Joe South died of a heart attack yesterday. He was a great songwriter and performer. I was lucky enough to meet Mr. South around 1985 when I was working for a local television station.
The program director was a huge country music fan. I will call him Cowboy Hat Bob because he wore a big cowboy hat over his bald head even though he was from Maine. Cowboy Hat Bob decided that Atlanta was a big country music town. This was only true for the suburbs where our station’s signal didn’t reach. For months Cowboy Hat Bob hosted a country music show that generated miniscule ratings and no money while he ignored the station’s urban music show that brought in huge ratings and advertising dollars.
On the plus side, Cowboy Hat Bob interviewed some great country music performers. The best was Joe South. Cowboy Hat Bob hooked up with Joe at a suburban country music club. He brought Joe to our station in the city for an interview. Joe showed a gruff charm as he mumbled through a congenial interview. After the interview, he sang a few songs. This was where he shined. It was just Joe with an acoustic guitar singing “Games People Play” and “I Never Promised You A Rose Garden.”
It was great and at the end of the day, we said goodbye to the great Joe South.
But Joe South wasn’t ready to say goodbye.
A few days later, he showed up unannounced and said he was ready to videotape some more songs. If need be, he was willing to be interviewed again. Cowboy Hat Bob didn’t have the heart to tell Joe that his moment in our station’s very small sun had passed. We set up the studio and let Joe sing some more songs. Cowboy Hat Bob interviewed him again. I don’t remember if we even ran tape that day. I know he never appeared on Cowboy Hat Bob’s show again.
But Joe South still wasn’t ready to say goodbye.
He became a regular at the station. Most days he hung out in Cowboy Hat Bob’s office. If you walked by, you would see Cowboy Hat Bob busy at work, while completely ignoring Joe who was busy staring off into space. When Joe finished examining the air, he would wander about the station. We admired him too much to ask him to leave. He never got in the way. He was just there.
Then one day Joe stopped showing up. I guess something finally made him wanna go home because you know all God’s children eventually get weary when they roam.