Joe South

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Joe South
Joe South.png
Joe South in 1970
Background information
Birth name Joseph Alfred Souter
Born (1940-02-28)February 28, 1940
Atlanta, Georgia, United States
Died September 5, 2012(2012-09-05) (aged 72)
Buford, Georgia, United States
Genres Country, Folk, Rock
Occupation(s) Songwriter, musician, singer
Instruments Guitar
Years active 1958–2012
Labels Capitol
Associated acts Lynn Anderson, Billy Joe Royal, Bill Lowery

Joe South (born Joseph Alfred Souter; February 28, 1940 – September 5, 2012) was an American singer-songwriter, guitarist, and record producer. Best known for his songwriting, South won the Grammy Award for Song of the Year in 1970 for "Games People Play" and was again nominated for the award in 1972 for "Rose Garden".


South started his pop career in July 1958 with the NRC Records novelty hit "The Purple People Eater Meets the Witch Doctor". After this hit, South's music grew increasingly serious.

In 1959, South wrote two songs which were recorded by Gene Vincent: "I Might Have Known", which was on the album Sounds Like Gene Vincent (Capitol Records, 1959) and "Gone Gone Gone" which was included on the album The Crazy Beat of Gene Vincent (Capitol Records, 1963).

South had met and was encouraged by Bill Lowery,[1] an Atlanta music publisher and radio personality. He began his recording career in Atlanta with the National Recording Corporation, where he served as staff guitarist along with other NRC artists Ray Stevens and Jerry Reed. South's earliest recordings have been re-released by NRC on CD. He soon returned to Nashville with The Manrando Group and then onto Charlie Wayne Felts Promotions. (Charlie Wayne Felts is the cousin of Rockabilly Hall of Fame Inductee and Grand Ole Opry Member, Narvel Felts.)

South was also a prominent sideman, playing guitar on Tommy Roe's "Sheila", Bob Dylan's Blonde on Blonde album, and Aretha Franklin's "Chain of Fools".[2] South played electric guitar on Simon & Garfunkel's second album, Sounds of Silence, although Al Gorgoni and/or Vinnie Bell feature on the title track.

Billy Joe Royal recorded four South songs: "Down in the Boondocks" (also covered in 1969 by Penny DeHaven), "I Knew You When", "Yo-Yo" (later a hit for The Osmonds), and "Hush" (later a hit for Deep Purple, Somebody's Image with Russell Morris, and Kula Shaker).

Responding to late 1960s issues, South's style changed radically, most evident in his biggest single, 1969's pungent, no-nonsense "Games People Play" (purportedly inspired by Eric Berne's book of the same name), a hit on both sides of the Atlantic. Accompanied by a lush string sound, an organ, and brass, the production won the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Song and the Grammy Award for Song of the Year. South followed up with "Birds of a Feather" (originally "Bubbled Under" at No. 106 on February 10–17, 1968, more successful as a cover by The Raiders that peaked on the Hot 100 at No. 23 on October 23–30, 1971) and two other soul-searchers, the back-to-nature "Don't It Make You Want to Go Home" (also covered eight months later by Brook Benton With The Dixie Flyers) and the socially provocative "Walk a Mile in My Shoes" (also covered by Elvis Presley in a Las-Vegas era version, Bryan Ferry, and Coldcut).

South's most commercially successful composition was Lynn Anderson's 1971 country/pop monster hit, "Rose Garden", which was a hit in 16 countries worldwide. Anderson won a Grammy Award for her vocals, and South earned two Grammy Nominations for it, as Best Country Song and (general) Song of the Year. South wrote more hits for Anderson, such as "How Can I Unlove You" (Billboard Country No. 1) and "Fool Me" (Billboard Country No. 3). Freddy Weller, Jeannie C. Riley, and Penny DeHaven also had hits on the Billboard country chart with South songs. In addition, other artists who have recorded South-penned songs include Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Glen Campbell, Loretta Lynn, Carol Burnett, Andy Williams, Kitty Wells, Dottie West, Jim Nabors, Arlen Roth, Liz Anderson, The Georgia Satellites, Waylon Jennings, Dolly Parton, Ike & Tina Turner, Hank Williams Jr., James Taylor, and k. d. lang, although most covered versions of South's best known songs.

Personal life[edit]

The 1971 suicide of South's brother, Tommy, resulted in him becoming clinically depressed.[3] Tommy South had been his backing band's drummer and accompanied South not only in live performances but also on recording sessions when South produced hits for other artists, including Royal, Sandy Posey, and Friend and Lover.


South was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1979 and became a member of the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in 1981.[4]

In 1988, a Dutch DJ, Jan Donkers, interviewed South for VPRO-radio. The radio show[5] that aired the interview also played four new songs by South, but a new record was not released.

On September 13, 2003, South performed during the Georgia Music Hall of Fame induction ceremony and played with Buddy Buie, James B. Cobb, Jr., and Chips Moman.

South's final recording, "Oprah Cried", was made in 2009 and released as a bonus track on the re-release of the albums So the Seeds are Growing and A Look Inside on one CD.


South died at his home in Buford, Georgia, northeast of Atlanta, on September 5, 2012, of heart failure. He was 72.[6]



Year Album Chart Positions Label
US US Country CAN
1968 Introspect 117 Capitol
1969 Games People Play
Don't It Make You Want to Go Home? 60 39 36
1970 Greatest Hits 125 88
1971 Joe South 207
Joe South Story MGM
So the Seeds Are Growing Capitol
1972 A Look Inside
1975 Midnight Rainbows Island
1976 You're the Reason Gusto
1990 The Best of Joe South Rhino
1999 Retrospect: The Best of Joe South Koch
2001 Anthology: A Mirror of His Mind Raven
2002 Classic Masters Capitol


Year Single Chart Positions Album(s)
US Country US AC CAN CAN Country CAN AC
1958 "The Purple People Eater Meets the Witch Doctor" 47 singles only
1961 "You're the Reason" 87 16
1968 "Birds of a Feather" 106 Introspect
1969 "Games People Play" 12 7 Introspect, Games People Play
"Birds of a Feather" 96 Introspect
"Leaning on You" 104 69 single only
"Don't It Make You Want to Go Home" (with The Believers) 41 27 42 11 18 Don't It Make You Want to Go Home?
1970 "Walk a Mile in My Shoes" (with The Believers) 12 56 3 10 6 2
"Children" 51 33 31
"Why Does a Man Do What He Has to Do" 118 47 Joe South
1971 "Fool Me" 78


  1. ^ "Joe South ~ The Official Site". Retrieved 2013-10-26. 
  2. ^ Gilliland, John (1969). "Show 52 – The Soul Reformation: Phase three, soul music at the summit. [Part 8] : UNT Digital Library" (audio). Pop Chronicles. University of North Texas Libraries. 
  3. ^ Wall, Jeff (March–April 2007). "Joe South: Down in the Boondocks". American Songwriter Magazine, the craft of music, heritage series. Retrieved September 15, 2011. 
  4. ^ "Georgia Music Hall of Fame Inductees | Inductee Years Archive | 1981 Inductees". Retrieved 2012-09-07. 
  5. ^ "De Avonden -> Artikelen -> Jan Donkers' archief: Joe South (1988)". Retrieved 2012-04-25. 
  6. ^ "Joe South, who wrote Games People Play, dies aged 72". Retrieved September 7, 2012. 
  7. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2011). Top Pop Singles 1955–2010. Record Research, Inc. p. 837. ISBN 0-89820-188-8. 

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