DRESSED in black from head to toe, with dark glasses, harmonica brace and his trademark whomper stomper electric guitar, it was Tony Joe as all his fans have come to know him.
The difference: he was on stage live on the David Letterman Show backed by the Foo Fighters.
At 71, the Swamp Fox can still cook. It was legendary, one of the best versions of Polk Salad Annie you'll ever hear.
No big deal for Tony Joe White, just another day at the office.
As Letterman said live on air afterwards, "I tell ya something, just between us, if I was this guy you could all kiss my ass."
Tony Joe White is back in Australia for his biannual tour. He's touring on the back of an album, Hoodoo, released late in 2013, just in case his audience wants some new music.
"Hoodoo has stirred up more commotion around the world than any album I've put out in a long time," he says from his hotel room in Sydney on a rainy Friday morning. "I've got a lot of swamp tunes, that was a good session."
White had to work hard to light a fire under his music when he began his recording career. Although music publisher Bob Beckham backed him, his record sales didn't catch on with the mainstream right away. His first pockets of success were in France, and south Texas.
With his constant touring and songwriting, one gets the feeling he's never forgotten how hard it is to get into the music industry, much less stay relevant. But he's always done it his own way - he's got about a half a dozen of those black cowboy hats; a few of them are Akubras, others from Texas Hatters.
And, for the record, the Foo Fighters came to him. Dave Grohl's Sonic Highways album and related HBO documentary series (available April 3) included visits to eight American cities to uncover their music roots. In Nashville, Grohl talked to Dolly Parton, Steve Earle, Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris - and Tony Joe White. So Tony's splash on Letterman was a natural follow-up.
"We were talking about it before," White says. "Way back when Dave spent two days with me three months before. He knew the song real well."
Who wouldn't want to get inside White's mind: he's perfected the art of making music his own way.
Is there anybody chasing your sound?
"It's hard to say. I see a lot of bands around, travelling so much. A lot of them got a lot of blues. I don't think any of them has the swamp I've got. Writing the song has a lot to do with it."
Songwriting is a constant process for White, as he explains: "I don't have a cellphone. I have too many songs going through the head. I need the free time to think.
"When I have a guitar lick in my head, I'll head to the river, make a fire, get a cold beer and usually wait on it. You sit there watching your cork go under or line get tied. You build a fire and let it go.
"As a rule, I can wait. The songs are handed down from up above and I just reach out and grab one."
Besides keeping the sun and stage lights out of his eyes, those black cowboy hats also keep the rain off White's head.
It's raining as we talk, in Newcastle and in Sydney.
"I can almost say 99 per cent of the places I go to it will shower or rain," he says with a hint of humour. "It's done it three days now. I think it's from all the rain songs, like Rainy Night In Georgia. Rain hunts me down, let's me know it's checking me out.
"I always play good when it's raining. My mum has half Cherokee. I love to see thunder, clouds above my head. It's a good feeling. I like walking in the rain."
Australia fits into that picture, too. He opened his tour at The Basement in Sydney and then Lizotte's at Dee Why. We talk the morning after that Dee Why date.
"Last night I had an absolutely great gig. The sound system was so good, all I had to do was whisper. The crowd was ready. It was raining outside. A perfect night."
Tony Joe White plays Lizotte’s Kincumber on March 27 and Lizotte’s Newcastle on March 28.