EAST ST. LOUIS, Illinois. T.J. “Crawdaddy” Poindexter is a long-time guitar player and singer who looks at least a decade older than his 46 years. “It ain’t easy making a living singing the blues,” he says. “You go into one of the good juke joints, man will cut up for lookin’ at him the wrong way. Go into one of the bad ones, they’ll cut you up for lookin’ at ’em the right way.”
T.J. “Crawdaddy” Poindexter
A few years ago Claudia Buckner, his long-time girlfriend, began to urge him to find a safer career that would allow him to spend less time on the road. “I’d go into a nice home furnishing store and hear them blue-eyed soul singers on the stereo,” she recalls, “and I’d say ‘TJ–how come you can’t get a gig like that?’”
After a particularly hair-raising set at Lynette’s Chicken Shack during which he was hit by a beer bottle thrown by an audience member, Poindexter decided to follow Buckner’s advice. “As long as they were throwing light beer bottles I could take it,” he recalls. “Once they got over 4 grams of carbs and 100 calories per twelve-ounce serving, I was outta there.”
Michael McDonald, King of Pottery Barn Soul: “I keep forgettin’–we’re not on sale anymore.”
So Crawdaddy wrote a song about the Pottery Barn shopping experience and took it to the home furnishing giant known for comfort, style, quality and pre-packaged collections of bland but tasteful dinner music. “It was a blues about a guy who’s down on his luck, and the Pottery Barn man–he comes down hard on him,” he says as he strums his guitar and begins to sing:
“You break it-you buy it.
I saw you drop it-don’t you deny it.”
Pottery Barn turned him down, but Director of In-Store Shopping Atmosphere Gerald Stotsky suggested he contact Bruce Carter, a friend at MCA Records. “When I heard Crawdaddy it was like a light bulb went on over my head, even though I already had the lights on,” says Carter. “I could envision a whole new genre–reverse blue-eyed soul.”
The Doobie Brothers: Not actually brothers.
So just as McDonald and other white “blue-eyed soul” singers such as Michael Bolton have made a comfortable living recording songs by black artists for white audiences, Poindexter re-branded himself by recording “A Tribute to the Doobie Brothers”, a collection of hits by the pop-rock band of the ’70’s where McDonald honed his lock-jawed singing style. “It ain’t easy getting the sound down right. You gotta purse your lips together real hard,” he says, as he performs a take of McDonald’s solo hit “I Keep Forgettin’.”
“I keep forgettin’ we’re not in love anymore-
Yeah, baby-ooowee, now!”
Loggins: “The IRS seized my yacht cause I couldn’t pay the tax. I played a benefit concert–I want my 57-footer back!”
The sound developed by McDonald, his sometimes collaborator Kenny Loggins and other soft rock singers of the ’70’s and ’80’s has been derided as “yacht rock,” and there was even an on-line video series that was a send-up of the smooth, soulful music. Poindexter says his style–which he prefers to call “brown-eyed white pop”–is more authentic.
“Man, I ain’t got no yacht,” he says as he signs an autograph for Marci Cook-Lester, a housewife from suburban Ladue, Missouri who buys his CD for an upcoming dinner party. “But if I sell enough records, I will someday.”