I love the grand Spectorian splendor of this Ray Stevens arrangement for Joe South – “Concrete Jungle” – that was released January 25, 1964 on MGM:
“Concrete Jungle” Joe South 1964
According to PragueFrank, South had recorded this song plus “The Last One to Know” on October 20, 1963 – possibly in Atlanta.
South would go on to produce a version of “Concrete Jungle” for The Tams, who would release a 45 on ABC-Paramount in 1965. Meanwhile, Ray Stevens would arrange and produce a version for Bobby Allen Poe, who would release a 45 on Monument in 1966.
Going back to 1958, Joe South released a steady string of singles for a number of smaller, independent labels mainly – NRC, Ember, Fairlane, Allwood, MGM, Tollie, Apt, Columbia – before signing to Capitol, where he had his first big hit with 1968’s “Games People Play” (although, to be fair, 1958’s “The Purple People Eater Meets The Witch Doctor” did go as high as #47).
Not only did South enjoy respect from his peers as a songwriter (inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1979), but he was also a session guitarist of note who backed Aretha Franklin (“Chain of Fools”), Bob Dylan (“Visions of Johanna”), and Tommy Roe (“Sheila”), among others.
Alaska Coldly Pushes Texas Aside
One of Joe South’s earliest 45s is a novelty tune that playfully laments Texas’s change in status as the nation’s largest state upon Alaska’s entry into the Union: