Chancellor of Soul's Chronicles-Journals Dedicated To The
Historical Preservation Of R&B, Pop and It's Artists and Music


       _____________________________________________

Josie Jo Armstead

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                       The term ‘creative’ in human definition means to bring

                       visions of dreams into existence. Here’s a story about

                       young woman who not only transformed her talents

                       from a stoke of a pen but would become one of the most

                       influential artist to create her own music publishing company 

                       and launched the careers of some of the greatest underrated

                       talent in the history of R&B.

 

                       Ms. Joshie Jo Armstead…

 

                      Born October 8, 1944 in Yazoo City, Mississippi, Joshie

                      developed her musical talents in the church, ministered

                      by her mother.  At 18, she joined the Ike & Tina Turner

                      Revue.  As a member of the Ikettes (with Delores Johnson

                      lead and Eloise Hester) they recorded a few sides with

                      Atco Records including the classic hit ‘I'm Blue (The Gong-

                      Gong Song) b/w ‘Find My Baby’ (No. 3 R&B Jan 1962).

 

                     Joshie left the Revue and moved to New York where began

                     a solo career under the name Deena Johnson and released

                     two singles, ‘The Breaking Point’ b/w ‘Mama’s Boy’ on the

                     Wild Deuce label in 1965 and ‘I'm A Sad Girl’ b/w ‘I'll Never

                     Let You Down on Simpson in 1967. She also found work

                     singing jingles in radio and television advertisements.  

 

                     Around this time she met two New York songwriters,

                     Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson. The two were known

                     in the music industry as Nick & Val and recorded their

                     first release on Glover entitled, ‘I'll Find You’ and worked

                     as staff writers on Florence Greenberg’s Scepter/ Wand

                     label located on 254 W 54th St. The pair invited Joshie

                     to join as a writer. Together the dynamic trio penned such

                     great classics as ‘The Real Thing’ by Tina Britt (No.20 R&B

                     June 19, 1965) on Eastern.  ‘The Shoe Won't Fit’ and

                    ‘Too Hot Too Hold for Betty Everett on Vee Jay. They also

                     wrote material for Chuck Jackson, Maxine Brown, the

                     Shirelles, Doris Troy, Mitty Collier etc;

 

                     The trio’s songwriting success would emerge in the summer

                     of 1966, where they scored their first number one hit on the

                     genius of soul, Ray Charles. One day while sitting in their

                    office, they were experiencing songwriters’ blockage.

                    So, Nick Ashford says to the young ladies, ‘Hey, let’s go

                    get a drink, let’s go get stoned!’ They laughed at his

                    statement, while walking out the door. When they returned

                    back, publisher Ed Silvers asked if they had written anything.

                    They quoted, ‘Yeah, we got this great song’ and started to

                    hum and ad-lib the humorous title. Valerie would confess

                    that they just made the song up.  Ed Silvers said ‘Y’ all are

                    joking but if you finish the song, I'll give to Ray Charles to

                    record’. Not taking him serious, the trio finished the song

                    and as Ed Silvers promised, he delivered it to Brother Ray.

 

                    Ray Charles recorded ‘Let’s Go Get Stoned’ b/w ‘The Train’

                    at his R. P.M. International Studios in Los Angeles in late

                    1965, featuring the late Billy Preston on organ. Released

                    as a single in May 1966, this masterpiece recording charted

                    (No. 1 on Billboard’s R&B Singles on July 23, 1966 and No.31

                    Pop). Ray would record another composition of theirs, 

                    ‘I Don't Need No Doctor’ b/w ‘Please Say You're Fooling’

                    (No.49 R&B Dec 31, 1966). 

 

                    The dynamic trio composed yet another classic entitled

                    ‘Never Had It So Good’ recorded by legendary blind

                    country singer/pianist, Ronnie Milsap. As the song began to

                    receive huge airplay on R&B stations, trouble brewed

                    when Scepter Records began sending radio stations

                    publicity photos of Ronnie. When the station managers

                    saw he was white, they immediately yank the song. 

                    Scepter’s promotion guys went to the radio stations and

                    asked why they stopped playing the song. They said

                    they though he was black. So the promotional guy said to

                    them that all Ronnie’s life, people told him he was black

                    and that he doesn't know any better. The stations resume

                    airing the song again and it became a hit, charting (No.20

                    R&B Nov 27, 1965). Nick, Val and Joshie arranged and

                    sang background on the track.  Valerie Simpson along with

                    Paul Griffith is on keyboards.

 

                    My favorite version of ‘Never Had It So Good’ was a remake

                    by Chuck Jackson and Maxine Brown, released in 1967

                    as a B side, on their hit single ‘Hold On, I'm Comin’.  

          

                    The writing trio would depart in 1967, as Nick and Val signed

                    with Motown Records while Joshie moved to Chicago. She

                    met and married producer Mel Collins and together form

                    Giant Productions.

 

                    Their company featured a roster of great artists, Little Jimmy

                    Scott, Ruby Andrews, Smokey Smothers, Fenton Robinson

                    and Garland Green.  Sometimes Joshie and Mel would clash,

                    where each one had different musical tastes. Mel supported

                    the blues and went with artists such as Fenton Robinson,

                    whereas Joshie Jo tastes was more towards r&b. To search for  

                    that particular flavor, she traveled to Detroit and met Andrew

                    ‘Mike’ Terry, baritone sax session player for Motown Records

                    and Ed Wingate’s Golden World/ Ric Tic labels. Mike was not

                    only a great musician, but a fantastic writer, producer and

                    arranger, this was the right ingredient for Joshie’s cookbook 

                    of soul.

 

 

                    Giant’s first production was a soul classic recorded by Ruby

                    Andrews on Ric Williams’ Zodiac label entitled, ‘Casanova

                   (Your Playing Days Are Over) b/w ‘I Just Don't Believe It’.

                    The song hit (No. 9 R&B Sept 23, 1967). Armstead and Collins

                    would work with other artists on other labels, Bobby Hutton on

                    Mercury, Blue Rock and Phillips and Shirley Wahls on Smash.

                    The latter three were subsidiaries of Mercury Records. 

 

                    Returning to her singing roots, Joshie hit the R&B charts with

                    the spine-tingling ‘A Stone Good Lover’   (No.28 R&B on

                    June 22, 1968 on Giant) and ‘I've Been Turned On’ (No.50

                    R&B Oct 12, 1968 on Giant). While Armstead spent most of her

                    busy time in the studio writing and producing for other artists,

                    she didn't go out on the road to promote her recordings.

 

                    Her studio time paid off with a million seller by Garland

                    Green, ‘Jealous Kind Of Fella’ b/w ‘I Can't Believe You

                    Quit Me’ (No. 5 R&B Singles Oct 11, 1969 on Uni)  

 

                    Giant Records would cease production in 1970, due to

                    never ending debts. This unfortunately would dissolve

                    the marriage of Armstead and Collins. Joshie returned

                    back to New York City where she resumed her career

                    writing and singing in commercials.

 

                    In 1972, she appeared in Melvin Van Peebles’ Broadway

                    production of   ‘Don't Play Us Cheap’. Released as 

                    two record set soundtracks on Stax Records, one could

                    hear Joshie unforgettable performance on vinyl.

                    Armstead starred in another Broadway musical produced

                    by Michael Bennett called ‘Seesaw’ with Michele Lee,

                    Ken Howard and Tommy Tune in 1973. 

     

                    She inked a deal with Gospel Truth (Stax's division label) in 1974

                    and released  'Stumblin' Block, Steppin Stones' (No.91 R&B

                    May 1974) Sadly after Stax shut down its doors in 1975,

                    Joshie returned back to New York continued her work in

                    background session for recording artists during the 80's. 

 

 

                     She also managed Alonzo Ratliff, a Chicago welterweight

                     boxer and developed a company called Ideals And Hunches.

                     While in the midst of trying to retrieve her unpaid  royalties,

                     Armstead would design women's clothing.

 

                                        

                    Joshie Jo Armstead might have received recognition for her

                    outstanding achievements in the music industry, but would

                    become the most influential underrated artist to unlock the 

                    hinges and break down the doors that was unfairly sealed

                    to women trying to break in the music business. 

 

 

                    A stone good music never had it so good until they been

                    turned on to the many compositions contributed by

                    Ms. Joshie Jo Armstead…a legend in her own right.                     

 

 

                                          

                                               Soulfully Yours,

                                                  Mike Boone

                                            (Chancellor of Soul)

                                         

 

                                                 (April 2008)

 

                   

 

                                      

                      

 
 

Materials should not be used or altered without the expressed permission of the author, Mike Boone,

(Chancellor of Soul)






 

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