Archive for Cotton Eyed Joe

Ballad of the Unknown Urban Cowboy: Isaac Payton Sweat Part 2

Posted in Rock Moment with tags , , on November 16, 2009 by 30daysout
winchester 66 975 isaac peyton sweat

Isaac Payton Sweat, far right, at the Winchester Club

In the mid-1960s I had a paper route in my hometown of Groves, Texas, and every day it took me past this two-story, tar-papered building with a sign saying “The Black Kat Club.”  Some days I’d hear loud, raucous music coming out of the wide-open second story windows.  Sometimes it was the blues, sometimes it was a cover of a pop song, it always sounded great.  One day I came by with my newspapers and the musicians were outside smoking cigarettes.  One of them asked me if I would give him a newspaper, and I did.

As I handed it to him, I noticed this guy was the whitest man I had ever seen.  His skin, his hair, his eyelashes, everything was pure white.  There was another guy who looked just like him, too.  “They’re albinos,” said one of the band members, “they’re okay.  What’s your name, my name is I.P. Sweat.”  To a 10-year-old kid, that name was even funnier than the two albino brothers named Johnny and Edgar.

Almost 20 years later, I would meet up with Isaac Payton Sweat again.  IP Sweat clubHe had tasted fame – but not fortune – with his regionally popular recording “Cotton-Eyed Joe.”  Sweat really had not come far from the Black Kat Club near Port Arthur;  he was a popular guy in Houston dancehalls but no place else.  “Cotton-Eyed Joe” had only earned Sweat a few hundred dollars in royalties, so he sued his former manager.  That case didn’t work out, and neither did the nightclub Sweat opened, “I.P. Sweat’s Cotton-Eyed Joe Club.”

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Ballad of the Unknown Urban Cowboy: Isaac Payton Sweat Part 1

Posted in Rock Moment with tags , , , , on November 15, 2009 by 30daysout
Sweat

I.P. Sweat

In June 1980, the beautiful and the glamorous made their unlikely way to the sprawling Gilley’s honky tonk in Pasadena, Texas, to attend the premiere party for the movie Urban Cowboy.  New York socialites squeezed into tight jeans and Hollywood types wore western shirts with silk scarves around their necks, and everyone spilled out onto the hardwood floor to dance.  Many times that night, Gilley’s Urban Cowboy Band played the song “Cotton-Eyed Joe,” and people shuffled their boots along the floor and yelled “BULL SHIT!”

Good times, but one thing was wrong with that picture.  The guy who should have been singing the “Cotton-Eyed Joe” was nowhere to be found.  Where was Isaac Payton Sweat?

In the early 1980s, Isaac Payton Sweat was known as the “King Of the Cotton-Eyed Joe.”  He IP Sweat business cardcertainly had the biggest hit with the old song – whenever it was played, people from El Paso to Orange would shuffle out onto the dance floor.  In the days after disco, the song would point the way to the next big fad that Urban Cowboy would embody.  At the Winchester Club in Houston Sweat, with his Sweat Band (later called the Cadillac Cowboys), reigned as one of the city’s most popular performers.

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