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Tony Joe White (rockin')

A Conversation with Tony Joe White (continued)

PM: How long has your son Jody been handling your managing your career?

TJW: About nine years now, right after Roger Davies stayed with me nearly eight or ten years. And Roger kind of wanted to spend a little more time with his two baby girls growing up in Australia there. Him and Jody had been together, and he took Jody under his wing years ago. And he called me and said, "Man, you ain't going to get nobody no better than what you got there in your own son."

PM: Wow.

TJW: I thought, well, I know that. So it just kicked in. So he's been at it probably nearly a full ten years, really.

PM: He's really come up with some interesting ideas for your career the last couple of records, hasn't he?

TJW: Yeah. He had come up with all that, both things. I didn't think he could pull it off, really, because even though we're all friends for a long time, I saw these people, but the distance--and the reclusive J.J. is hard to get to do anything.

PM: Truly.

TJW: And, of course, Clapton is in England. Anyway, Jody said, "Let me just give it a shot." And the next thing I know, J.J. is sending his version back with two more verses he'd written to it.

PM: Wow. So that's how that co-write took place.

TJW: Yeah.

PM: He heard the song, and then he added some verses, that's incredible.

TJW: Yeah. See, all these songs were cut down at my old studio, late at night with me, and Loose--Swamp Man Loose [drummer Jeff Hale]--and the bass player, Robbie, and sometimes Doc--Doctor Gloom [keyboardist Carson Whitsett]--would come over on a B3. And then what we'd do, we would send each man three songs and let him choose what he liked, which one. So we sent J.J. three, and "Louvelda" was one of them. And I didn't hear from him, man, for about three weeks. And then, of course, he's got a studio there in his home and everything. And he said, "I hope you don't mind, I put five guitars on this, three harmonies, electric banjo, and I wrote two more verses."


TJW: I thought, man, that is so cool he got into it that far.

PM: That's unbelievable. And that's a great idea to give each guy three songs, so nobody feels pressured to do a certain one. Everybody gets to pick one. Were there overlapping songs? Like some guys could have picked the same song?

TJW: No. It was a lot of different ones. I had written a bunch of tunes. Because these were a collection of songs over eight years, just demos, really. And Clapton chose "Did Somebody Make a Fool Out of You?" because he wrote back and said, "Man, I've been wanting to do that song for ten years." And he said, "And now we got a chance to do it, let's do it this way." So then I went, "Cool. Let's go."

PM: Wow. And so did he add his tracks there and send them over?

TJW: Yeah. Jody took it off of my old reel-to-reel, sixteen track-- dropped it off, took it to Protools. Jody flew over to London. And Eric had a studio rented for two days. The first day he went in and put a bunch of guitars on and did a bunch of vocals. And Jody said, "All of them were perfect, man." And he walked over and he said, "Well, we'll sleep on it, mate, and then we'll come back in here tomorrow and really fix it up."

So the next day he just come in and halfed his guitar licks, and just got it down. Simplicity--you know, he's that type, too, less is best. I mean, it's just hard to reach it, but you can hear the space in it.

PM: Right. Yeah, it makes so much difference to just have a little breathing room in between things. I saw so many bands last night where I had to walk out on them because it was like, "You're playing three times too many notes, my man."

TJW: Yeah. They don't think. It's just so cool to drop down on stage with just a drummer and sparse licks.

PM: As we were saying about your son and manger, Jody, he really came up with some outstanding ideas for your last couple of records. First Heroines, with all those great females, and then Uncovered, with all the great guys. I mean, it's just a brilliant strategy and a beautiful part of the Tony Joe White story to have done those two records. That was really brilliant.

TJW: It was for Jody. I thought it was just great. But I was looking at it totally as just my people that I admired through the years, and had continued to admire.

PM: Yeah.

TJW: And all of a sudden, he said, "Let's put them together." He said, "Name me a few." I said, "Well, heck, I'd have to name a hundred people." He said, "Well, let's just start with girls. Name me five girls." And of course, I had Tina Turner in that batch, but she was not singing at that time, she had laid back. So that's how it started, when he said that. And he said, "You know, down the line we got to hunt these men down to star in your stuff." And I said, "Well, yeah, but we'll see when we get there." And then all of a sudden the time arrives, and here we go.

PM: It's just incredible that he pulled it together, because I mean, on top of yours being a very busy schedule, I those guys--well, Waylon is now deceased, God rest him, and all the other guys are incredibly busy characters.

TJW: Real busy. And Jody, at the time, was finishing his Masters over at Belmont here. Music publishing and management, and all this, and I was going, "Man, when do you have time to sleep?" And he said, "I'm kind of like Roger, I just love every minute filled up." Well, I'll tell you right now, he has got every second filled up.

PM: Wow. He's a heck of a guy.

TJW: [laughs] It overtook him, man.   

TJW, Ray Charles, & Jody White  


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