Joe Valentine by Pete Nickols
When it comes to recording top-drawer ultra-emotive deep-soul, only a few exponents have managed to produce more than one supreme example in their recording careers and even the very few, like James Carr for example, who managed to produce several, usually released quite a large number of soul sides in total throughout the classic-soul era from which those few deep gems emerged. However, when we consider that, even including unreleased items at the time, Joe Valentine only put down some 14 tracks in the early-soul era between 1960 and 1968 and yet still managed to produce three stone deep classic performances (all of these actually recorded in the two-year period 1967 to 1968), this clearly says a lot about the man’s impressive voice and its ability back then to be intensely emotive.
What’s more, Joe wrote all his own material – no external writers renowned for their ability to create such emotional soul (like Dan Penn, George Soule or George Jackson for example) were involved – and all of Joe’s deep-soul gems were originally cut for his own Val label out of Austin, Texas.
Joe Valentine (Joseph F. Valentine), recording artist, musician, song-writer and club-owner was born on February 3rd 1937, the eldest son of his like-named father Joseph F. and mother Myrtle K. Valentine of Reserve, Louisiana, a community situated some thirty miles north-west of New Orleans on the east bank of the mighty Mississippi. Joe was born into a musical family with a history that dated back many years. His grandfather, Peter Valentine, played trumpet with a Dixieland band and his uncle, Kid Valentine (1896 to 1987) was known as Kid Thomas and became a significant jazz figure, his band playing regularly at Preservation Hall in New Orleans from the 60’s to the 80’s. Kid also toured Russia and other parts of Europe playing clubs and festivals. During the 60’s he recorded widely for the Jazz Crusade label both with his own band and with Big Bill Bissonnette’s Easy Riders Jazz Band. Kid would make more than twenty tours with the Easy Riders to the US North-East.
By the age of 5 Joe was singing and playing piano in kindergarten and, while he was still in short pants, his mother Myrtle secretly stole her husband’s stocks and bonds – which she later duly replaced – to buy him a piano. Keyboards would remain his main instrument but he became a genuine multi-instrumentalist, being particularly adept on the saxophone.
Joe began his professional career at age 14, as a featured vocalist with the Mitchell Lennox Rhythm Swing Band and was soon signed to Percy Stovall’s Continental Music Attractions.
Stovall had run the Hurricane night spot in New Orleans in the 40’s and became a local promoter who also ran his own band, a band Crescent City soul-man, Raceland, Louisiana-born Willie West would later use when he opened shows in the area both for Otis Redding and Mary Wells. William Bell recalled Stovall fondly when he said: “New Orleans was the first city in which ‘You Don’t Miss Your Water’ went to No.1 and a promoter down there named Percy Stovall called me and said ‘I can do 10 dates on you from Pascagoula all the way to Opelousas’. I told him ‘Fine, just set ‘em up’.”
Meanwhile the young Joe apparently supported an also young Ray Charles at one point and it wouldn’t be too long before he would form his own band, the first incarnation of Joe Valentine & The Imperials.
When still only about 18 years of age, Joe moved to Baton Rouge and would spend the next 10 years there as a regular attraction at West Baton Rouge’s Carousel Club.
He cut what is generally regarded as his first record, ”I Still Love You”/ “Young Lover” in circa 1960 for Merit Records (#1002). It is usually said that Joe was still only 16 when he made his first recording but, if the Merit sides were indeed his first songs on wax, then he was actually much older, closer indeed to 22 years of age at that time. He would go on to cut further singles through 1963/4 on Rachan 311 (“She’s Gone Again”/”Coming On Home” – reissued on Athens 209) and on Doug 849 (“Sweeter Than Sugar (And Twice As Nice)”/”Let It Be Love”). Of these sides, “She’s Gone Again” was a very good early piece of mournful deep-soul but not quite in the same league as Joe’s three deep winners yet to emerge later in the decade.
The Rachan label was out of Winston-Salem, North Carolina (the very next single to Joe’s release, The Ascots with Bob Davidson’s “Have Gun (Will Travel)” coupled with “White House” on Rachan 312, shows this location on its labels).
The Athens label was based at 1719 West End Building, Nashville.
Not much is known about the Doug label but both the songs on Valentine’s Doug 45 were published by Red Stick Music, a company owned by Sam Montel (real surname Montalbano) who was based in Baton Rouge and who, around the time of this release (1963), had just launched Dale & Grace on his parent Montel imprint. Another of his labels was Michelle named after one of his daughters but he certainly created a number of other small short-lived imprints, usually using a person’s name, so it seems quite likely (as Joe Valentine was then living in Baton Rouge) that Doug might well have been a local Sam Montel-owned enterprise.
In 1967, Joe relocated to Austin, Texas where he would remain for the rest of his days.
Once there, he formed his own Val label and first recorded the moody, still Crescent City-styled mid-pacer “One Night Of Satisfaction” and the superbly deep “I Can’t Stand To See You Go” on Val 67119, these sides later picked up for issue on his Ronn label (#14) by Shreveport’s Stan Lewis.
Next, on Val 7225, Joe cut the bouncy dancer later favoured by the UK Northern Soul scene, “I Lost The Only Love I Had”. This was coupled with the ultra-deep winner “Surely I Will Never Do You Wrong”, this latter track seeing a title-change to “You Got To Believe In Me” when eventually picked up (though not issued at the time) by Stan Lewis.
However, Joe’s next outing appeared solely on the Ronn label (#30), this being another deep-jewel called “A Woman’s Love” which was coupled with the faster, would-be dance-crazer, “Hands On, Hands Off”
As you will surely have noted, it was within this fine clutch of 1967/8 recordings that we find our three deep-soul gems. They were “I Can’t Stand To See You Go”, “Surely I’ll Never Do You Wrong” aka “You Got To Believe In Me” and “A Woman’s Love”.
For years I have tried to decide which of these deep masterworks I prefer the most and it comes down to almost a tie between “I Can’t Stand To See You Go” and “A Woman’s Love”, with the latter track just shading it. In my all-time Top 50 deep-soul listing I have “A Woman’s Love” at No.12 and “I Can’t Stand To See You Go” at No.32. “Surely I’ll Never Do You Wrong” is just a tad tougher and rougher and is largely an almost spoken rather than sung piece. It doesn’t feature in my all-time Top 50 and yet its almost funerial approach is something which massively appeals to many deep-soul lovers, myself included.
Looking at these 3 gems in a little more detail, “A Woman’s Love” has an almost regal beauty about it. It’s a super-emotive slow-paced paen to womanhood and the need a guy has to be loved - and when Joe lets go vocally (melodiously but powerfully) in front of the impressive brass it’s surely a goose-bump-inducing moment for any deep-soul fan.
“I Can’t Stand To See You Go” is Joe’s most reissued side and the lovely, almost drifting organ work and the sparse but so effective guitar fills and runs beautifully complement the tear-inducing, oh-so-emotionally-involved mellifluous vocal. No huge histrionics here – one can just wallow unashamedly in Joe’s sheer involvement in the piece and his utter sadness at the departure of his loved one.
The scene for “Surely I’ll Never Do You Wrong” is set by some striking but mournful brass work in the introduction and then Joe enters the fray, almost speaking rather than singing his demonstrative appeals to his girl to believe in him and to not ditch him for a third party. Then the emphasised parts of the vocal are sung before speech returns - but it’s a spoken plea which is so phenomenally soulful in its delivery that the listener simply becomes enveloped in Joe’s expressive prose. This is an outstanding listening experience rather than an outstanding song but it’s still ‘deep-soul heaven’.
Also a consummate live performer, in his time Joe has apparently shared the stage with not only Ray Charles but also Chuck Berry, Joe Simon, Johnnie Taylor, Jackie Wilson, Eddie Floyd and Joe Hinton. In the early 70’s, he toured the U.S. and Europe with the late Joe Tex as both his bandleader, piano-player and additional featured vocalist. Around this time Joe also co-wrote the 1971 releases of "Wheels of Life" (King 6373 and People 2503) for Lynn Collins, who was a performer with the James Brown review from 1969 through the 70s and who enjoyed 9 R&B hits in that decade (2 of which were Pop hits too).
In 1979 Joe cut a one-off solo 45 for Cocoa Studio (#0369) (see track-listing below), a release which put him closer perhaps to “country” than “soul” - but by the late-80’s Lynn Collins was touring with Joe Valentine’s own Band and on his 1991 album “For Ever And Ever” (recorded in Austin TX on Tee-Jay NR 18554) he duetted with her on 3 of the tracks (see discography below for track-listing).The recordings were produced by Ron Brown and Nolan Smith and Joe’s manager at the time is shown as Tobe Addison. His 90’s Tee-Jay sides would also include at least 3 duets with another female vocalist, Linda Green (see tracks 24, 25 and 26 of “Then And Now” track-listing below).
An earlier also Austin-recorded Tee-Jay extended-play 12 inch album called “One Night Stand” (NR 17381) had emerged in 1988. This had contained just 4 solo Valentine tracks, 2 each of which had been also paired on two separate 45s (see track-listing below for details).
By this time, Joe had also become owner of (and regular performer at) the Valentine’s Night Club in Austin which he had opened back in 1986 inside The Chariot Inn. Then in 1992 he would buy the 311 Club on Sixth Street where he played several nights a week with his brothers Boddie Valentine on drums and Tony Valentine on bass.
Back in 1990, Japanese P-Vine had issued 6 of Joe’s Val/Ronn tracks on their various-artist CD named after one of those tracks, “A Woman’s Love – Classic Soul Jewelry #1” (PCD 2162) (see track-listing below). Then, in 2001, UK Westside issued four of the same tracks on their compilation “Soul Jewels Vol.1 – Losers Win Sometime” (WESA 912) and, in the same year, Fuel included “I Can’t Stand To See You Go” on their “From Chicago To Shreveport” various artists compilation (#2000). Fuel would also reissue the same Valentine track on their later “Jewel/Paula Story” CD in 2011 (once again, see discography below).
Meanwhile, in 2000 Joe issued two CD’s semi-privately. These were “From The Soul” and “Love Is On My Mind” (see track-listings below).
Then in 2002, he released a 2-volume CD set, "Then and Now" (subtitled “Singing In The Key of Love”). Volume 1 ("Then") contained 14 of Joe's best songs from the 60's & 70's, while Volume 2 ("Now") featured 15 Tee-Jay tracks from the 80's & 90's. These were issued as two separate CDs in their own individual jewel-cases, each being given the same issue number, Val 2001 (see below for track-listing).
Joe sadly passed away July 13, 2018, aged 81 in the Eastside home he had built himself – shortly after telling his children it was his "time to go." He had been suffering from Alzheimer's, according to his son Joe Valentine, the youngest of his – wait for it - 22 children – and the fourth to be named Joe.
His obituary stated: “Joe is preceded in death by his son, Leslie; parents, Joseph and Myrtle Valentine; and brother, Anthony F. Valentine. He leaves to cherish his memory his partner Sue Arledge; his children; and a multitude of grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nieces, nephews, cousins, and a host of others whose lives he touched in a multitude of ways.”
"He was a one-in-a-million talent who knew how to make you feel what he was singing," said vocalist Lynn Field, whose 8-track Tee-Jay NR 18555 album “Take Me In Your Love” (recorded simply as by Lynn) was produced by Joe in 1991.
Lynn (above) absolutely nailed it on the head. That great ability is precisely what shines through his finest performances. Sadly, we have to say R.I.P. to Joe Valentine– but for deep-soul fans the emotional involvement he poured into those special Val/Ronn recordings will live on forever.
Merit 1002 I Still Love You/Young Lover (c.1960)
Rachan 311 & Athens 209 She’s Gone Again/Coming On Home (1963 on Rachan, 1964 on Athens)
(You can hear “She’s Gone Again” here by clicking its blue-text title but there are occasional bleeps in the recording inserted to avoid illegal copying of this track for commercial gain)
Doug 849 Sweeter Than Sugar (And Twice As Nice)/Let It Be Love (c.1963/4)
(Note: this Doug 45 was also issued with “I Need You” as the flip – but this song is identical to “Let It Be Love”).
Val 67119 & Ronn 14 One Night Of Satisfaction/I Can’t Stand To See You Go (1967)
Val 7225 I Lost The Only Love I Had/Surely I’ll Never Do You Wrong (= *You Got To Believe In Me – Ronn unissued) (c.1968)
Ronn 30 A Woman’s Love/Hands On, Hands Off (1968)
Ronn unissued: *You Got To Believe In Me (P-Vine PCD 2162 & Westside WESA 912) I Can Feel My Love Coming On Strong (P-Vine PCD 2162 & Westside WESA 912) Soul City USA (P-Vine PCD 2162).
Cocoa Studio 0369 Until The Real Thing Comes Along/There Goes Another Dream Of Mine (1979)
“One Night Stand” (Tee Jay NR 17381) (1988) track listing:
Side 1: 1 One Night Stand 2 All The Love I Have For You Is Gone
Side 2: 1 Sharing Your Love 2 True Love
“A Woman’s Love” (Jap. P-Vine PCD 2162) (1990) various artist compilation.
6 tracks by Joe Valentine 1 A Woman’s Love 2 I Can’t Stand To See You Go 3 One Night Of Satisfaction 4 I Can Feel My Love Coming On Strong 5 Soul City U.S.A. 6 You’ve Got To Believe In Me.
“For Ever And Ever” (Tee Jay NR 18554) (1991) track listing:
Side 1: 1 Our Love Will Last Forever 2 One More Night With You 3 If You (duet with Lynn Collins) 4 Let’s Have Tonight (duet with Lynn Collins)
Side 2: 1 Forever My Love 2 To Be In Love With You 3 You Know (duet with Lynn Collins) 4 Our Love Will Last Forever (instrumental version)
“From The Soul” (Val 1937D) (2000) track listing:
1 Turn Back The Hands Of Time 2 I Can’t Give You More (Than All The Love I Have) 3 That’s What Love Is About 4 In The Name Of Love 5 I Should Have Known 6 This Time 7 I Had It All The Time
“Love Is On My Mind” (Val 2001D) (2000) track listing:
1 I Need Some Lovin’ Tonight 2 Make Sweet Love To You 3 Let’s Make Love Tonight 4 Kick Me When I’m Down 5 You’re Bad 6 Since I Met You Baby 7 Come To Me
Val 7225 I Lost The Only Love I Ever Had/Surely I'll Never Do You Wrong (2001) (Note ~ this was a legal reissue by Joe himself of his c.1968 Val 45 – see above)
“Soul Jewels Volume 1 – Losers Win Sometime” (Westside WESA 912) (2001) various artist compilation.
4 tracks by Joe Valentine 4 You’ve Got To Believe In Me 9 A Woman’s Love 15 I Can Feel My Love Coming On Strong 25 I Can’t Stand To See You Go
“From Chicago To Shreveport” (Fuel 2000 3020611452) (2001) various artist compilation.
1 track by Joe Valentine 6 I Can’t Stand To See You Go
“Then And Now” (Val 2001) (2002) track listing:
(Disc 1 – Vol.1 - 60’s & 70’s) “Then” 1 I Lost The Only Love I Ever Had 2 Surely I Will Never Do You Wrong 3 Woman's Love 4 I Can't Stand To See You Go 5 One Night Of Satisfaction 6 I Can Feel My Love Coming On Strong 7 Soul City U.S.A 8 Another Dream Of Mine 9 Until The Real Thing Comes Along 10 Our Love Will Last Forever 11 You Know (Joe Valentine With Lynn Collins) 12 Let's Have Tonight 13 Our Love Will Last Forever
(Instrumental) 14 Hands On Hands Off
(Disc 2 – Vol.2 - 80’s & 90’s) “Now” 1 One More Night With You 2 If You (Joe Valentine With Lynn Collins) 3 Forever My Love 4 To Be In Love With You 5 One Night Stand 6 All The Love I Have For You Is Gone 7 Sharing Your Love 8 True Love 9 If You Let Me 10 Look What We've Done (Joe Valentine With Linda Green) 11 Let Me Be There For You (Joe Valentine With Linda Green) 12 Don't Know How to Live Without You (Joe Valentine With Linda Green) 13 Come to Me 14 Let's Have Tonight (Joe Valentine With Lynn Collins) 15 First Day of Your Life
(You will find many if not all of these tracks on You Tube. Two of them are the same two songs that appeared on Joe’s Cocoa Studio 45 but I have never heard the original disc so I am not sure whether the versions on this compilation are the originals or re-cuts).
“Jewel/Paula Story” (Fuel 2000 3020618972) (2011) various artist compilation.
1 track by Joe Valentine 8 I Can’t Stand To See You Go
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