Joe Tex (b. Joseph Arrington, Jr., August 8, 1933, Rogers, Texas – d. August 13, 1982, Navasota, Texas) was a musician who gained success in the 1960s and 1970s with his brand of Southern soul, which mixed the styles of country, gospel and rhythm and blues.
The career of Joe Tex started after he was signed to King Records in 1955 following four wins at the Apollo Theater. Between 1955 and 1964, he struggled to find hits and by the time he finally recorded his first hit, "Hold On To What You've Got", in 1964, he had recorded thirty prior singles that were deemed failures on the charts. He went on to have four million-selling hits, "Hold What You've Got" (1965), "Skinny Legs and All" (1967), "I Gotcha" (1972), and "Ain't Gonna Bump No More (With No Big Fat Woman)" (1977).
Joe Tex was born Joseph Arrington Jr. in Rogers, Texas to Joseph Arrington and Cherie Sue (Jackson) Arrington. He and his sister Mary Sue were initially raised by their grandmother, Mary Richardson. After their parents divorced, Cheri Arrington moved to Baytown, Texas. Tex played baritone saxophone in the high school band and sang in a local Pentecostal church choir. He entered several talent shows, and after an important win in Houston, he won $300 and a trip to New York City. Joe Tex took part in the amateur portion of the Apollo Theater, winning first place four times, which led to his discovery by Henry Glover, who offered him a contract with King Records. However, his mother's wish was that he graduate from high school first, so Glover agreed to wait a year before signing him at age 19.
Tex recorded for King Records between 1955 and 1957 with little success. In 1958, he signed with Ace and continued to have relative failures, but he was starting to build a unique stage reputation, opening up for artists like Jackie Wilson, James Brown, and Little Richard. He perfected the microphone tricks and dance moves that would define the rest of his career.
In 1960, Tex left Ace and briefly recorded for Detroit's Anna Records label, where he scored a Bubbling Under Billboard hit with his cover version of Etta James' "All I Could Do Was Cry". By then, Tex's use of rapping over his music was starting to become commonplace.
In 1961, he recorded his composition "Baby You're Right" for Anna. Later that year, James Brown recorded a cover version, though with different lyrics and a different musical composition, gaining songwriting credit, making it a hit in 1962, and reaching No. 2 on the R&B chart. It was during this time that Tex first began working with Buddy Killen, who formed the Dial Records label behind Tex. After a number of songs failed to chart, Killen decided to have Atlantic Records distribute his recordings with Dial in 1964. By the time he signed with Atlantic, Tex had recorded 30 songs, all of which had failed to make an impact on the charts.
Tex recorded his first hit, "Hold On To What You've Got", in November 1964 at FAME Studios in Muscel Shoals, Alabama. He was unconvinced the song would be a hit and advised Killen not to release it. However, Killen felt otherwise and released the song in early 1965. By the time Tex got wind of its release, the song had already sold 200,000 copies. The song eventually peaked at No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 and became Tex's first No. 1 hit on the R&B charts, staying on the charts for 11 weeks and selling more than a million copies by 1966.
Tex would place six top 40 charted singles on the R&B charts in 1965 alone, including two more No. 1 hits "I Want To (Do Everything For You)" and "A Sweet Woman Like You". He followed that with two successive albums, Hold On To What You've Got and The New Boss. He placed more R&B hits than any artist, including his rival James Brown. In 1966, five more singles entered the top 40 on the R&B charts, including "The Love You Save" and "S.Y.S.L.J.F.M." or "The Letter Song", which was an answer song to Wilson Pickett's "634-5789".
His 1967 hits included "Show Me", which became an often-covered tune for British rock artists and later some country and pop artists, and his second million-selling hit, "Skinny Legs and All". The latter song, released off Tex's pseudo-live album, Live and Lively, stayed on the charts for 15 weeks and was awarded a gold disc by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) in January 1968. After leaving Atlantic for Mercury, Tex had several more R&B hits including "Buying a Book" in 1970 and "Give the Baby Anything the Baby Wants" in 1971.
Tex recorded his next big hit, "I Gotcha", in December 1971. The song was released in January 1972 and stayed on the charts for 20 weeks, staying at No. 2 on the Hot 100 for two weeks and sold more than 2 million copies, becoming his biggest-selling hit. Tex was earned a gold disc of the song on March 22, 1972. The parent album reached No. 17 on the pop albums chart. Following this and another album, Tex announced his retirement from show business in September 1972 to pursue life as a minister for Islam. Tex returned to his music career following the death of Elijah Muhammad in 1975, releasing the top 40 R&B hit, "Under Your Powerful Love". His last hit, "Ain't Gonna Bump No More (With No Big Fat Woman)", was released in 1977 and peaked at No. 12 on the Hot 100 and No. 2 in the United Kingdom.
His last public appearances were as part of a revised 1980s version of the Soul Clan in 1981. After that, Tex withdrew from public life, settling at his ranch in Navasota, Texas.
A convert to Islam in 1966, Tex changed his name to Yusuf Hazziez, and toured as a spiritual lecturer. He had a daughter, Eartha Doucet, and four sons, Joseph Arrington III, Ramadan Hazziez, Jwaade Hazziez and Joseph Hazziez.
On August 13, 1982, Joe Tex died at his home in Navasota, Texas, following a heart attack, five days after his 49th birthday.