TONY JOE WHITE: “RAINY NIGHT IN GEORGIA”, “PORK SALAD ANNIE”
by Alan L. Chrisman
Tony Joe White is a U.S. Southern singer/songwriter, who is known for his deep baritone voice and his soulful songs: “Rainy Night in Georgia”, a romantic classic for Brook Benton in 1969, and his own funky hit, “Polk Salad Annie” in ’70. These are true R&B classics, covered by everyone from famously, Elvis, to Tom Jones.
White grew up in Louisiana and absorbed the blues all around him. His first album, Black & White, was recorded at the legendary Mussel Shoals Studio and yielded his defining sound and hit, “Polk Salad Annie” and also included a version of “Wichita Lineman” (see article on Glen Campbell and writer Jimmy Webb) in 1969. Brook Benton had several late 50’s and early 60’s hits,“ It’s Just a Matter Of Time” and “Boll Wevil Song” and wrote songs for Nat King Cole, Clyde McPhatter and Dinah Washington. Benton recorded White’s ‘Rainy Night” on his comeback album, Brook Benton Today, produced by Arif Mardin and was a big hit.
Tony Joe White, describing where these two songs came from, said that he had driven a dump truck then and when it rained, he didn’t have to go to work, so he could just play his guitar. And remembering those rainy nights in Georgia, caused him to write that song. Also “Polk” salad was a plant eaten in the South.
White was part of Jerry Lee Lewis’ respected Southern Roots album, with the original Booker T. and the MG’s and also Carl Perkins and Mark Lindsay of Paul Revere & the Raiders (previous article on Paul Revere and “Louie Louie”) and his “Willie and Laura Mae” was on Dusty Springfield’s Dusty in Memphis LP in ’69.
He would go on to play on and write several songs, including, “Steamy Windows”, on Tina Turner’s 1989 album, Foreign Affairs, produced by Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits. White released, Heroines, duets with Emmylou Harris, Lucinda Williams, Shelby Lynn and Jesse Colter in 2004. Uncovered was recorded in 2006 with Eric Clapton, J.J. Cale, Michael McDonald, and Knopfler.
Tony Joe White remains a favorite of top musicians and he created songs that perfectly capture that funky/country white R&B sound, as well as anyone.
Tony Joe White, will be appearing as part of Foo Fighter, Dave Grohl’s new documentary series, Sonic Highways, on well-respected American regional musicians, which makes its debut on HBO-TV, this Friday, Oct. 17.
Tony Joe White doing his own, “Rainy Night in Georgia”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jf7GrgbE8cg
& see Tony Joe White doing his funky, “Polk Salad Annie”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WrT-TQTLoiw&feature=youtu.be