Joe South was born Joseph Souter on 28 February 1940 and given a guitar by his father at the age of 11. He built a small radio station on which he played his own songs and had modified his name when, still in his teens, he had his first minor hit in 1958 with The Purple People Eater Meets the Witch Doctor, co-written with the Big Bopper to capitalise on current novelty hits.
The following year Gene Vincent recorded two of his songs, I Might Have Known and Gone Gone Gone.
He made a successful career as a session musician in Muscle Shoals and Nashville when Games People Play (1969) brought him to international attention.
But as both a session guitarist (Dylan‘s Blonde On Blonde) and songwriter (Deep Purple‘s Hush), Joe South deserves to be known for more than just Games People Play. Operating right in the zone where country meets soul it’s not hard to figure why Elvis took such a shine to Walk A Mile In My Shoes.
The suicide in 1971 of his brother, Tommy Souter (who had been the drummer in his touring band), brought on a depression that curtailed South’s recording career. After struggling to overcome a drug habit, he re-emerged for an album titled Midnight Rainbows with Island in 1975, and another, You’re the Reason, for the Gusto label the following year.
Joe South died in September 2012 of heart failure. He was 72.