True originals…are creative. They see things, comment with an original point of view, and the result is entertaining. Joe South (last name originally Souter), was one of those. He wrote so well, you thought that the singer was also the songwriter. Right? You thought Billy Joe Royal wrote and sang "Down in the Boondocks." You thought some druggie in Deep Purple wrote and sang "Hush." You figured maybe Parton, or Wynette, or Anderson, or whoever sang "I Never Promised You A Rose Garden" also wrote it.
Singing his own songs, Joe only had one hit: "Games People Play" in 1969, based on the title of that era's best-selling self-help book. (He'd come a long way from his cash-in attempt to score off Sheb Wooley and David Seville via "The Purple People Eater Meets the Witch Doctor" in 1958. It peaked a little above 40 on the charts). After that, it was total originality that made him a success.
Joe may have had his best hits in the late 60's and early 70's, but he didn't fade away. He made a new album once in a while, and toured with his enduring songs, and those hits are easy to find via his "Classic Masters" re-issue.
Rather than pay tribute by grabbing a song he sang that you could buy off iTunes, the illfolks choice is a cover version done by Paul Frees as Bela Lugosi. It was a game few people felt like playing on a turntable at the time…the great voice-man mating MOR hits to his mimcry of W.C. Fields, Ed Wynn, Boris Karloff, etc. Why he thought Lugosi suited this Joe South song, is a question lost to the ages.
Lost to us at 72, Joe South.
"Early on September 5, 2012, the music industry lost a genius, mild mannered, giving, precious soul named The Reverend" Joe South," were the words posted on his official site (joesouth dot com). The site even listed the funeral parlor where fans could come to say farewell, and the last stop: "MOUNT HARMONY CEMETERY, 581 VETERANS MEMORIAL HWY., MABLETON, GA."
GAMES PEOPLE PLAY PAUL FREES does JOE SOUTH as BELA LUGOSI