on Joe Tex
by Clay Coppedge
- Dancer Alvin Ailey has always been considered the most famous person
to come from Rogers, but fans of that sweet soul music of the '60s
and '70s might beg to differ once they find out that singer Joe Tex
drew his first breath and sang his first words in Rogers.
That's not to say Tex - born in Rogers and named Joseph Arrington
on Aug. 8, 1935 - is associated in most people's mind with Rogers.
While Ailey, who lived in Rogers until he was 11, referred often to
Rogers in his work and in his autobiography, Joe Tex belongs, in the
mind of most Texans, to either Baytown,
where his music career began, or Navasota,
where it ended. (Navasota, incidentally, is home to another music
legend - the late blues guitarist Mance Limpscomb.)
Still, it's understandable if Rogers wants to lay at least partial
claim to a singer that critic John Morthland of Texas Monthly called
"by far Texas' greatest contributor to soul music."
Other writers attempting to trace the roots of rap wind up with Arrington,
who liked to slow the tempo in the middle of a song and begin speaking
or "rapping" a verse that told the story before repeating the refrain
and ending the song.
Rick Koster, in his book Texas Music described the style as "an exhorting,
work-the-chataugua cross between Little Richard and Elmer Gantry."
Joe Tex's best-known hits include "Hold On To What You've Got" and
"Skinny Legs and All." He recorded an album of country and western
songs, "South Country" that sold well and drew strong reviews. His
biggest hit was "I Gotcha" in 1971.
this point, at the crest of his popular success, Joe Tex pulled a
Cat Stevens-type stunt; he gave up his music career and became a minister
for the Nation of Islam. He changed his name again, this time to Yusef
During this period of his life, Arrington, a.k.a. Joe Tex, a.k.a.
Yusef Hazziez, a.k.a. Minister Joseph X. Harrington, spent most of
his time on his farm near Navasota, where he was a devoted Houston
Oilers fan. He wrote a decidedly non-Islamic song, "Do The Earl Campbell"
in tribute to the star running back.
Like Cat Stevens, Arrington vowed he was through with music forever,
that his life now belonged to Allah and the Honorable Elijah Muhammad.
But after Mohamed died in 1975, he received the blessing and approval
of the Nation of Islam to begin recording and performing again.
Arrington said he re-entered show business so that he might deliver
the Nation of Islam's message to his fans. He enjoyed only moderate
success until he recorded the lamentable "I Ain't Going to Bump No
More (With No Big Fat Woman.) How this spread the message of Allah
has never been determined to history's satisfaction.
Joe Tex died on August 12, 1982in Navasota of heart failure.
Morthland said Joe Tex's contributions to modern music are impressive
on the surface, but even more so in retrospect. "Few pop singers articulated
more fearlessly, or more accurately, the mutual vulnerabilities between
men and women," Morthland wrote. He added that Joe Tex possessed a
"black preacher's ability to bring a laugh with his moralism, but
plain old country horse sense was his truest guide."
So excuse Bell County music fans if they want to claim that some of
that plain old country horse sense was instilled in him during his
formative years in Rogers.
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