Kansas Joe McCoy – Pile Driver Blues

By Jim Weaver:

“I know there’s no video here. I wish there was — I have never seen anyone do these riffs — not even Ernie Hawkins, who plays several of Kansas Joe’s Harlem Hamfats tunes.”

That’s okay Jim, (and thanks by the way for this), fortunately it was recorded! I’m sure there’s a lot of these blues players from way back who never got the chance to record and definitely deserved to.

By the way, the YouTube description also gives credit to Memphis Minnie whom I believe is playing the lead guitar (please correct me here folks if I’m wrong).

Also, if you listen closely, you can hear that one of them are not getting the chord changes of this song all too well. Sounds so obvious (the changes that is), maybe back then this was not so obvious? It’s what’s known now as the standard blues changes…

Here’s some bio material on Kansas Joe McCoy:

“McCoy played music under a variety of stage names but is best known as “Kansas Joe McCoy”. Born in Raymond, Mississippi, he was the older brother of the blues accompanistPapa Charlie McCoy. As a young man, McCoy was drawn to the music scene inMemphis, Tennessee where he played guitar and sang vocals during the 1920s. He teamed up with future wife Lizzie Douglas, a guitarist better known as Memphis Minnie, and their 1929 recording of the song “Bumble Bee” on the Columbia Records label was a hit.[3] In 1930, the couple moved to Chicago where they were an important part of the burgeoning blues scene. Following their divorce, McCoy teamed up with his brother to form a band known as the Harlem Hamfats that performed and recorded during the second half of the 1930s.

In 1936, the Harlem Hamfats released a record with the song “The Weed Smoker’s Dream” on it. McCoy later refined the tune, changed the lyrics and titled the new song “Why Don’t You Do Right?” for Lil Green, who recorded it in 1941. It was covered a year later by bothBenny Goodman and Peggy Lee, becoming Lee’s first hit single. “Why Don’t You Do Right?” remains a jazz standard and is McCoy’s most enduring composition.

At the outbreak of World War II Charlie McCoy entered the military, but a heart condition kept Joe McCoy from service. Out on his own, he created a band known as ‘Big Joe and his Rhythm’ that performed together throughout most of the 1940s. The band again included his brother Charlie on mandolin and Robert Nighthawk on harmonica.[4] In 1950, at the age of 44, McCoy died of heart disease in Chicago, only a few months before his brother Charlie. They are both buried in Restvale Cemetery in Alsip, Illinois.

Led Zeppelin vocalist Robert Plant took his and Memphis Minnie’s recording of “When the Levee Breaks,” which was in his personal collection, and presented it to guitarist Jimmy Page, who revamped it and slightly altered it lyrically, and helped record it on Led Zeppelin’s 1971 album, Led Zeppelin IV.

In addition to those mentioned earlier, McCoy’s songs have also been covered by Bob Dylan, John Mellencamp, The Ink Spots, Ella Fitzgerald, Jo Ann Kelly, Cleo Laine and A Perfect Circle.” more here



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