LOS ANGELES, Dec. 18 (UPI) -- Tony Joe White is about ready to get some sleep and maybe eat regular meals for a while, now that he has finished a 45-day, 31-date tour with Joe Cocker.
"I call it the high rover plains, out in no man zone floating around," said White, describing his approach to touring. "You eat when you can and sleep when you can."
White joined Cocker for the tour a few days after he finished a month-long tour of his own in Europe, to support his most recent album "Snakey." In a recent interview with United Press International, he said the schedule had been a little more demanding than what he had been used to.
"I usually don't travel and tour as much as we're doing right now," said White. "Usually I like to fish, play a little golf. But right now we're rolling hard."
Now in the fourth decade of a recording career that took off in 1969 with the Top 5 hit "Polk Salad Annie," White is still doing what he set out to do -- playing the soulful blues that he calls "swamp music" and constantly introducing new songs to an international audience that isn't ready quite yet to let go of the old ones.
"I would not ever want to get on the scene where you're living off of nostalgia stuff, cause there's still a lot of new songs that I haven't cut yet," said White.
But he understands how it is. Audiences will not, as a rule, let the performer many prefer to call The Swamp Fox get out of the building until he has played the hits.
"That's pretty well much the law. If I go to Australia or Europe it's 'High Sheriff (of Calhoun Parrish') and 'Polk Salad Annie.' It's a chant from the time you walk out there until the time you walk off, and I don't do but 30 minutes."
Often, as in the case of the just ended tour with Cocker, White tours with people he calls his heroes, including Eric Clapton and Tina Turner, who recorded four of his songs -- including the international hit "Steamy Windows" -- on her multi-platinum CD "Foreign Affairs," for which White also produced the title track.
White -- whose songs have been covered by legendary artists such as Ray Charles, Elvis Presley and Hank Williams Jr. -- has managed to break free of the record company rat race. And he's getting a big kick out of it.
"I was kind of waiting through the years for something to happen to cut me loose from that end of it," he said, "'cause I was really burnt from the record companies."
His son Jody brought the family business online with a Web site (tonyjoewhite.net) and White began to record in his own home studio. He said he now has what he wanted in a music career in the first place -- writing and recording without having someone else tell him when to do it.
"We could cut in my studio here and get it pressed down the street in Nashville and get it to the people in three days' time," he said. "And I thought, how cool. That's having the cake and eating it too."
White isn't sure how to answer when he is asked how long he intends to stay on the job. But he isn't ready to quit any time soon.
"I would always imagine the whole scene will tell you when it's not cool to do it anymore," he said. "It would be unkind of the music to fool you and tell you to keep going on and going on until you're not doing it right. But for now, the crowds, the fun on stage, it's probably better right now than it was when Polk was in the Top 5."
White told of a bluesman he saw in Norway at a blues festival last August, an 85-year-old man who seemed to have more energy than white did.
"He'd do his show at night at the festival and then he'd come back and play in the hotel bar in the daylight," said White. "You'd think, 'Oh, man he's not going to be able to do his show.' I'm 59 and this man would wear me out."
White conceded it has been difficult at times, but he said the reward has been worth the trip.
"It's worth every mile you've been, every piece of bad food you've ate and everything," he said. "It sort of erases it all."