Over the Easter break (four day weekend…Thank You Jesus!), I farted around on Itunes for a good four hour stretch. I rarely listen to the radio, so I was scoping out some new tunage for my Ipod. I found a few good newbies to sate my short attention span. I also uncovered a song that I had temporarily forgotten about.
79. Tony Joe White’s Polk Salad Annie
I do owe some of my musical taste to my Mom. You live with someone for 18 years and some stuff is bound to rub off on you. Though, these days, it’s usually me trying to expose my Mom to cool music. She flips back and forth between VH1 Country and CMT all the live long day, hypnotized by the likes of Shania Twain and Toby Keith. Terrible. When I visit, I try to help her by foisting some Ditty Bops and Rufus Wainwright on her. Things weren’t always this dire though. Like I said, I owe some of my discriminating palate to her good record collection. When I was growing up, she’d spin some pretty rad vinyl. I twirled around my living room to Abba, Earth Wind and Fire, Buffy Sainte-Marie, The Hollies, Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, and Sly and the Family Stone. Niiiccce. Besides those heavy hitting LPs, two of her absolute favorite tracks were Loudon Wainwright III’s “Dead Skunk In The Middle Of The Road” and today’s great thing, Tony Joe White’s “Polk Salad Annie”.
I remember buying it for her on 45 for one Mother’s Day. (I had found it at a record store at the mall). She’d been talking it up for the better part of a year and didn’t have her old copy around any more.I felt like such a hero–A. for paying attention to things she talked about and B. for having an eagle eye at the ‘discontinued’ bins.
“Polk Salad Annie” is an ode to a southern girl who dines on the weed Pokeweed. She’s portrayed as a typical–maybe a bit underprivileged–Louisiana gal that eats the spinach-like greens of the pokeweed and gets chased around by gators and has a mean mother…and other Southern Gothic type stuff. It’s a cool song. Not cool to that you should actually eat pokeweed though. Containing both phytolaccatoxin and phytolaccigenin, the plant is as poisonous as Fox News.
Here are the effects of the herb on humans (as lifted from Wikipedia):
“The eating of limited quantities of poke, perhaps of the shoots, may cause retching or vomiting after two hours or more. These signs may be followed by dyspnea, perspiration, spasms, severe purging, prostration, tremors, watery diarrhea and vomiting (sometimes bloody) and, sometimes, convulsions. In severe poisonings, symptoms are weakness, excessive yawning, slowed breathing, fast heartbeat, dizziness, and possibly seizures, coma and death.”
Rock music..always trying to get you to do drugs or eat pokeweed.
But hey, if you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much room. Am I right? Here’s what the stuff looks like when it’s pre-packaged. (It’s prepared by thrice-boiling the stuff in an attempt to strip it of its toxicity). Get down to your local Piggly Wiggly and pick some up today!
Tony Joe penned this song in 1969 and it was a bit of a slow burn to say the least. It took several months for it to chart but fans were persistent and the popularity grew. Or, as Tony Joe puts it: “They had done given up on it, but we kept getting all these people in Texas coming to the clubs and buying the record. So we would send up to Nashville saying, ‘Send us a thousand more this week.’
Tony Joe White may not be known in the majority of households across the U.S. but that just serves to elevate his legend-material mystique if you ask me. He’s been around a long time and his contributions are many. Lots of big names made a buck off of his tracks. Here’s a recent interview with Pure Music: Interview
This guy is rad. Check out the big chops!
Look at this pic! He’s like a combination of that idiot from “Once” and Wolverine!
Now, enough fashion admiring–here’s that song. This clip is from some Swedish program and it’s got some weird psychedelia going on with the lights, but whatever. You get the gist:
White also wrote “Rainy Night in Georgia” which Brooke Benton crooned into popularity and “Steamy Windows” which was popularized by Tina Turner in the cheesy guitar portion of the early 90′s. Benton and Turner are in good company as his songs have been recorded by over 60 artists including the likes of Chet Atkins, Etta James, Emmylou Harris, and Joe Cocker.
The French labeled him The Swamp Fox–which is a pretty rad nickname. It’s apt as well as the genre of music that he helped to define is known as “Swamp Rock”. Credence Clearwater Revival are another example of purveyors of this cajun sty-lee of music.
He’s currently playing the shit out of Australia, but check out his webpage to see if he might be coming at you soon.
Now, just as an added treat for my homo homies…here’s Elvis’ version of the song. It’s not as good (no disrespect to the king) but I AM including it because it contains the shocking vision of Presley deep-throating a microphone. Check it at about 1:50
Just a final thought here…could you plan a meal with food references from songs that you dig? Here’s my stab at a good menu:
Main Course-I Am A Pizza (Peter Alsop)