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Thread: Blues, Stomps, & Rags #50

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    Registered User Ranald's Avatar
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    Mar 2017
    Ottawa, Canada

    Default Blues, Stomps, & Rags #50

    Greetings from a house that I'm visiting in the tall and lush woods on beautiful Vancouver Island.

    I've by no means run out of blues mandolin players. However, for my 50th post, I'm featuring "Papa" Charlie McCoy (1909-1950), for a second time, both because he was an important and influential blues mandolin player, always worth hearing, and because I didn't provide any information about him when I posted "Blues, Stomps, & Rags #1." Charlie McCoy, born in Jackson, Mississippi, became an important blues singer and accompanist on both mandolin and guitar. While he was in his teens, he played in his region as a member of the Mississippi Hot Footers. In the 1920's, he joined his older brother Joe, busking in Memphis, and became a member of Joe's Beale Street Jug Band. In 1928, he provided mandolin accompaniment on recordings by the Jackson guitar players, Tommy Johnson and Ishmon Bracey. Then, in 1936, under the pseudonym, "Tampa Kid," Charlie McCoy played slide guitar on "Keep on Trying." Charlie and his older brother, "Kansas Joe" performed and recorded together in the 1930s and '40s as the McCoy Brothers. Charlie and Bo Carter also recorded together, as The Mississippi Mudsteppers. He may have earned the moniker, "Papa" Charlie, "because of his mastery of old Delta Blues guitar styles" (All About Blues).

    The McCoy brothers moved to Chicago, where they performed and recorded in the late 30's as Papa Charlie's Boys. Charlie also became a popular studio musician, with and without Joe his brother. The author of "'Papa' Charlie McCoy" on All About Blues says, "Charlie had a light pleasant voice, and could have made more than the handful of solo records that he eventually produced, but seemed happiest backing other stars… Charlie and Joe were recruited by ‘Ink’ Williams into The Harlem Hamfats, a jazzy Blues band with New Orleans horns that played an up-tempo, good-time music that many saw as a pre-cursor of Jump-Blues." When the Hamfats broke up in 1939, Joe and Charlie formed both Papa Charlie's Boys and Big Joe’s Washboard Band. Charlie McCoy also performed or recorded with the Mississippi Sheiks, Memphis Minnie, John Lee ‘Sonny Boy’ Williamson, Peetie Wheatstraw, and Big Bill Broonzy. During WWII, McCoy served in the US Army. Sadly, he returned from the war in poor health and never returned to music. In 1950, shortly after brother Joe's death, Charlie died of paralytic brain fever or "neuro-syphilis."

    Summarizing Charlie McCoy's contribution to the blues, the author of "Papa" Charlie McCoy on All About Blues says: "his superb mandolin and guitar technique made him a much sought-after session musician on many great Blues records. From the earliest field recordings with the originators of the Blues, through the Jug Band craze, to the development of the Chicago ‘band sound’ in the 30s, Charlie’s versatility made him the ‘go-to’ guitarist and mandolin player."

    Information from: "Papa Charlie McCoy," , and "Papa" Charlie McCoy on All About Blues, .

    Here's Charlie McCoy playing the blues. If the links don't work, search YouTube for "Papa Charlie McCoy -- Let My Peaches Be."

    And here he is with a raggy tune. If the links don't work, search YouTube for "PAPA CHARLIE McCOY -- Too Long".

    Last edited by Ranald; Aug-28-2019 at 2:07pm. Reason: the usual
    Robert Johnson's mother, describing blues musicians:
    "I never did have no trouble with him until he got big enough to be round with bigger boys and off from home. Then he used to follow all these harp blowers, mandoleen (sic) and guitar players."
    Lomax, Alan, The Land where The Blues Began, NY: Pantheon, 1993, p.14.

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