was known for his tight band and some flashy dance moves as well, similar to his label mate James Brown. As far as Brown was concerned, Tex’s moves were a bit too similar, which led to a long-running feud between the two. Story goes, Brown hired Tex’s wife as a vocalist in the James Brown Revue, which led to Tex recording the song “You Keep Her.” That’s right, all of this preceded rap beefs and “diss” records. Tex continued to record throughout most of the 1970s and hit the charts one final time in 1977, with a disco classic (with a one-of-a-kind title) “Ain’t Gonna Bump No More (With No Big Fat Woman)” before his death in 1982.
Montrose Cunningham is an independent funk/rock/soul artist and devoted music aficionado residing in Dallas, Texas. When he isn’t digging through the crates–digital and analog–he’s jamming with his band or hanging with his daughter, sometimes at the same time. Purchase his latest release “Inertia” at www.MontroseMusic.com, visit him on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter @MontroseC.