Games People Play: Atlanta Songwriter Joe South

By James Calemine

Joe South died on September 5, 2012, in Buford, GA. His songs remain timeless. To me, he always epitomized the story of a living legend that no one can seem to find. He remained reclusive and for many years few people heard from him. All we have is the songs. Even last week I was spinning Bob Dylan’s Blonde On Blonde and I remembered Joe South played on that album.

Born in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1940, South became friends with music publisher and Atlanta DJ Bill Lowery. South served as a session guitarist in Nashville and Muscle Shoals. South’s tunes were recorded by artists such as Elvis Presley, Gene Vincent, Brook Benton, The Dixie Flyers, Duane Allman & King Curtis, Billy Joe Royal and Lynn Anderson.

South also played with Aretha Franklin, Marty Robbins, Jerry Reed, Ray Stevens, Tommy Roe, Simon & Garfunkel and Wilson Pickett to name a few. His compositions such as “Rose Garden”, “The Games People Play”, “Birds of a Feather”, “Walk A Mile In My Shoes”, “How Can I Unlove You”, “I Knew You When” and “Fool Me” sold thousands of copies. In the 70s, the rock group Deep Purple enjoyed a hit with South’s “Hush”. During their Warpaint sessions, The Black Crowes recorded a stellar version of South’s “Hole In Your Soul”.

In 1979, South was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. He was inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in 2003. South never enjoyed performing live really, and some say after his brother died, South became more reclusive. His country-soul-rock albums such as Games People Play and Don’t It Make You Want To Go Home rank as his cornerstone works. His soulful voice and ability to construct pure emotion in his crafted tunes impose deep impressions upon the listener. He really lost interest in the industry somewhere around his last album You’re The Reason in 1976. A couple of compilations were released in the last decade, but South dropped out of sight by then.

South’s grave is located in Mableton, Georgia, at the Mount Harmony Memorial Gardens Cemetery. His songs should be revisited and explored at every oppotunity…

www.jamescalemine.com

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