The Games People Play
Joseph Alfred Souter got his first crack at the Top 40 in 1958 with “The Purple People Eater Meets the Witch Doctor” the Big Bopper’s follow up to a pair of novelty hits recorded by Sheb Wooley and David Seville. A rather inauspicious start for a guy who would pen some of the biggest records of the 60s and 70s as “Joe South”.
His cannon spans a wide array of styles. “Walk A Mile In My Shoes” for Brook Benton (also covered by Elvis Presley, Bryan Ferry, and Coldcut). Billy Joe Royal‘s songs “Down in the Boondocks“, “I Knew You When” and “Yo-Yo” (later a hit for the Osmonds), and the Deep Purple smash “Hush“. His biggest commercial hit happend in 1971 when he wrote Lynn Anderson‘s I Never Promised You A) Rose Garden.
South was also a prolific side man. That’s his guitar on Aretha Franklin‘s “Chain of Fools“, Tommy Roe‘s “Sheila“, and (according to some sources) he was the guy Colombia Records put in a studio to add electric guitar licks to a Simon & Garfunkle record that seemed to be going nowhere. Listen to “The Sounds of Silence” and you’ll understand how a four note riff launched their career.
He only hit once as a solo act. 1969’s “Games People Play” went top ten, earning a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Song and the Grammy for Song of the Year. The follow-up, “Birds of a Feather” didn’t go anywhere, but was later a hit for Paul Revere and the Raiders.
So closely was Games People Play associated with South, that when the Spinners released their completely differentThom Bell single with the same name, lawyer’s requested and got a title change to “They Just Can’t Stop It (Those Games People Play)“.
Joe South was 72 when he passed away from heart failure at his home in Buford Georgia on September 5, 2012.