During his junior year of high school Arrington entered a talent search at a Houston nightclub. He took first prize over such performers as Johnny Nash, Hubert Laws, and Acquilla Cartwright, an imitator of Ben E. King. He performed a skit called It's in the Book and won $300 and a week's stay at the Hotel Teresa in Harlem. There Arrington performed at the Apollo Theater. During a four-week period he won the Amateur Night competition four times. After graduating from high school in 1955, he returned to New York City to pursue a music career. While working odd jobs, including caretaking at a Jewish cemetery, he met talent scout Arthur Prysock who paved the way for him to meet record-company executive Henry Glover and get his first record contract with King Records.
Arrington, now known as Joe Tex, introduced a style of music that has been copied by Isaac Hayes, Barry White, and others. In songs and ballads in particular, he slowed the tempo slightly and started "rapping," that is, speaking verse that told the story in the middle of the song before repeating the refrain and ending the song. The biggest hits of Joe Tex included Hold On To What You Got, Papa Was Too, Skinny Legs and All, and South Country, an album of country songs; his biggest seller was I Gotcha, which went platinum in 1971.
In 1972 Arrington gave up show business and began a three-year speaking ministry for the Nation of Islam which he joined in 1968. He became known as Yusef Hazziez or Minister Joseph X. Arrington. He said he was through with singing, and he would follow Allah and Elijah Muhammad. But after Muhammad's death in 1975, and with the approval and blessing of the Nation of Islam, Arrington returned to show business in order to deliver the Nation of Islam's message to his fans. He enjoyed moderate success with no hit singles until the 1977 smash hit I Ain't Gonna Bump No More (With No Big Fat Woman) put him back on the top of the charts. After that single he left the music scene and performed at local clubs and benefits. Arrington died on August 12, 1982, of heart failure at his home in Navasota. He was survived by his wife, Belilah, and six children.
30° 21.799, -096° 02.395
Dennis Bryant Cemetery