×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Tony Joe White, ‘Polk Salad Annie’ Singer, Dies at 75

Swamp-rocker Tony Joe White, a cult-favorite singer/songwriter whose songs were covered by everyone from Elvis Presley to Tina Turner, died Wednesday at 75.

White had just released his latest album, “Bad Mouthin’,” on the Yep Rock label Sept. 28 and had made his debut on the Grand Ole Opry that same night.

“He wasn’t ill at all,” his son, Jody White, told the Tennessean. “He just had a heart attack…there was no pain or suffering.” The Louisiana native died at his home in Leipers Fork, Tennessee, outside of Nashville.

White recorded more than 20 albums, beginning in 1969, but had his only serious brush with the charts as a performer with “Polk Salad Annie,” which reached No. 8 in 1969. The song became even better known as a staple of Presley’s repertoire, showing up in Elvis’ live albums and concert movies in the early 70s. Another early composition became an even bigger hit via a popular cover version, as Brook Benton’s version of “Rainy Night in Georgia” reached No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and topped the soul chart in 1970.

The extent to which White was a hero to the music intelligentsia became evident when the Foo Fighters performed “Polk Salad” with White on David Letterman’s program in 2014. That performance (see video, below) drove the talk show host to a rare level of effusiveness. “Oh my God!” exclaimed Letterman. “Holy cow! Man alive. I tell you something, this is just between us, if I was this guy, you could all kiss my ass — and I mean that. That was delightful. My God!”

Others who recorded White’s songs included Tina Turner (who included four on her 1989 “Foreign Affair” album), Ray Charles, Kenny Chesney, Eric Clapton, Willie Nelson, Rod Stewart, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Tom Jones, Dusty Springfield, Shelby Lynne, Nancy Wilson, Etta James, Isaac Hayes, Hank Williams Jr., Los Lonely Boys, John Anderson, Joe Bonamassa and Carmen McRae. Common and Kanye West both sampled his song “Stud-Spider.” HIs song “I’ve Got a Thing About You, Baby” was also covered by Presley and showed up on the 2016 album that combined Elvis’ vocals with new arrangements from the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

His September release, his first full-on blues album, had received generally good reviews, with American Songwriter saying it “resonates with the dark, ominous, rootsy authenticity Tony Joe White has always exuded” and noting that his “dusky baritone voice, laconic delivery, shadowy harmonica and snakelike guitar were never more than a few chords away from a bluesman’s approach.” He was a favorite among Americana enthusiasts in the UK, where Uncut magazine hailed the latest album as a “haunting late-career contemplation.”

White had canceled tour dates in Australia for October after the Opry date, with a promoter announcing, “After a recent show at Nashville’s legendary Ryman, the great man was almost unable to walk after suffering severe pain in his calves and had to be helped off the stage while in extreme pain. Since then the discovery of a bulging disk in his back has meant an immediate end to future engagements that involve significant travel until physical therapy can hopefully reinstate him to a healthy state for travel.”

His last Los Angeles appearance was just over two months ago, when the Grammy Museum hosted an “evening with” performance and Q&A.

He’d previously appeared at the Grammy Museum in 2016, when the Los Angeles Times recounted some of the stories he told from the stage. One of them involved meeting Tina Turner in 1989, when she was devoting a good portion of her album to his material. “I walked into her dressing room, and she was putting on her makeup, and she looked into the mirror and just started laughing,” White said. “It went on for quite a long time. Finally she said, ‘And all this time, I thought you were black!'”

White is survived by his wife, Leann, his children Michelle, Jim Bob and Jody (who produced several of his latter-day recordings), and several grandchildren. Funeral arrangements are pending.

More Music

  • Michael Jackson R Kelly

    'Leaving Neverland,' 'Surviving R. Kelly' Composers on How They Scored Sexual Abuse Docs

    How do you put music to child sexual abuse — especially if the accused predators are musical icons? That’s the challenge composers Chad Hobson and Nathan Matthew David faced as they scored HBO’s “Leaving Neverland” and Lifetime’s “Surviving R. Kelly,” respectively. The documentaries are built around interviews with the alleged victims of Michael Jackson (two [...]

  • Camp Flog Gnaw, Day 1

    Lollapalooza Reveals Some of 2019 Lineup: Lil Wayne, Tame Impala, Janelle Monae

    Tired of learning about a festival’s lineup by scrutinizing a tiny jpeg of a poster with miniscule fonts? Apparently Lollapalooza’s organizers are — they’ve come up with the novel approach of revealing part of the lineup via a video in partnership with the Chicago-based animal shelter PAWS, which mixes in clues about 2019 Lollapalooza performers in [...]

  • Cardi B, Lili Reinhart, Keke Palmer,

    Cardi B, Lili Reinhart, Keke Palmer, Julia Stiles Join Strip Club Drama 'Hustlers'

    STXfilms has signed Cardi B, Lili Reinhart, Keke Palmer, Julia Stiles, and Mercedes Ruehl to join strip club drama “Hustlers,” starring Constance Wu and Jennifer Lopez. The film will be directed by Lorene Scafaria (“The Meddler”). Mette Towley and Trace Lysette (“Transparent”) are also in negotiations to join the film. The project, originally set up [...]

  • Peloton Sued for $150 Million for

    Peloton Sued for $150 Million for Using Drake, Lady Gaga Music Without License

    A group of publishers including Downtown Music Publishing, Pulse Music Publishing, ole, peermusic, Ultra Music, Big Deal Music, Reservoir, Round Hill, TRO Essex Music Group and The Royalty Network filed a lawsuit against Peloton for infringement of more than a thousand musical works, according to a statement from the National Music Publishers Association. The plaintiffs are [...]

  • Brandi Carlile,Maren Morris. Brandi Carlile and

    ACM Awards Add Brandi Carlile, Kelly Clarkson, Dan + Shay to Performance Lineup

    Brooks & Dunn had a hit once called “Put a Girl In It,” and that’s just what the Academy of Country Music Awards have done, adding Kelly Clarkson, Brandi Carlile and Ashley McBryde to the lineup of performers for the April 7 telecast on CBS. While they’re at it, they also added Brooks & Dunn, [...]

  • Phil Anselmo New Zealand Concerts Canceled

    Phil Anselmo Concerts in New Zealand Canceled Over ‘White Power’ Remarks

    In the wake of the terrorists attacks on mosques in New Zealand last week, concerts in the country by former Pantera singer Philip Anselmo and his band the Illegals were cancelled due to statements he made in the past about “white power,” according to the New Zealand Herald. Anselmo was filmed giving a Nazi salute [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content