In 1969, Tony Joe White released what would become his signature song, the grooving, growling “Polk Salad Annie.” A cautionary tale about a Southern girl from a family of miscreants, it’d be covered by everyone from Elvis Presley to the Foo Fighters, who re-created “Polk Salad Annie” with White himself on David Letterman in 2014.
White died last year at 75, but a few months before his passing, he re-recorded the Top 10 hit at his Leipers Fork, Tennessee, studio with blues guitarist Robert Cray. Produced by White’s son Jody, the 50th anniversary of “Polk Salad Annie” premieres today — on what would have been the swamp-rock pioneer’s 76th birthday.
The updated version, out via Swamp Records, is being released on vinyl with an instrumental rendition of “Annie” as the B-Side: White commanded an eight-piece band for the recording that included Cray, drummer Bryan Owings, and a horn section. Despite all the players, the song comes off more relaxed than the 1959 original.
“That was one of my dad’s strengths as an artist and man,” Jody White said in a statement. “He was always laid-back, nonchalant, and cool … And he had his own guitar style, which was also laid-back, even while it drove every band that supported him and every song he played.”
Along with “Polk Salad Annie,” White wrote “Rainy Night in Georgia,” which became a Number Four pop hit for Brook Benton in 1970. White’s last album was 2018’s Bad Mouthin‘.