McCoy Brothers

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Charlie McCoy (b. May 26 1909) and his big brother Joe McCoy (b. May 11 1905) were born four years apart in Jackson, MS and died within a few months of each other in Chicago in 1950. The two men recorded…
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Charlie McCoy (b. May 26 1909) and his big brother Joe McCoy (b. May 11 1905) were born four years apart in Jackson, MS and died within a few months of each other in Chicago in 1950. The two men recorded separately and together in a surprisingly diverse range of settings and ensembles. Charlie, a singer, guitarist, and mandolinist who had a lot in common with Yank Rachell and Charlie Burse, tended towards rural blues grooves and is often remembered for sitting in with Tommy Johnson, Ishman Bracey and Walter Vincson. Recordings which were initially released under Charlie's name or leadership have been carefully reissued by Document. A truly comprehensive Charlie McCoy anthology, however, would also need to include all of his work as a participant in bands led by his big brother.

Singer and guitarist Joe McCoy clearly had a knack for more urban-styled entertainment, especially after linking up with Memphis Minnie, marrying her and making lots of records with her during the early '30s while forging a strong musical conduit from Memphis to Chicago. After breaking up with Minnie in 1934, Joe adapted rigorously to big city musical tastes, recording with vocalist Johnnie Temple and forming a swing band that operated under the name of the Harlem Hamfats. This hot little group, which more often than not contained both of the McCoy brothers, made a large number of recordings for the Decca label during the years 1936-1939 and recorded in 1937 as the Palooka Washboard Band. Vocalists who sounded off with the Hamfats included Rosetta Howard, Frankie "Half-Pint" Jaxon, and Alberta Smith. In 1937 several of the Hamfats sat in with Jimmie Gordon's Vip Vop Band, another colorful entry in Decca's multifaceted catalog. Joe led an ebullient washboard band in 1940, cutting four sides for Okeh that sounded like extensions of what the Memphis Jug Band was up to in 1934.

The McCoy brothers made their last 12 recordings for Bluebird during the years 1941-1944 in a band billed as Big Joe & His Rhythm, with noteworthy appearances by Washboard Sam and Little Brother Montgomery. After the session that took place on December 15, 1944, the McCoy brothers withdrew from the music scene. Joe left his body on January 28, 1950 and Charlie passed on July 26 while inhabiting what has been described as a "psychopathic hospital."