Kansas Joe McCoy did not have a long life, but it certainly was an eventful one. He was an excellent slide-guitar player from the Delta, who was also a fine baritone singer; he played with and married Memphis Minnie in Memphis and when they relocated to Chicago they were pioneers of ‘urban Blues’; Joe became the leader of the successful crossover Jazz/Blues/Hokum band the Harlem Hamfats, and then he wrote a classic song that has been enshrined in the American Songbook, but he died relatively young.
This time Minnie accompanies Kansas Joe on ‘Pile Driver Blues’;
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When Joe and Minnie divorced in 1934, Charlie and Joe formed a band that eventually became known as The Harlem Hamfats, who fused jazz and Blues styles and whose good-time material included some very rude ‘hokum’ songs. Joe wrote ‘The Weedsmokers Dream’ for the Hamfats in 1936, but when he re-worked the lyrics for Lil Green in 1941, ‘Why Don’t You Do Right’ was a big R&B hit, and then a massive worldwide success for Peggie Lee when she recorded her cover version with Benny Goodman. The Hamfats were a popular band for a few years, but in 1939 Joe and Charlie formed Big Joe and His Washboard Band with Ransom Knowling on bass, Robert Lee McCoy (no relation but a.k.a. Robert Nighthawk) and Amanda Sortier on washboard. [stextbox id=”custom” caption=”Kansas Joe McCoy Discography” float=”true” align=”left” width=”300″]This is the first album devoted to Kansas Joe’s work, and he is joined on some tracks by Memphis Minnie and his brother Charlie.
ONE IN A HUNDRED
[/stextbox]This didn’t last long as Charlie was drafted into WWII, but Joe was rejected owing to a heart defect. He formed another band to play the Chicago club scene and recorded for the Bluebird label throughout the War years but not long after peace finally came, Joe retired from music. He died from a heart-attack in 1950, at the age of 44, just a few months before his brother Charlie passed away too.
The Harlem Hamfats version of ‘Weedsmokers Dream’;
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