Tony Joe White is generally considered the father of swamp rock, which is an amalgam of blues rock set in a rural backdrop of Louisiana, where Tony Joe is from. And he is the real deal, as they might say. One of seven children he picked cotton and raised corn (that was made into corn liquor) in the land of the alligators and swamps cypress trees and bayous.
Most people know Tony Joe from his hit in the late 1960s “Poke Salad Annie,” but really that’s all they know about him, and to me that is, as they would say down in Louisiana, a low down dirty shame. What a cool song Polk Salad Annie is
What’s interesting is that Poke salad (pictured left), one is also known as pokeweed is essentially toxic to eat–poisonous, in fact! You have to get the leaves early in spring before they turn a red color and then you still have to boil them for a long period time before you can eat them. Apparently this neutralizes the poison. Once you realize this, the nature of the song, specifically the dangerous nature of Poke salad Annie herself, takes on a new and interesting level.
Tony Joe White’s great strength in my view was his ability to tell his wonderful folksy stories and inject a great deal of humor in the process. Because he is from Oak Grove, Louisiana and he does have a very thick southern accent he has this really distinct sound as a result. Plus, he also uses some very interesting turns of phrases and colloquialisms that you don’t see in standard conversational English. It’s really quite endearing, and it’s important note that it’s real-as real as it gets. After all honky-tonk women is sung by a guy who went to the London School of Economics. Even though it is a great song, does Mick Jagger really know anything about honky tonks or is he just talking about an idealized version of what people think and would like a honky-tonk and honky-tonk women to be like?
Poke Salad Annie