NASHVILLE, Tenn. – A record label representative says that Tony Joe White, the country blues musician and successful songwriter behind hits such as "Polk Salad Annie" and "Rainy Night in Georgia," has died. He was 75 years old.
A statement issued Thursday by the record label Yep Roc Music Group said White's family confirmed that the rocker died Wednesday in Nashville, Tennessee. The label did not have any details about his cause of death.
CBS Nashville affiliate, WTVF, reports that family members said he was not sick and that his death was a shock to them and to the music community.
Yep Roc released their last album in September called "Bad Mouthin", a collection of blues classics.
White, originally from Louisiana, had a hit in 1969 with "Polk Salad Annie" and his songs were covered by Elvis Presley, Hank Williams Jr., Tina Turner, Ray Charles, Waylon Jennings and many more.
In his five decades as a singer and songwriter, White was best known for his swamp rock style mixing blues, country and rock & # 39; n & # 39; n & # 39; n & # 39; roll, which earned him the Swamp Fox nickname, especially with his fans abroad. With his deep and gruff voice, his song about the southern greens was not an immediate success, but months after its release, it eventually became a pop hit.
White told The Associated Press in 2006 that many people in the late 1960s thought he was singing about something else.
"Back then, people thought that the Polk salad was grass," White said. "They brought us bags of grass behind the stage and said, 'Hey, we brought you some polk'."
Presley often covered the song in the 1970s and played it with gusto, waving his arms over his head and dancing throughout the song. He would later record more of White's songs, including "I have one thing about you, baby."
Raised on a cotton farm in Goodwill, Louisiana, about 20 miles west of the Mississippi River, he fell in love with the hypnotic sound of Lightnin & Hopkins and has often cited the song "Ode to Billie Joe" by Bobbie Gentry as his inspiration for songwriting
After the success of "Polk Salad Annie", R & B artist Brook Benton was successful in 1970 with White's song "Rainy Night in Georgia", which also became a song often covered by other artists.
Jennings and White also wrote "Trouble Man," which Jennings recorded in 1989. White worked with Turner on his popular album "Foreign Affair" in 1989, contributing four songs and playing guitar and harmonica.
White also said in 2006 that Turner was surprised when they met.
"He turned around and looked at me and started to laugh hysterically and could not breathe," he recalled. "She was bending over and I thought, Are my pants open or something?" Finally, she caught her breath, walked over to me and gave me a big hug and said, "What?" I feel, man, since "Polk Salad Annie" I always thought you were a black man ".
Turner recorded his song "Steamy Windows", which was then recorded by John Anderson and Kenny Chesney.
Tanya Tucker, who recorded her song "Gospel Singer," said in a statement that White's writings and voice were raw and pure.
"A large part of the south is now calm with his death," he said. "Reckon God wanted a little polk salad!"
Shooter Jennings, Waylon's son, wrote on Twitter that his father often recorded White's songs or that White played on his records.
"He was always the Swamp King living in a modern world," wrote Jennings. "His programs and his style were unique and have not been touched by anyone else."