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Joshie Jo Armstead

Singer and songwriter Joshie Jo Armstead was born on October 8, 1944 in Yazoo City, Mississippi to Wilton Armstead and Rosie Lee Armstead. As a youth, she sang in the church choir and was introduced to blues music by her grandfather. Armstead’s first performance was with Bobby “Blue” Bland in Mississippi, before joining a local band, Little Melvin & The Downbeats.

Armstead began her singing career when she joined the Ike & Tina Turner Revue in 1961, as one of the original touring Ikettes along with Eloise Hester and Delores Johnson. She toured with them from 1961 to 1963, and recorded the Ikettes record “I’m Blue (The Gong Gong Song).” Released in 1962 and featuring Tina Turner singing backing vocals, the song reached number nineteen on the Billboard Hot 100 and number three on the R&B chart. After leaving the Ikettes in 1963, Armstead moved to New York City and began recording music under the name Deena Johnson. There, she met Valerie Simpson and Nick Ashford and formed the writing trio of Armstead, Ashford, & Simpson. The trio wrote tracks for artists such as Chuck Jackson, The Shirelles, and Doris Troy, but their greatest success came when they wrote Ray Charles’ 1966 #1 hit “Let’s Go Get Stoned,” and the follow up single “I Don’t Need No Doctor.”

When Ashford & Simpson signed with Motown Records in 1966, Armstead left the trio and moved to Chicago, where she married music producer Melvin Collins and the couple founded their own record label, Giant Productions and wrote songs for Garland Green, Ruby Andrews, Syl Johnson and many others, also collaborating with famous music arranger Andrew “Mike” Terry. She returned to New York in 1970, following the collapse of Giant Productions and her marriage to Collins. She sang back up in Bob Dylan’s 1971 single “George Jackson,” and performed in B.B. King’s Live in London show, Melvin Van Peebles’ Broadway show, the film Don’t Play Us Cheap and the Broadway musical “Seesaw.” Armstead also recorded singles with the Stax offshoot label Gospel Truth, and sang backup vocals for Burt Bacharach’s LP “Features,” before returning to Chicago in the early 1980s and starring in Oscar Brown Jr.’s musical “Journey Through Forever.” Armstead’s songs include “Stumblin Blocks, Steppin’ Stones,” “I’ve Been Turned On,” “A Stone Good Lover” and “I Feel An Urge Coming On.”

Josephine “Joshie Jo” Armstead was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on July 15, 2016.

Accession Number

A2016.002

Sex

Female

Interview Date

07/15/2016

Last Name

Armstead

Maker Category
Marital Status

Widower

Occupation
Schools

Yazoo City High School No. 2

The New School for Social Research

First Name

Josephine

Birth City, State, Country

Yazoo City

HM ID

ARM02

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Mississippi

Favorite Vacation Destination

The Islands and the Caribbean

Favorite Quote

Never Let Them See You Sweat.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Interview Description
Birth Date

10/8/1942

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Turnip Greens, Fried Chicken, Hot Water Corn Bread and Sliced Tomatoes

Short Description

Singer and songwriter Joshie Jo Armstead (1942 - ) was one of the original Ikettes with the Ike & Tina Turner Revue, and later formed the writing trio Armstead, Ashford & Simpson with Valerie Simpson and Nick Ashford.

Employment

The Ike & Tina Turner Revue

Motown Records

Warner Brothers

Universal Music Group

Stax Records

Atlantic Recording Corporation

Favorite Color

Green

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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Joshie Jo Armstead's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Joshie Jo Armstead lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Joshie Jo Armstead describes her mother's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Joshie Jo Armstead describes her mother's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Joshie Jo Armstead describes her maternal family in Yazoo City, Mississippi

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Joshie Jo Armstead describes her mother's professions

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Joshie Jo Armstead talks about the origin of her family's name

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Joshie Jo Armstead lists her siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Joshie Jo Armstead talks about her sister's relationship with Ike Turner

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Joshie Jo Armstead describes her experiences in Yazoo City, Mississippi

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Joshie Jo Armstead talks about southern blues singers

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Joshie Jo Armstead describes her family's home in Yazoo City, Mississippi

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Joshie Jo Armstead describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Joshie Jo Armstead recalls Yazoo City High School No. 2 in Yazoo City, Mississippi

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Joshie Jo Armstead remembers a racist incident from her childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Joshie Jo Armstead describes her early interest in singing

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Joshie Jo Armstead talks about the birth of her daughter

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Joshie Jo Armstead recalls performing with Little Melvin and the Downbeats

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Joshie Jo Armstead talks about her mother's religious faith

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Joshie Jo Armstead describes the formation of The Ikettes

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Joshie Jo Armstead recalls joining The Ikettes

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Joshie Jo Armstead describes her touring experiences with The Ikettes, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Joshie Jo Armstead describes her touring experiences with The Ikettes, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Joshie Jo Armstead recalls The Ikettes' hit song, 'I'm Blue'

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Joshie Jo Armstead remembers leaving The Ikettes

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Joshie Jo Armstead recalls making a record in Los Angeles, California

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Joshie Jo Armstead remembers moving to New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Joshie Jo Armstead talks about working with Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Joshie Jo Armstead recalls writing 'Let's Go Get Stoned' for Ray Charles

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Joshie Jo Armstead describes Valerie Simpson

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Joshie Jo Armstead describes her songwriting partnership with Valerie Simpson and Nick Ashford

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Joshie Jo Armstead remembers founding Giant Records

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Joshie Jo Armstead recalls discovering her ex-husband's copyright fraud

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Joshie Jo Armstead talks about her ex-husband

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Joshie Jo Armstead describes her experiences as a background singer in New York City

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Joshie Jo Armstead remembers working with Bob Dylan

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Joshie Jo Armstead talks about the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Joshie Jo Armstead recalls working as a studio backup singer

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Joshie Jo Armstead remembers acting in the play 'Don't Play Us Cheap'

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Joshie Jo Armstead recalls appearing in 'Seesaw' on Broadway

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Joshie Jo Armstead remembers signing a contract with Gospel Truth Records

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Joshie Jo Armstead talks about the decline of Stax Records

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Joshie Jo Armstead remembers Tina Turner

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Joshie Jo Armstead recalls working with Burt Bacharach

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Joshie Jo Armstead talks about living with her daughter in New York City

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Joshie Jo Armstead remembers working in the advertising industry

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Joshie Jo Armstead recalls becoming the first female boxing manager in Illinois

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Joshie Jo Armstead recalls working as boxer Alfonso Ratliff's manager

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Joshie Jo Armstead talks about her interest in fashion

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Joshie Jo Armstead remembers attending The New School for Social Research in New York City

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Joshie Jo Armstead talks about the culture of the music industry

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Joshie Jo Armstead remembers founding Preacher Rose Records

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Joshie Jo Armstead recalls her performance at Littlefield in Brooklyn, New York

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Joshie Jo Armstead talks about her retirement

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Joshie Jo Armstead reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Joshie Jo Armstead shares her advice to aspiring musicians

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Joshie Jo Armstead reflects upon her life

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Joshie Jo Armstead narrates her photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$3

DAStory

5$6

DATitle
Joshie Jo Armstead remembers a racist incident from her childhood
Joshie Jo Armstead remembers moving to New York City
Transcript
As a young child do you remember seeing the signs for colored bathroom and white bathroom and were, were the, what did segregation look like in your town?$$Yeah there were the white and colored signs especially in the post office, not the post office, the bus station. You somewhat had to step aside if you were walking down the street and whites were coming down the street. And again you had to say (pronunciation) yes sir, and no sir, I think it was even frowned upon to say yes, sir or no, sir. It had to be subservient in a way, very demeaning and difficult and the black community stayed mostly in our own area. You had to venture out and most people worked, and they worked in the houses the women did as maids. And the men as chauffeurs and gardeners and so forth and so on, but we basically stayed in our own community.$$Were you able to shop in the local stores or, were you not allowed to, to--$$No you could shop, you could spend your money, yeah but again you were gonna be treated less than and the white people were hostile in Mississippi. They probably still are, so it was, it was an environment that was disturbing.$$Did you have any direct experience with whites in Mississippi?$$Yes I did, I remember my baby sister [Odell Brent] once wanting to go to the midnight movie. And so she wanted to pay half fare, I think she was underage, and the, the ticket agent selling the tickets, a white woman told her that she had to pay full fare to see the movie. And she said, "But I'm not but twelve years old, and I'm with my big sister." And the woman was very, very nasty, "I don't care who you are with and I said you gotta pay full fare," and my sister talked back to her. This is my baby sister. She sent someone around to hold the door and call the police on my baby sister, and the police came and took her away. She was twelve years old, and they put her in jail. And I'm feeling helpless and I run home and I tell Mama [Rosie Johnson Armstead] and we both go down to the jail and they kept her there all night for talking back to a white woman. So these are the kind of experiences and I tell you I'm sitting here, I, I, I really don't wanna recall them. You know you sort of bury them and, but that was the experience back in the late '50s [1950s]. And my experience in Mississippi, and before that, my mother's experience and my [maternal] grandfather [Lucius Johnson] and the rest of my family. I, I'm afraid to say, I'm pretty sure it was horrible, but you live, you learn to live, you learn to be happy. And as I said my family we're like happy people, good time people.$A man named Luther Dixon that I met when I was an Ikette [The Ikettes] came to the club where I was one night and we struck up a conversation. Luther was, had been given a contract with Capitol Records to form his own record company, Ludix Records. Luther was also very close with Florence Greenberg who owned Scepter Records. And talking to Luther he asked me did I wanna come back to New York [New York] and maybe try recording with him. And I jumped at the opportunity 'cause half my family that left Mississippi was in Brooklyn [New York], where I had no family and just a few friends in L.A., so I left Los Angeles [California] and came to New York.$$And in New York you were then working with Luther and Florence?$$The, the contract that I expected from Ludix Record never materialized, but thanks to Ike [Ike Turner] and, and me wanting to be a songwriter out of New York was bustling with songwriters. And I got in that community; it was a couple of bars called the C and D [ph.] and the Turf [Turf Restaurant, New York, New York] where the musicians would hang. There were publishing offices all over the place called Tin Pan Alley, but it was kind of on its way down but it was still thriving. And so I met a guy Robert Mosley who played wonderful piano, and we began to write together. And in the course of that, I met [HistoryMaker] Valerie Simpson and through Valerie, Nick.$$Nick Ashford?$$Yes, and we started writing together.$$And this is around what time now, you're, you're about how old?$$Twenty-five.$$Okay.$$What year would that be?$$Actually maybe even younger, looks here like maybe (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Yeah.$$--around twenty.$$Yeah, yeah.$$Nineteen sixty-four [1964].$$Nineteen sixty- yeah (laughter).