Billy Joe Royal
Joe South in the studio
As I was taking a stroll through my iPod the other night, going wherever the winds of sound thought to send me, I happened upon the song you see before you today.
As has been mentioned in this space, and on the Iron Leg Radio Show podcast (as well as over at Funky16Corners) I am a HUGE fan of the mighty Joe South.
South, who had a couple of his own hits, is best known for the versions of his songs taken into the charts by other artists. Folks like the Tams (‘Untie Me’), Lynne Anderson (‘Rose Garden’), The Osmonds (‘Yo Yo’), Billy Harner (‘She’s Almost You’) and Billy Joe Royal (‘I Knew You When’, ‘Down In the Boondocks’) kept those fat royalty checks rolling into South’s bank account.
Yet it is one song in particular, covered many times, that stands as his songwriting ‘landmark’.
That song is ‘Hush’.
I can remember falling in love with the 1968 hit version of the song by Deep Purple when I was a teenager (still years away from having any knowledge of South), and then being blown away in the mid-80s when I first heard Billy Joe Royal’s 1967 version of the song.
When I finally got around to rounding up all of South’s original albums, I discovered not only that he was an amazing singer/songwriter, but that in many cases I preferred his own renditions over the more famous covers.
This was never truer than with his recording of ‘Hush’.
Both Royal’s and South’s recordings seem to follow the same basic template, the main difference being the vocals.
Royal had a high, thin tenor which served him well on his many trips into the charts.
Joe South had a deeper voice and his take on the song is overall heavier and more rocking.
Unlike many songwriters better known to the public for others versions of their songs, South was a confident performer who had enough experience in the studio to get his ideas into the grooves on the record.
South’s recording of ‘Hush’ is included on the 1969 ‘Games People Play’ album, which also includes his versions of ‘Untie Me’ and ‘I Knew You When’, as well as an early/alternative version of ‘Yo Yo’ called ‘Heart’s Desire’. Like all of his albums (especially the first six) it is worth picking up.
I’ll have to whip together an episode of the podcast devoted to South and his songs.
There were also versions by Somebody’s Image (1967 Australian group featuring Russell Morris), Johnny Hallyday, Jeannie C Riley, Donnie Brooks, Merrilee Rush, and Kula Shakur.
I hope you dig the sounds, and I’ll see you next week.