JOSHIE JO ARMSTEAD
“When I found out that music could get me out of Mississippi, it became my life,” says Joshie Jo Armstead. Exactly 60 years ago, with only two dollars spending money, Armstead left Yazoo City, Mississippi, and began her professional singing career as one of the original Ikettes in the Ike & Tina Turner Revue. She never looked back.
Indeed, Armstead charted a unique course through the music industry. After leaving the Revue and establishing herself in New York’s bustling Brill Building scene, she forged a writing partnership with Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson. By the end of the 1960s, she emerged as a solo artist, songwriter, and producer, and one of the first women to own a successful label, Giant Records. That was before she conquered other creative realms with Melvin Van Peebles, Cy Coleman, playwright/activist Oscar Brown, Jr., and even a prize-fighting boxer. “It’s a man’s world, but I found my way in it,” she says.
A few years after Giant folded, Armstead signed with Stax Records and recorded an album’s worth of material for the label’s Gospel Truth imprint. Stax released four sides from the sessions, including “Ride Out the Storm” (from the musical Seesaw) and “Stumblin’ Blocks, Steppin’ Stones (What Took Me So Long)”, before the label declared bankruptcy in 1975, halting the album’s release. The recordings didn’t disappear completely, however. Armstead later included her Stax singles on A Stone Good Lover (1996), titled after one of her solo hits on Giant, and Craft Recordings recently re-issued them on The Gospel Truth: The Complete Singles Collection (2020), unveiling four dynamic performances that sound as fresh and vital as ever ...