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Kansas Joe McCoy

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Biography

Alongside his younger brother Charlie, Joe McCoy is enshrined among the greatest sidemen in blues history, his Spartan slide style most notably preserved on the landmark recordings of his wife Memphis Minnie. Born in May 11, 1905 in Jackson, MS, he was primarily known as Kansas Joe McCoy, but his laundry list of aliases includes appearances as the Hillbilly Plowboy, Mud Dauber Joe, Hamfoot Ham, the Georgia Pine Boy, and Hallelujah Joe. A self-taught player, he relocated to Memphis during the mid-'20s, joining Jed Davenport's Beale Street Jug Band and meeting Memphis Minnie. McCoy later became her second husband, and during their six-year marriage accompanied her on such country blues classics as "Bumble Bee" and "When the Levee Breaks"; the couple migrated to Chicago in 1930, where -- in the company of notables like Big Bill Broonzy and Tampa Red -- they helped modernize the country blues sound to fit more comfortably into their new urban surroundings. With his eloquent, inventive guitar work and deep vocals, McCoy could well have risen to stardom in his own right, but he appeared to prefer his sideman role, and after his divorce from Minnie he and sibling Charlie formed the Harlem Hamfats, recording regularly between 1936 and 1939. Upon the group's demise, he founded Big Joe & His Washboard Band, which evolved into Big Joe & His Rhythm during the mid-1940s. McCoy died on January 28, 1950. ~ Jason Ankeny

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